Immigration consultant arrested
January 14, 2011
The RCMP has arrested a Quebec immigration consultant accused of providing Canadian citizenship and immigration documents to hundreds of residents of Middle East countries who then collected tax benefits from Ottawa.
Ahmad El-Akhal, 62, was arrested in Montreal on Thursday following a 2½-year investigation by the RCMP’s Immigration and Passport and Commercial Crimes sections. His wife was also arrested, as well as a suspected accomplice in Mississauga.
The arrests have shed light on an audacious scheme that led to more than 200 Middle East citizens–none of whom lived in Canada — fraudulently obtaining Canadian citizenship, immigration and travel documents as well as a half-million dollars worth of federal tax benefits.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said on Thursday it was reviewing the matter and may revoke the citizenship and immigration status of those involved. It also said it would ensure that benefits were no longer paid to those not entitled to them.
The alleged crimes date back as far as 1999 but the investigation did not begin until 2008, when CIC officials noticed that 320 permanent residence applicants had given the same addresses as their residence in Canada. Almost all were eventually linked to Mr. El-Akhal.
“Basically, this individual passed himself off as an immigration consultant and assisted these people in obtaining permanent resident status and submitted the applications for them,” said Sergeant Marc LaPorte, the RCMP spokesman for Ontario.
Once they were issued their immigration and citizenship papers, Mr. El-Akhal would then apply for Income Tax benefits for them, Sgt. LaPorte said. “This guy would fill out the tax returns and documents to get benefits back in the names of these people,” he said. “They were getting tax refunds, goods and services tax rebates, child credit tax benefits, so the whole gamut.”
Mr. El-Akhal, who lives in L’ile-Bizard, Que., has been charged with 58 counts, including forgery, fraud and conspiracy. Police said he worked out of his home and was not a registered professional immigration consultant.
Also arrested was his wife, Tahani Mohamad Hassan El-Akhal, 53. She was charged with possession of proceeds obtained by crime in the amount of $155,000. Mississauga resident Hussam Hassan Ali Saif, 44, faces three charges under the Citizenship Act.
“He was the leasor of some of the residences. And also he forged lease agreements and created mail addresses for these people. He actually collected the mail and gathered the information and sent it back to Montreal,” Sgt. LaPorte said.
The three accused were scheduled to appear in a Brampton court on Friday for a bail hearing.
Despite the three arrests, the government still faces a significant challenge: how to reclaim and nullify the scores of Canadian documents it wrongly issued and that are now scattered throughout the Middle East.
“It is important to note that while over 300 files were implicated, we can confirm only five people had obtained Canadian citizenship,” said Melanie Carkner, a CIC spokeswoman.
“Other cases are being reviewed in terms of their continued status of permanent residence, which is the last step before citizenship. In the case of the five, all appropriate action will be taken to ensure that people do not obtain benefits they aren’t entitled to.
“In cases where CIC determines that residence requirements have not been met, Canadian citizenship will be refused or may be revoked and appropriate enforcement measures may be initiated that could lead to loss of permanent resident status and eventual removal from Canada.”
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It’s now official: Santa Claus is a Canadian
January 5, 2011
Now we know why Santa Claus wears only red and white: Because he’s a Canadian.
And that’s official (ho, ho, ho). Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney confirmed it again at a citizenship ceremony in Calgary.
The Vancouver Sun reports that the cabinet minister “reaffirmed” the jolly fat man (maybe he’s been eating
too much poutine?) as a Canadian in Calgary, restating his remarks of two years ago.
In his statement, Kenney said, ” We wish Mr. Claus all the best in his Christmas Eve duties again this year. And rest assured, as a Canadian citizen living in Canada’s North, he can re-enter Canada freely once his trip around the world is complete.”
In spreading Christmas cheer to the 100 new Canadian citizens from 32 countries in his audience, Kenney was making a serious point: That Canada claims sovereignty at the Pole — Santa’s workshop, seals, ice floes, and all.
The Russians planted a flag up there two years ago, claiming it’s their territory.
No word yet on whether the elves made off with the Russian flag.
New arrivals push up immigration levels in Canada to their highest since 1971
January 4, 2011
Most of parts of Canada have recorded their highest immigration levels since figures began in their present form in 1971.
Data from Statistics Canada for the third quarter of 2010 put Canada’s population at 34,238,000, an increase of 129,300, some 0.4%, since July. During the third quarter, 84,200 immigrants arrived in Canada, 8,800 more than in the same quarter of 2009.
Despite the increase in immigration though, Canada’s third quarter population growth was only slightly higher than what was observed for the same quarter in 2009. The increase in immigration was partly offset by a decline in the net inflow of non-permanent residents.
The population of Newfoundland and Labrador was estimated at 509,200 on October 1, 2010. Despite a net gain ininternational migration, it was the only province to post a population decline in the third quarter.
Prince Edward Island had the nation’s highest third quarter growth rate. Its population increased by nearly 1,000, 0.7%, to 143,200. The increase was largely due to immigration, as the province received 1,200 immigrants, the highest number since 1971.
Nova Scotia’s population grew by 1,400, 0.1%, to 943,900. The increase was in part attributable to a net inflow of non-permanent residents, up 1,400.
New Brunswick’s population totalled 752,800 as of October 1, up by 1,100, 0.1%. The increase was primarily attributable to immigration, as the province received around 700 immigrants, the highest level observed since the second quarter of 1976.
Quebec’s population grew by 24,800, 0.3%, to 7,932,100 during the third quarter. The province received 16,800 immigrants, the highest level since 1971.
During the third quarter, Quebec’s net interprovincial migration was close to zero, meaning that its number of migrants coming from other parts of the country equalled the number of people leaving the province for another location in Canada. With only a few exceptions, Quebec usually experiences losses in its migration exchanges with the other provinces and territories.
Ontario’s population totalled 13,268,600 on October 1, 2010, an increase of 57,900, 0.4%. Net international migration, the most important factor in the province’s population growth, accounted for nearly 70% of Ontario’s third quarter population increase.
Manitoba’s population as of October 1, 2010 was estimated at 1,240,000, up by 4,600, 0.4%, and the growth was primarily attributable to net international migration, estimated at 4,100. Manitoba received nearly 4,700 immigrants in the third quarter, the highest level since 1971.
Saskatchewan’s population increased by 4,100, up by 0.4%, to reach 1,049,700 as of October 1. More than 60% of this growth was due to net international migration. Saskatchewan’s net interprovincial migration during the third quarter, which was slightly above zero, was much lower than in the same period in 2009.
Alberta’s population rose by 14,100. 0.4%, to 3,735,100 in the third quarter. Unlike the situation in other provinces where migration is the key factor of population growth, nearly 60% of Alberta’s growth was due to natural increase, a much higher proportion than in any other province.
British Columbia posted an increase of 20,900, 0.5%, in the third quarter as its population reached 4,551,900. The province received more than 13,200 immigrants in the third quarter, its highest level of immigration since the first quarter of 1997.