Canada Plans To Quadruple The Immigration Information Sharing With Its Allies

21 Feb 2014


Immigration News

Expanded sharing of information about Canadian immigrants, like the applicants’ fingerprints, is being considered with important allies other than the United States. An internal memo has been prepared for Chris Alexander, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and it says that the Canadian government is constructing an IT system that can be used for the systematic biometric information exchange with Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Procured under the Access to Information Act, the briefing memo says that rather than the manual sharing of case-by-case, the systematic sharing is favorable as it can produce quicker responses and be done at larger volumes. Under the widely publicized perimeter security pact, a large-scale sharing of Canadian immigration information with the US is being pursued by the federal government.

Starting this year, the fingerprints of Canadian Visa applicants from over 24 countries will be scrutinized against a database from the United States that includes the fingerprints of suspected or known terrorists, criminals and immigration violators. However, concern regarding the sharing of routine, high-volume information with other countries is being expressed by the federal privacy commissioner, saying that once the data is sent abroad, it may not be possible to control what happens to it.

To fight the abuse and fraud of the Canadian immigration system, such data-sharing is critical, says the federal government. The biometric information is the unique identifier of an individual like a fingerprint record or an iris scan, and it is considered to be especially profitable.

Recently the security relationship of Canada’s security with its allies - collectively known as the Five Eyes - has been under intense scrutiny. The not-so-popular information is that, under the umbrella of the Five Country Conference, these allies i.e., Australia, New Zealand, UK and US, co-operate on immigration and border issues.

This year, Canada assumes the conference’s chairmanship and will host representatives from Wellington, Washington, Canberra and London. Canada can share around 3,000 fingerprint records per year with every conference partner through a protocol which was introduced in 2009. The memo says that the information of criminality, fraud, inconsistent identity, and other data has been revealed, and this data can be used by Canadian immigration officers to make better decisions.

The memo also says that, in the lead-up to full-scale information exchange with the United States by the fall of this year, Canada plans to increase the sharing of biometric information to 12,000 cases. It adds that though the new agreement with the US is a priority, Canada is developing a computerized system which can be widened to support systematic sharing with the other members of the Five Country Conference.

Meanwhile, the memo says that, to allow for higher manual information sharing about Canadian immigration, the country is updating its arrangements with the other partners. To protect and limit the personal information exchanged, the country has strict privacy safeguards in effect, says Canada.

However, concerns were raised by the office of the privacy commissioner that once such information goes out of the borders of Canada, it may be impossible or impractical to ensure that it is properly protected or to stop unauthorized transfers, uses or disclosures of that information.

Also, the commissioner says that the volume of ‘derogatory information’ about visa applicants from other countries may vastly increase with the exchange of such data with the US. The privacy commissioner’s office has urged the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) to ensure only relevant and accurate information is used to make decisions.


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