Based on the news out of Neepawa earlier this week, it may be time for the federal government to consider making criminal record checks mandatory for all immigrants and foreign workers, no matter what country they’re coming from.
As the Sun reported on Monday, the Canadian Border Services Agency conducted a sting at the Hylife Foods plant in November, where they arrested a 35-year-old immigrant worker who is wanted in Northern Ireland for breaching conditions set out by a court in relation to a conviction for possession of child pornography.
Ananias Curu, who now awaits deportation from his jail cell, was one of a number of foreign workers that were recruited from Northern Ireland to work at the plant as it ramped up to full production after a recent expansion.
Curu, who is originally from a country in Southeast Asia, went through the same battery of tests that all the other workers experienced. HyLife Foods senior vice-president and general manager Guy Beaudry said that in its recruiting process, HyLife works with highly trained immigration specialists that put prospective workers through a screening process that includes one-on-one interviews and background checks.
But Canadian immigration law doesn’t require criminal record checks from a number of countries, including Northern Ireland.
“In this case, this individual came from Northern Ireland and it is a visa-exempt country, which means Canada doesn’t require a criminal record check before the immigrant lands in the country,” Beaudry said.
All employees who work at the company were asked to sign an affidavit regarding any criminal activity in their past. As such, Beaudry said Curu “misrepresented” himself during the vetting process.
A CBSA spokesman told the Sun that Curu attended a 48-hour detention review on Nov. 21 where the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada chose to continue to detain him on the “grounds that Mr. Curu is unlikely to appear for his admissibility hearing.”
On Nov. 27, Curu attended an admissibility hearing where he was issued a deportation order and was again detained on the grounds that he remains a flight risk.
HyLife, much like Maple Leaf Foods here in Brandon, has partnered with both the federal and provincial governments to recruit foreign employees. Since the incident last month, however, Beaudry says the company has now implemented criminal record checks for all foreign-born employees, even those that it recruits from visa-exempt countries.
Beaudry said the company will raise concerns with immigration officials based on this case.
“We will be sharing what we are now doing as a company with the provincial and federal immigration authorities for them to consider how they treat the rules at a policy level,” Beaudry said.
Certainly the vast majority of newcomers to come to Canada are simply looking to start a new job and a new life with their families. But in our opinion, everyone who comes through the immigration process should face the same screening, no matter what country they come from.
As it stands, the CBSA removed more than 15,000 individuals from Canada last year. We don’t believe all of those were from countries that don’t require criminal record checks, but it’s very likely some of them were.
Every country has a criminal element to some degree. For the benefit of both the companies who are hiring and the communities where they will be based, the Canadian government should be better at screening potential candidates.