OTTAWA – Canada’s border agency has opened more than three dozen criminal investigations related to marriage fraud in the last few years, newly released documents show.
The Canada Border Services Agency has also begun a probe of possible organized criminal involvement in arranging marriages of convenience to attain status in Canada.
Information from the government’s immigration case processing centre in Alberta revealed similarities among marriage sponsorships that led them to suspect phoney relationships.
Citizenship and Immigration officials enlisted border services enforcement officers to investigate the cases in an effort known as Project Honeymoon.
Overall, from 2008 through the end of the last year, the border agency opened 39 criminal investigations of suspected marriage fraud.
However, the internal border agency documents — disclosed under the Access to Information Act — acknowledge the cases require considerable resources, and many never make it to court.
Release of the internal statistics comes as the Conservative government pursues a regulatory change that would require people coming to Canada to join their partner to stay in the relationship for two years or more before being formally granted permanent residence.
There are two types of marriage-of-convenience cases. In the first, a foreign national victimizes a well-intentioned Canadian sponsor by using the relationship to gain status in Canada. Usually such cases are handled by the Immigration and Refugee Board, and can result in the offending party being ordered out of Canada.
The second kind involves the knowing participation of both parties — cases the border agency considers “organized fraud” to be pursued criminally.
“These cases require resource-intensive investigations in order to obtain sufficient evidence to support the laying of criminal charges and successful prosecution,” says a December 2010 memo prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews by agency president Luc Portelance.
The border agency carries out regulatory and criminal investigations of marriage-of-convenience cases “as available resources permit,” adds
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