One more time: Lawyers, not immigration consultants

  • January 02, 2018

The CBA’s Immigration Law Section has said it quite a few times over the past several years, and said it again in a December letter to the Immigration Minister: lawyers are best placed to offer professional representation for newcomers to Canada.

The Section’s latest letter is a response to the government’s response to the Citizenship and Immigration Committee Report Starting Again: Improving Government Oversight of Immigration Consultants.

The Section applauds the government’s commitment to addressing the need to protect the public from unprofessional or unethical immigration consultants.

“We disagree, however, with the government’s view that a strong system of oversight for immigration consultants will be an adequate or successful solution to maintaining public confidence and the integrity of the Canadian immigration system by ensuring applicants and newcomers to Canada are properly protected.”

The Parliamentary Committee recommended a government-regulated body step into the breach created by two failed attempts by consultants to regulate themselves. The Section doesn’t believe this is a viable option, for two reasons:

  1. Establishing a new regulator would place the federal government in a conflict-of-interest position and could raise constitutional issues related to the regulation of professions.
  2. It would not address the reason why the regulation of consultants hasn’t worked in the past.

That said, the Section does support several of the committee’s recommendations, including that the CBSA, the RCMP and provincial police forces be given adequate funding to enforce and investigate violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

But the most effective way to ensure applicants are protected is to amend the IRPA so that only lawyers and Quebec notaries are authorized to act as paid representatives, the Sections say. “This would eliminate confusion by ensuring that the public and IRCC could easily recognize and distinguish authorized counsel from unauthorized consultants.”

The Section suggests lawyers could then supervise immigration consultants working as specialized non-lawyer staff in law firms – or even, in areas where the law society permits, enter into partnerships with consultants, with lawyers maintaining control over the practice and ensuring compliance with law society rules.

“We suggest a two-year transition period, during which the government would need to work closely with stakeholders to determine how this could best be implemented in each jurisdiction,” during which time only lawyers and Quebec notaries would be authorized to act as paid representatives. “(The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council) would be replaced by a professional certifying body, which is unregulated, but would ensure high education and training standards for immigration consultants. This certification would increase the marketability of immigration consultants when starting (or continuing) their careers under the supervision of a lawyer.”

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