News Canada

Kenney: Majority of fraudulent citizens outside Canada

Bryn Weese, Parliamentary Bureau
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks in Calgary, Alta., July 12, 2011. (QMI Agency/ Jim Wells)

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks in Calgary, Alta., July 12, 2011. (QMI Agency/ Jim Wells)

OTTAWA - Most of the 1,800 people the feds believe obtained their citizenship fraudulently are Canadians of convenience who don't even live here, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

And he doesn't expect many to object to the government's move to revoke their citizenship, which he said could be completed in a year.

"Most of these people, we believe, have never really lived in Canada and are still overseas," he said Wednesday. "We frankly have got them dead to rights with the proof that we have, and I don't think a lot of these people want to go through a long, protracted public court battle where it's clear they fraudulently obtained our citizenship."

Immigration officials said the suspects, through the use of crooked consultants who charge thousands of dollars, use fake names or addresses to circumvent the three years Canadian residency required to become a citizen.

On Tuesday, QMI Agency revealed the revocations, which come after a lengthy RCMP and departmental investigation.

"This investigation and these enforcement efforts ... should send a very clear message to the little industry of crooked citizenship consultants - we're putting them out of business," Kenney said. "Canadian citizenship is not for sale, and we're onto them."

Kenney warned that the 1,800 are likely just the "first tranche" of people to have their citizenship revoked as the feds crack down on the crooked consultants, many of whom guarantee Canadian citizenship for a hefty price.

He said the "clues" that tipped the government off to the scam included, in some cases, many applicants using the same address on their applications and some of the "dodgy" applications coming from the same consultants.

In 2006, the federal government shelled out nearly $100 million evacuating 15,000 Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the Lebanon-Israel conflict.

It turns out many of them had rarely, if ever, set foot in Canada, prompting some to blast them as "Canadians of convenience."

Kenney said many of the people whose citizenships are being revoked were, in fact, living in tax havens making money hand over fist and fraudulently obtained Canadian citizenship as a "insurance policy" to access Canada's free health care, subsidized tuition at Canadian schools, or a free ticket out of a conflict.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said it's "about time" the feds got tough with fraudulent citizens and the crooked consultants who fudge residency requirements.

"People need to know the government can check up and crack down on fraudsters," Kurland said Wednesday.

He also said the government should send in the tax man to try and recuperate some of the lost revenue from the fraudulent citizens who have avoided paying income taxes here.

"They can't have it both ways. Either they were a resident and physically present in Canada, which is sufficient to trigger tax on global income, or not," Kurland said.

Since Confederation, Canada has only ever revoked 67 citizenships, 63 of them since 1977. Since 2006, more than one million people have been sworn in as new Canadian citizens.

If the people who obtained their citizenship fraudulently are living in Canada, they won't likely be deported, but would revert to their immigrant status prior to becoming a citizen illegally.

- With files from Tom Godfrey, QMI Agency