Memos reveal plans to use exit-tracking to stop abuse of social benefits

New security program would clip the wings of sneaky snowbirds

Bayne Stanley/CP

Bayne Stanley/CP

OTTAWA — The federal government will use its planned border exit-tracking system to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in social benefits now going to people who shouldn’t receive them due to absences from Canada.

Newly obtained memos say the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada expect to save between about $194 million and $319 million over five years once the long-anticipated system is fully in place.

Federal officials have been working quietly to satisfy privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office that personal information will be properly collected, used and disclosed under the program.

Under the 2011 perimeter security pact, Canada and the United States agreed to set up co-ordinated systems to track entry and exit information from travellers.

For the moment, the tracking system involves exchanging entry information collected from people at the land border — so that data on entry to one country serves as a record of exit from the other.

The first two phases of the program have been limited to foreign nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the United States, but not citizens of either country.

The initiative was to be expanded by June 30 of last year to include information-sharing on all travellers crossing the land border.

In addition, Canada planned to begin collecting information on people leaving by plane — something the United States already does — by requiring airlines to submit passenger manifest data for outbound international flights.

Federal officials have said work continues on the final phases, though no revised dates have been disclosed. The U.S. has legislative authority to proceed, but Canada would need to pass a bill.

A summer 2014 memo, recently released under the Access to Information Act, says savings can be expected through “preventing abuse and eligibility fraud” with respect to the employment insurance, old age security and child tax benefit programs by ensuring Canadian residency requirements are fulfilled.

It estimates savings over five years of:

— $48 million by Employment and Social Development Canada for the old age security program;

— $21 million by Employment and Social Development Canada for the employment insurance program;

— $125 million to $250 million by the Canada Revenue Agency for the child tax benefit program.

For instance, if a Canadian citizen or permanent resident was out of Canada for more than 183 days, entry-exit information would be shared with the revenue agency to administer the child tax benefit, says an explanatory memo.

However, this information alone would “never form the basis” for action against someone, as it is merely intended as a tipsheet. Verification would be needed before a federal agency could crack down on the traveller.

It has long been known that information from the entry-exit initiative would also be used to track the movement of suspected fugitives, child sex offenders, smugglers and terrorists, as well as identify people who remain in Canada past visa-expiration dates and help determine when those slated for deportation have voluntarily left.

The initiative’s scope prompted the federal privacy commissioner’s office to express concern it had expanded “beyond its initial parameters,” says one memo. But Canada Border Services Agency officials felt the objectives were “entirely consistent” with the perimeter security pact’s commitment, the memo adds.

Therrien’s office is waiting to receive detailed assessments from federal agencies as to how they would use entry-exit information, said Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the privacy watchdog.

“We’ve emphasized that each institution will need to demonstrate that the proposed collection and sharing is necessary and effective, undertaken in the least privacy-invasive manner possible and designed so that any loss of privacy is proportionate to societal benefits.”

The border services agency had no immediate comment.

However, the internal notes describe several measures to protect privacy including signs at the border to notify travellers their information may be used for program integrity. People flying into Canada have been warned for many years that information on their customs declaration card may be shared.

Legislation to implement the final phases of the entry-exit initiative will spell out exactly how the information may be used and disclosed, and there will be redress procedures under which people can request access to their personal information, ask for corrections if needed and file complaints.


Memos reveal plans to use exit-tracking to stop abuse of social benefits

  1. The most disciplined athlete/scholar/researcher (Recchi is 1000th) has commented about benefits. Where I am, is the 2nd worst housing in Canada. The main reason is over a quarter is subsidized. Apparently the max should be 18%, and Wpg is 8%. Wpg had the General Strike is the main reason for housing trickle down. It is the reason for our multi-party system and an alternative to Communism.
    Too much specialization may be bad, apparently Columbia is the best University on Earth and U of T 8th. Because of the obsession with welfare instead of creating wealth, apparently is a bad place now for future medical researchers in the future to stop pandemics. I used welfare to be productive. Wpg has the best present mix of welfare/work. Regina 2nd. T.O and all but one commuter hubs 3rd. And any other Ontario city 4th. I think the point of the most disciplined athletes comment is to clean up the obsession with waiting in line, or to move future anti-pandemic resources where mentioned. World class researchers will not want to be harassed and you don’t want mentally ill people in those future labs. I wish I knew more about how to apply this to China. I guess Liberal housing is good, but so is traching people how to work a little bit and forcing mental illness treatment.
    They gave me the order of mental illness screening (a hair follicle sensor) as Chain of Command, Surveillance Agencies, and medical researchers. I’ve also had a msg relayed to me the 2nd group made sanely transparent could be trap of *theirs*.
    I know my diamond biosensors are potentially a WMD I nthe wrong hands, and so is diamond computers in the AI context. The Liberal strategy of picking winners is the correct one. Once I know what not to create, I’ll know what to create to stop what not to create. But what if broadcasting what to create reveals what not to create?!

    • They’ve said some confusing things. That Regina is too hick but that it would be a good place to relocate this biohub if the entitlement obsession isn’t changed. That it is too early for pandemic training. That 200000 to 800000 is a good size to subsidize cities to grow. That Earth’s population is about right but located all wrong assuming efficient integration (as efficient as now). 1/2 or more of the developing world should locate to the developed world assuming they attain developed world human capital. That Jefferson was a danger (smarter than me until 2006) and they wanted the USA to not be an anarchist bunch of countries, but to help make N.America an improvement over Europe; G.Washington knew this.
      They are big on University education but not on the WMDs that arise from it…I’m supposed to invent 100 anti-WMD inventions in the next decade or two. Some medical spinoffs (disease treatments) will arise from them I think. Without our safety net, the USA specialized too much. They don’t get small business ideas like mine.

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