Immigration fraud crackdown drastically increases the number of Canadians having their citizenship revoked
Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press In September, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship and immigration, announced his department had sent letters to 530 Canadians advising them their citizenship was being rescinded. Investigations into another 3,100 suspected of citizenship fraud were still underway, he said.
HOW YOU BECOME AN UNCANADIANThe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration sends a Notice of Intention to Revoke Citizenship outlining the grounds for revocation.
The person concerned has the right to refer the matter to the Federal Court.
If the court finds citizenship was obtained through false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances the Minister may prepare a report to the Governor in Council recommending that citizenship be revoked.
The text of the report is disclosed to the person concerned, who has the opportunity to make written submissions.
If the Governor in Council decides to revoke citizenship, it is carried out by an Order-in-Council.
The person who is the subject of the Order-in-Council has the right to have the Federal Court judicially review the GIC’s decision.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada
But it wasn’t true.
The Russian immigrant was on probation at the time for assault and uttering threats, and he had just served four months for carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a controlled substance and possession of stolen property.
Nine years later, federal immigration authorities are only now trying to strip Mr. Bilalov of his citizenship, arguing he became a Canadian through “false representation,” “fraud” or “knowingly concealing material circumstances.”
The case is one of hundreds, and possibly thousands, that could soon be before the Federal Court of Canada now that the government has launched an unprecedented crackdown on citizenship fraud.
Normally, Ottawa revokes citizenship from only a handful of Canadians a year. Since 1947, it has happened fewer than 50 times. Recent cases include Nazi war criminals and Branko Rogan, who concealed his involvement in Bosnian war crimes from immigration authorities.
But in September, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship and immigration, announced his department had sent letters to 530 Canadians advising them their citizenship was being rescinded. Investigations into another 3,100 suspected of citizenship fraud were still underway, he said.
Only the federal cabinet has the power to take away citizenship. Those to be stripped of the right to call themselves Canadians must first be given notice. If they want to fight it, the matter is referred to the Federal Court.
Immigration lawyers in Ontario and British Columbia said this week they had been getting calls from Canadians who had received letters advising them the government intended to revoke their citizenship.
Rudolf Kischer, a Vancouver immigration lawyer, said he expected a jump in such cases. “A passport changes your entire opportunities in life and if someone’s going to take it away I imagine that people are going to respond.”
Jinny Sims, the Opposition immigration critic, said fraudsters should be held accountable but she said she had heard from Canadians whose citizenship was being revoked over what sounded like innocent blunders.
“I think we’ve got to be careful that when we say ‘citizenship fraud’ that we’re really are talking about people who defraud and not people who made a very honest mistake and didn’t understand the rules,” the NDP MP said.
The sharp increase in revocations follows the discovery of massive frauds committed by immigration consultants who sold citizenship to thousands of foreigners who had rarely if ever set foot in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada declined to comment on Mr. Bilalov’s case for privacy reasons. Alexis Pavlich, Mr. Kenney’s press secretary, said she could not comment because the case was before the courts.
But she said there was “overwhelming” support for the government’s crackdown on citizenship fraud, particularly among immigrants who had followed the rules. “We are strengthening the integrity of Canada’s immigration system to protect the value of Canadian citizenship,” she said.
Mr. Bilalov immigrated to Canada in 1997.
He applied for citizenship in 2000, following the required three years of residency. In January 2003, he appeared before a citizenship judge and signed a document saying he had not been the subject of any criminal proceedings.
What he failed to mention, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, was that in 2002 he had been convicted of a string of offences including assault, uttering threats, possession of stolen property over $5,000 and carrying a concealed weapon. Unaware of his convictions, the citizenship judge approved his application.
A month after his citizenship ceremony, two men broke into the home of a Toronto jewellery store owner. The victim was confined for three hours, punched and struck in the head with a 20-pound dumbbell until he handed over the keys to his store, alarm code and the combination to his safe. It took 30 staples to close his head and 15 stitches to fix his ear. Mr. Bilalov was charged with kidnapping and possession of stolen property, but both counts were later dropped.
Following the arrest, Citizenship and Immigration Canada asked the RCMP to investigate how Mr. Bilalov had become a Canadian given his criminal history. It turned out that his record had not shown up during his fingerprint screening. The RCMP report sent to immigration officials had mentioned only arrests in 1999 and 2001, and indicated those charges had been dropped.
In 2006, Mr. Bilalov was charged with two counts of making a false statement to obtain his citizenship. He pleaded guilty to one count and the second was withdrawn. More than five years went by before the government sent Mr. Bilalov a letter in 2011 advising him his citizenship was being revoked. The case is now before the Federal Court. His lawyer declined to comment.
The government is claiming he obtained citizenship “by failing to advise any citizenship official that he had been involved in criminal proceedings.” But Mr. Bilalov said that was so long ago that taking away his citizenship now would be unfair.
In a statement of defence, his lawyer argued the government’s attempt to take away his citizenship after so many years amounted to an abuse of process and that “the community’s sense of fairness will be offended by the delay.”
Since becoming a Canadian, Mr. Bilalov has entered into a “long-term marital relationship” with a refugee claimant and fathered a child with her. The government’s actions “caused his wife to run away taking their child,” the defence statement says, adding, “this proceeding at this late time has effectively destroyed his life.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Philippe Couvrette said the government can only begin citizenship revocation proceedings once it has sufficient evidence. “There is no time limit on the revocation process.”
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