Finally, a plan to crack down on unethical immigration consultants has been announced by the federal government which includes the creation of a professional college putting consultants on the same regulatory footing as doctors and lawyers.
The details follow the announcement in the recent federal budget of $51.9 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and $10.1 million a year after that to improve oversight of immigration consultants.
A 2017 report by MPs on the citizenship and immigration committee is the impetus behind the plan. It called for a broad overhaul of how immigration consultants are regulated in Canada and recommended the dissolution of the existing regulatory body — the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).
The committee heard from 50 witnesses who told harrowing stories of newcomers duped by “ghost consultants” who took their money and exploited them by misleading them on many fronts.
The changes involve the creation of a new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants. The legislation setting out the changes will either allow the ICCRC to evolve into the new college or lead to it being scrapped and replaced by the new college.
The college will have a strict disciplinary process, with powers to investigate complaints made against consultants and to publish the names of those being investigated on the college’s website.
Consultants who flout the rules and fail to meet its standards will be served cease and desist notices, and the college will have the authority to obtain court injunctions to stop the actions of unauthorized consultants.
The college also will set education and training requirements for the profession and develop a tiered qualification regime that will license consultants for different types of services.
A compensation fund also will be set up to help the victims of crooked immigration consultants.
The minister will be able to appoint public interest directors to the board of the new college, design the code of conduct, designate a civil servant observer to the board of the college, step in if the college is failing to perform and make regulations that govern the conduct of the college.
The government will be responsible for enforcing the law. That means providing more resources to the Canada Border Services Agency to pursue criminal investigations and increasing criminal penalties.
The federal department also will establish a new administrative regime to penalize non-compliance that doesn’t quite break the law — by introducing monetary penalties and bans that will be administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
For decades immigration consultants have made millions of dollars in fees, many have exploited loopholes in the Canadian immigration system. The plan to crack down on unethical immigration consultants could not have come a moment too soon. -CINEWS