OTTAWA — Deporting convicts to Jamaica and Honduras poses a boomerang-style threat because returnees may become involved in international crime that hurts Canada, federally commissioned research says.
While removing people who have committed serious crimes may be an important element of Canadian public security strategy, it places strains on law-enforcement and social services in the two destination countries and could have “unintended consequences” for Canada, say a pair of studies released under the Access to Information Act.
The Security Governance Group of Kitchener, Ont., delivered the findings to Public Safety Canada in January.
The studies suggest the Canadian government could do more to support programs in Jamaica and Honduras to prevent such deportees from returning to crime.
Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, did not commit to more assistance but said the Liberal government believes in evidence-based policy. “We continually monitor global events, ongoing issues and research related to crime and enforcement to guide policy development.”
The previous Conservative government ushered in the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act three years ago, broadening the scope of those affected and limiting their appeals.
About a quarter of a million people in Canada have Jamaican ancestry, most of whom live in the Toronto area. Between 2000 and 2013, Canada deported almost 2,800 people to Jamaica.
Experts in Canada and Jamaica told the researchers that the ability of deportees to obtain jobs, housing, education and health care heavily influenced their ability to reintegrate and whether criminals would continue to take part in illicit activity upon their return.
“The great difficulty with properly reintegrating criminal deportees has ultimately contributed to deportee-related problems with unemployment, homelessness, inadequate housing, property crime, mental health and addiction,” one study says.
Jamaica has returned to prominence as a major shipment point for cocaine originating in South America, posing concerns for Canadian police, the researchers add. The organized-crime landscape has also expanded beyond drugs to lucrative lottery scams that directly target Canadians.
It’s one thing to deport someone with no real connection to Canada, but quite another to return a person who has grown up in Canada, said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.
“It’s completely unacceptable that we’re dumping our social problems back in Jamaica,” Waldman said.
“I think the time has come for our government to really reassess this policy.”
Deportees to Honduras return to a country that is facing urgent humanitarian problems, a proliferation of street gangs and organized groups involved in the hemispheric drug trade, the other study says. The extremely challenging economic conditions, social stigma and threat of violence make it difficult to build a new life.
A number of Honduran organizations offer social services to deportees, but they lack resources and cannot keep up with the massive flow of returnees, particularly from the United States, the study says. “Canada can play an important role in international efforts to support deportees and the Honduran authorities, while pushing for broader security and justice reform in Honduras.”
The studies also point out that privacy law limits the information about returnees the Canada Border Services Agency can share with officials in other countries, potentially hampering reintegration. However, they add the RCMP may be better placed to pass along information through its international channels.