Government Unveils Plan to Crack Down on Unethical Immigration Consultants
On May 6, 2019, the federal government revealed details of its plan to crack down on unethical immigration consultants, a plan that includes creating a professional college putting consultants on the same regulatory footing as doctors and lawyers. The plan is something that hopefully will yield results as all previous efforts to police immigration consultants have essentially failed. Details follow the announcement in the recent federal budget of $51.9 million being allocated over five years, starting in 2019-20, and $10.1 million a year after that to improve oversight of immigration consultants.
The decision to take action stems from a 2017 report by MPs on the citizenship and immigration committee which called for a broad overhaul of how immigration consultants are regulated in Canada. The report recommended the dissolution of the existing regulatory body — the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) which had not had the teeth to achieve real results. The committee heard from 50 witnesses who told stories of newcomers being duped by “ghost consultants” who took their money and exploited them by providing them false information or poor advice. Unfortunately, these very same stories are ones that I have heard countless times from clients who have had their futures in Canada compromised and put at serious risk by people who either had no expertise in a complex field or who just provided ridiculous or poor advice.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told MPs on the committee that “it is the responsibility of governments to do all we can to stop this kind of unethical and damaging behaviour. At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are many, many honest and ethical professionals who provide important services to clients, and they help them to navigate the immigration system”. He went on to say “it is imperative to create a system that better protects everyone involved. While fraudsters will always seek ways to benefit themselves, we can make it harder for them to succeed and deter others from seeking to do the same.”
The newly created college will have a strict discipline process, with powers to investigate complaints made against consultants and to publish the names of those being investigated on the college’s website. They will also be able to send cease and desist orders to consultants who do not meet its standards, and to obtain court injunctions to stop the actions of unauthorized consultants. Education and training requirements for the profession and a tiered qualification regime for consultants will also be implemented.
My immediate reaction to the announcement is a positive one but ultimately, I will wait to see whether the newly established College will be able to eradicate a problem that has existed for years. Unfortunately, my years in practice have showed me that there are many unscrupulous individuals ready and willing to prey on the vulnerable all in the name of money.