The act to create the new, self-regulating College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants was tabled for a first reading in Parliament April 8.
Immigration consultants are not lawyers but are authorized to provide legal services in immigration and refugee matters. They are currently regulated by the self-governing, not-for-profit Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), which was designated by the Government of Canada in 2011.
The legislation would make the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Canada’s official regulatory and oversight body.
In a statement, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, said the legislation is intended to protect Canadians, prospective newcomers and immigration and citizenship consultants in good standing “against fraudulent consultants who are preying on the most vulnerable.”
Hussen said the proposed legislation will give the College “both the powers and tools they need for vigorous oversight, enforcement, investigations and punishment to root out fraudulent immigration and citizenship consultants and hold them accountable for their actions.”
An investigative report by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper recently looked into the practices of 45 international recruiters and immigration consultants who are facing accusations of exploiting more than 2,000 foreign workers and students.
The Globe and Mail found many were made to pay large sums of money for the promise of work or even permanent residence in Canada, only for many to find out they’d been lied to after arriving in Canada.
Canada’s federal government had proposed measures to help protect newcomers and applicants wishing to obtain the services of legitimate immigration consultants in its 2019 Budget, which was tabled March 19.
The government proposed $51.9 million over five years, beginning in 2019-20, and $10.1 million per year ongoing “to improve oversight of immigration consultants and strengthen compliance and enforcement measures.”
The budget said the proposed measures would support “public awareness activities that will help vulnerable newcomers and applicants protect themselves against fraudulent immigration consultants” and ensure all applicants “have access to quality immigration and citizenship advice, and that those who are providing the services operate in a professional and ethical manner.”
The purpose of the proposed College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants “is to regulate immigration and citizenship consultants in the public interest and protect the public.”
Among other things, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act:
Related amendments will also be made to Canada’s Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to double the existing maximum fines for contraventions of the relevant sections in those acts.
Both the Citizenship Act and IRPA would also be amended to provide authorities with the power to establish administrative penalties and consequences for persons who violate rules governing the provision of representation or advice in immigration and citizenship matters.
Hussen, who practised immigration law prior to entering politics, said the government will also work with the College to implement “a mandatory and robust course” for anyone who wants to obtain an immigration and citizenship consulting licence.
“While practising law, I have seen the devastating effect that fraud has had on people and I am committed to holding immigration and citizenship consultants to the highest standard,” he said in his statement.
A 2017 report by Canada’s Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship recommended ending self-regulation and creating a public-interest body that is empowered to regulate and govern immigration consultants and is accountable to the Government of Canada.
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