Canada using DNA, ancestry websites to investigate migrants

Posted
July 30, 2018
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

Canadian immigration officials are using DNA testing and ancestry websites to try to establish the nationality of migrants, the Canada Border Services Agency said on Friday.

CBSA spokesman Jayden Robertson said the agency uses DNA testing to determine identity of "longer-term detainees" when other techniques have been exhausted.

"DNA testing assists the CBSA in determining identity by providing indicators of nationality thereby enabling us to focus further lines of investigation on particular countries," Robertson said in an e-mail.

But the process raises concerns about privacy of data held by ancestry websites, and highlights political pressure over the handling of migrants by Canada's Liberal government. More than 30,000 would-be refugees have crossed the U.S.-Canada border since January 2017, many saying they were fleeing U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

A VICE News report on Thursday quoted an immigration lawyer whose client is being investigated by the CBSA using DNA and the ancestry database FamilyTreeDNA.com. In that case, the Canadian authorities were trying to deport a migrant who said he was from Liberia, speculating he was instead from Nigeria based on DNA testing and a linguistics report.

FamilyTreeDNA said in an e-mail that it does not work directly with Canadian law enforcement and has "no knowledge of Canadian law enforcement or its border agency using the FTDNA platform for the purpose of gathering migrant DNA to determine nationality."

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