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How to protect the public from unscrupulous consultants/lawyers

It is without a doubt that regulating the immigration consultants and/or lawyers was the most important step in protecting the public so hopefully those who make a living from cheating are caught and those thinking about it will think twice. In so many ways, there are many Canadians that do not understand Canadian laws let alone desperate immigrants needing to come to Canada under refuge status or simply to start a better life who are conned into believing anyone who promises them quick processing and they (immigrants) are willing to pay the fee no matter what (at times documents are not even submitted). But we all know the end result. However, regulating immigration consultants and/or lawyers is not enough and it should be the responsibility of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canadian Embassies, Canadian Consulates and any other Canadian government body that is worldwide representing Canada to educate the public on what is available for them in the event immigrants want to utilize the services of a consultant or lawyer.

Other benefits for being part of a regulating body are recognition both locally and internally, communicate with others in the same field and whom you can rely on for assistance. Standards are established for the immigration consulting profession which will enhance the profession’s credibility and all consultants must abide by the Code of Conduct, specifically the Code of Professional Ethics. An immigration consultant or lawyer is bound to comply with the high standards of ethics both professionally and personally. And so on June 30, 2011, Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney designated the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) after Bill C-35 was legislated on March 23, 2011. Immigration consultant or lawyer must now be a member of ICCRC if they wish to deal with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as CIC will not conduct business with consultants or lawyers who are not members in good standing with ICCRC. It is hoped that the practice of any unscrupulous consultants or lawyers will be drastically reduced resulting in enhancing the confidence of the public in the Canadian immigration system but especially protect those who are vulnerable.

Bill C-35 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), making it an offence for anyone other than an authorized representative to conduct business, for a fee or other consideration, at any stage of an application or proceeding. This includes the period before a proceeding begins or an application is submitted and means that anyone who provides paid immigration advice at the pre-application stage will need to be an authorized representative, as identified in section 91 of the Act. Unpaid third parties, such as family members and friends, can still act on behalf of an applicant.

The Act also:

  • Includes the creation of a specific offence and doubles penalties from $50,000 to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years upon conviction by indictment; and from $10,000 to $20,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months on summary conviction;
  • Provides the Minister with the power, by regulation, to designate or revoke the designation of a body responsible for governing immigration consultants and to provide for transitional measures with respect to such a designation, or revocation of a designation;
  • Authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations requiring the designated body to provide the Minister with information regarding its activities. This information would be used to assist the Minister in evaluating: the effectiveness of the body in ensuring the integrity of the immigration program; whether the designated body is regulating its members in the public interest; and whether its members are providing their services in a professional and ethical manner; and
  • Includes a provision allowing the disclosure of information relating to the professional or ethical conduct of individuals to those responsible for governing or investigating that conduct. 1

However why have a Regulatory Council if the public is not aware or guided of the tools that are available to them. So the next important step that the Federal Government implemented is a commitment in making the public aware. A video in seven languages has been released to warn potential immigrants against those dishonest consultants as well as push the fact that they do not need to use a consultant/lawyer or family member to complete documents as the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website is a good tool to complete their application. If they do utilize the services of a registered consultant, the ICCRC body takes very seriously any complaints, quality service, knowledge of the system, to just name a few. The public must understand that using a consultant/lawyer will not enhance their chances of immigrating and that they do need to research the company they intend to use, to read the agreement carefully before signing and not pay in full the fee until they are sure the immigration documents have been submitted. Canadian Embassies or Consultants worldwide should provide the service free of charge to potential immigrants who might not have the means of computers.

Federal government should encourage the Embassies or Consultants worldwide to provide advice clinics emphasizing on research, understanding the rules and regulations as well as understanding the application and requirements. From the immigration consultant/lawyer side, ICCRC must make sure that they understand the rules and regulations as well so that they are prepared to give the correct information without causing unnecessary delays; they must be accountable. Immigration consultants should be confident and reliable and should only accept work that they are confident in as misguidance could lead to many issues. ICCRC and/or the Federal Government should also perform surveys with every immigrant to obtain their views on the types of processes they used to immigrate to Canada as well as obtain their opinions on how to improve. What better way for Canadian Immigration to be the best than to listen to those who have lived it.

Frances Puglisevich
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


References:

1 Bill C-35 — Highlights
iccrc-crcic
Who seeks help from immigration consultants, and why?
ICCRC – What it Means to You: The Consultant
New rules to clip the wings of unscrupulous Immigration consultants
Bill C-35 comes into force on June 30 and new immigration consultants regulator announced

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