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Person of ‘national security concern’ was accidentally granted permanent residency





A person of “national security concern” was granted permanent residency “due to a series of failures” by the Canadian border agency and immigration department.

In light of the incident both departments have had to introduce changes in what the public safety minister’s office is calling a “completely unacceptable” mistake.

The changes were outlined in a briefing note sent by Canada Border Services Agency president John Ossowski  to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in early 2018 regarding the 2017 error.

A heavily redacted copy of the document was recently obtained by CBC News through access to information laws.

The briefing note, titled “Subject of national security concern granted permanent residency” says the subject —  their name, age and gender are redacted for privacy reasons — was granted permanent resident status “due to a series of failures on the part of both Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada and the CBSA.”

That means the person is entitled to most social benefits — including health care —  can live, work and study anywhere in Canada, and is protected by Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but isn’t considered a Canadian citizen.

Most of the details about why this person is considered a security concern and how they were granted permanent residency were redacted because, among other reasons, officials believe releasing information could hurt “the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada.”

Disconnect between agencies

However, the document does mention that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had “degrogatory information,” meaning information that could be relevant to a finding that the person was inadmissible to Canada. CSIS and the RCMP were also tapped to monitor a national security investigation linked to this case.

Kelly Sundberg, an associate professor in the department of economics, justice and policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said it appears there was a disconnect in communication between Canada’s intelligence agencies.

Those mistakes were completely unacceptable.— Scott Bardsley, spokesperson for the public safety minister

“To me it’s unacceptable. As a Canadian I expect more, and I think other Canadians expect that our federal law enforcement, intelligence and border security agencies can work seamlessly, share information seamlessly. And if there are administrative or legal hurdles, then that’s something  Parliament needs to look at,” he said.

A spokesperson for Goodale would only say a combination of “several unique errors” led to the “oversight for a single permanent residency application.”

“Those mistakes were completely unacceptable. Changes have been made to prevent them from happening again,” said Scott Bardsley in an email to CBC News.

“While we do not comment on operational matters related to security, we can say that the government of Canada monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them.”

Most new permanent residency cards are valid for five years, but Goodale’s office pointed out that permanent residents can become inadmissible on security grounds or for a misrepresentation, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

“The government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to protect the safety and security of Canadians,” said Bardsley.

“We continue to take appropriate action to counter threats to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.”

Changes raise red flags

Ossowski told Goodale that the border agency identified a number of “vulnerabilities” and is taking steps to “respond to this incident and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”

Those steps include introducing new fail-safes to the global case management system, updating the national targeting program, which helps the CBSA identify suspected high-risk people and goods, and changing the passenger information system.

In a statement to CBC News the border agency said its internal review policies and procedures have been “refined” in light of the incident.

But Sundberg, who spent 15 years working for the CBSA’s predecessor, said the changes involve updating significant computer systems and working with international partners, raising some red flags.

“I don’t think one case, one mistake would trigger all of these major changes,” he said.

“I don’t believe this is the only case. I think that this is probably more common than we believe, and it comes down to process, it comes down to organizational structure and it comes down to investment in officers. So, it’s concerning.”

Kelly Sundberg, an associate professor in the department of economics, justice and policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says it’s time for the government to introduce independent oversight of the CBSA. (Kelly W. Sundberg)

Asked about the incident, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it’s offering its officers more training.

Call for oversight 

“The department is delivering ongoing training to IRCC officers to identify potential security concerns in order to mitigate human error,” said spokesperson Nancy Caron.

Sundberg said cases like this highlight the need for independent oversight of the CBSA.

“I don’t buy it. I don’t believe that this is a one-off, that this is the ‘something went wrong.’ I think that this is yet another case that went public, that the government is like ‘Uh oh, we better do something,'” he said.

“This is why we need to have arm’s-length oversight of the CBSA so that when things go aside, when things go wrong that there is an independent civilian body that’s overseeing this for the interests of Canadians and to ensure best practices.”

Last month the Opposition Conservatives called for a review and audit of the immigration screening system after a CBC News investigation revealed a Somali gang member with an extensive criminal record was twice released in Canada.

The case of Abdullahi Hashi Farah also highlighted a lack of communication, this time between the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Officers gained access to his phone, which had evidence of illegal activity, but didn’t immediately pass that information on to the IRB.


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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities





The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19






  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know





The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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