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Protecting prospective immigrants from dishonest Canadian immigration consultants and lawyers

Prior to answering the question it is important to provide a definition of an unscrupulous person, whether a Consultant or lawyer; such a person

“uses dishonest and unjust methods to get what they desire”. 1

To what extent is that true? And is this applicable to our question?

The answer is undoubtedly true; yes it does apply; unfortunately for the past decade we have been experiencing and dealing with unethical and unprofessional behaviour on behalf of Canadian immigration consultants and Canadian immigration lawyers. An alarming number of prospective applicants/foreign nationals have been an easy “prey” and victims to such unscrupulous consultants/lawyers.

But the question that many continue to ask is how can we protect the public and put an end to this serious problem in order to safeguard and protect the interest of foreign nationals in Canada. There is no doubt whatsoever that applicants have been suffering tremendously from the actions of such consultants/lawyers that have managed to lure prospective immigrants to apply by providing false promises, unrealistic timelines pertaining to their Canadian immigration applications and many times/instances have provided improper/erroneous advice; thus having an adverse impact/effect on their immigration application. The problem at hand has even developed and spread to include agents/representatives that operate through such unscrupulous consultants/lawyers that are mainly interested in making a “quick buck” at the expense of such gullible, naive and innocent consumers/applicants.

So once again we are faced with the question of how to protect and control the actions or to rephrase how to end such malfeasance on behalf of Canadian immigration consultants or lawyers that are usually authorized to act on behalf of the public.

It is noteworthy mentioning that the immigration profession should envisage to put its clients’ interests before its own, and ensure that they maintain the highest standards of service in order to preserve “the integrity of Canada’s immigration system”. 2

Hence, how can we preserve the integrity of the Canadian immigration system and at the same time protect the public?

A staring point would be exerting more pressure on the current Immigration Regulator which is the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) which is the regulatory governing body responsible for overseeing immigration consultants.

ICCRC replaced CSIC that was strongly criticized for failing to protect the public and put an end to this ongoing problem pertaining to damaging the credibility of the immigration profession and putting the immigrants/applicants at risk. Protecting the public is a core/central issue that the Immigration Regulator (ICCRC) must be fully aware/cognizant; ensuring that such unscrupulous consultants are outlawed/barred and subject to strict disciplinary proceedings for failing to adhere to the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC’s) code of professional ethics. It is the onerous duty of ICCRC to ensure and keep an ‘open eye’ on such consultants in order to avoid harm/damage done through errors made by unscrupulous/negligent immigration consultants. As regards lawyers, it shall be the sole responsibility of the law society to which the lawyer belongs, whereby the society should handle such issues in relation to breach of the code/principles of conduct and ethics. Words are not enough to protect the public; prompt and immediate action is what’s required on behalf of the Immigration Regulator.

Severe disciplinary measures/actions on behalf of the ICCRC must be undertaken; the more strict the immigration regulator is with unscrupulous consultant, the more others will think twice prior to following the footsteps of such unethical/immoral immigration consultants, setting a precedent is what is required; such consultants should fully comprehend/understand that such improper acts/behaviour shall be dealt with in a strict manner and without any hesitation on behalf of the Regulator, this will surely protect the public and is considered as a preliminary step towards safeguarding the interests/benefits of the public/prospective immigrants in addition to preserving the image of the Canadian immigration system.

The province of Québec had its share of a noticeable number of unscrupulous Consultants; February 20th 2010 is considered a turning point, whereby Québec

“announced stricter norms for cracking unethical immigration consultants. The latest move is aimed to combat fradulent immigration advisors who cheat innocent prospective Canadian immigrants by making them believe that their applications for Canadian immigration can be fast tracked.” 3

Such steps/norms are required by all provinces in order to combat unscrupulous consultants and ensure that the public is protected. Québec has made it clear that:

“any immigration consultants found to be breaking any of the rules will be disbarred or face prosecution”. 4

At a meeting of immigration consultants in Toronto; Neil Yales (Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada) stance was clear, expressly stating that the government/CIC will collaborate by all means with ICCRC “to protect public from unscrupulous unethical representatives”. 5

Other effective methods/means to protect the public from unscrupulous immigration consultants/lawyers includes launching videos “warning potential immigrants about the damages of unscrupulous immigration consultants”. 6

The use of such videos is considered extremely important whereby it will serve as a tool towards “raising awareness in preventing consumer fraud”. 7

The public should be cognizant of such unscrupulous consultants; dissemination of such critical information pertaining to unethical consultants/lawyers will certainly protect prospective immigrants and ensure that they have a vivid picture of the “dark side” of such a profession when it comes to such consultants/lawyers that tarnish the image of the Canadian immigration system. An example is the case of the ‘Miranda family’ that have encountered such “unethical and unprofessional behaviour”8 on behalf of an immigration consultant that overchanged the family and failed to provide any positive outcome pertaining to their immigration case leaving them in ‘transit’ for years.

Another method is the involvement and collaboration of Mission offices abroad/oversees, whereby they should take part or have an obligation/responsibility towards overseeing and checking the activities of unscrupulous consultants or dubious representatives by posting advertisements in local newspaper/bulletin boards in the Embassy/Mission office, listing the names and warning the public of such unethical consultants; thus ensuring that the public/prospective immigrants refrain from availing the services of such consultants. Moreover, such a process should be carried out by collaborating with the ICCRC; informing the latter of any blatant violation or breach of code of professional ethics; consequently the ICCRC should take the necessary steps/actions to disbar/exclude such unscrupulous consultants in order to protect the public and safeguard their interests.

It is noteworthy mentioning that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been fully involved in the protection of the public; whereby recently it “issued two warrants for the arrest of a Halifax, Nova Scotia, immigration consultant and two of his employees for allegedly counseling people to commit residency fraud”. 9

There is no doubt whatsoever that “unscrupulous consultants bring misery to their victims…”; many foreign nationals/prospective immigrants shall continue to face the evil flip side of such a profession; despite the latter CIC together with other agencies shall remain dedicated towards ending such unethical behaviour and activities pertaining to Canadian immigrations consultants or lawyers.

Ahmad Al-Azem
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


References:

1 http://www.wiki-answer.com
2 ICCRC – What it Means to You: The Public
3 Quebec announces tougher rules on unethical immigration consultants
4 ibid
5 Toronto hosts largest gathering of immigration consultants
6 Minister Kenney launches video warning potential immigrants about the dangers of unscrupulous immigration consultants
7 ibid
8 Bill C-35 – Bill to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

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