Phony nannies scheming their way into Canada

Peter O'Neil, CanWest News Service

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bogus "nannies" are among many fraudsters seeking entry into Canada through a $25-million immigration office in India that was opened in 2004 for political reasons, according to newly-released internal documents.

"Fraud is omnipresent in Chandigarh and is found in every sort of document, Indian and Canadian," according to the Canadian diplomatic mission's 2006-07 annual report obtained by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland.

The visa office has spawned a cluster of immigration "consultants" setting up around the mission who specialize in fraudulent claims.

The applicants include an unusual and suspicious number of prospective "live-in caregivers," according to the irony-laden report.

"This office has identified over 160 'nanny schools' in the Punjab. While some of these schools are bona fide schools, there are a considerable number lacking facilities, equipment and students - but having large graduating classes!" the report told senior officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

"Many of the applicants are male - in a society where childcare and eldercare is seen as the sphere of women."

Kurland said the documents prove bureaucrats were correct and the politicians, anxious to reward Punjabi-Canadian Liberal supporters clamoring for better immigration services, were wrong to open the mission.

"Liberals yearned for Indo-Canadian votes, and even though officials advised politicians that Chandigarh was always a hotbed of false documents, Liberal politics trumped logic," Kurland told CanWest News Service.

"And now Canada's immigration system gets to pay the price for Liberal 'pragmatism.'"

With a backlog of more than 2,000 applicants - most saying they plan to work as nannies for relatives in Canada - the processing time is estimated at up to 30 months.

The report pleads for extra staff and notes the difficulty in getting Canadian immigration officers to work in Chandigarh, just 250 kilometres from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, where applicants used to go.

Canada has the only diplomatic mission in the city so there are no suitable schools for children, and few opportunities to socialize.

Canadian visa officers "are readily recognizable as foreigners and offers of friendship often lead to visa requests."

The report acknowledges the high political profile of the mission, which was opened over the objections of senior Canadian bureaucrats because of pressure from Indo-Canadian community activists and politicians such as Herb Dhaliwal, a senior minister in the former government of Jean Chretien.

"The Chandigarh Visa Office ... holds a high profile in the large and politically active Punjabi community in Canada."

The report also said there is evidence of "second-level fraud" now being investigated in Canada.

The visa office received 2,200 enquiries from MPs' offices in Canada in 2006 about applications of interest to their constituents, up from 1,444 the previous year.

In 2004, Raj Chahal, a former senior adviser to Chretien, told The Vancouver Sun that the office was opened over the objections of both Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

"It was a political decision," Chahal said, adding that bureaucrats felt scarce resources should have been used to open up visa offices in higher-priority areas elsewhere in India and other key Asian countries.

Internal documents revealed the mission would cost $25 million over five years.