A newly obtained report from Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides a rare glimpse into the workings of the behind-the-scenes mail-opening program.
Under federal legislation, authorities can search international mail and courier packages within Canada, to examine the authenticity of items contained within those packages (such as passports, licenses, and credit cards) in order to determine if forged documents are in transit.
The report, prepared by Citizenship and Immigration’s enforcement branch, says there were 4,116 seizures from 1995 to 2000, according to figures compiled from databases kept by intelligence sections in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Fake passports, document forgery tools and fraudulent credit cards were among the items that federal officials seized from the international mail during a five-year period.
The program provided insight into the types of fraud directed at overseas visa processing: “The extent of fraudulent or blank supporting documents moving between Canada and other countries shows that almost every aspect of the application process is vulnerable, and that fraud is widespread.”
The report says immigration officers used seized items to initiate investigations and prevent abuse of the refugee and visa processing systems: “From an immigration control perspective, not only does the program remove a large volume of contraband documents from circulation; it also provides valuable intelligence about fraud trends, program integrity issues and the modus operandi of smuggling networks.”