- April 9, Bill C-97Bill C-97 – The Budget Implementation Bill – was introduced to Parliament. It included a new statute (the College Act) creating the “College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants” – a new regulator for RCICs and RISIAs.
- June 20, 2019 – The College Act was passed by Parliament.
- June 21, 2019 – The College Act received Royal Assent.
- September 19, 2019 – Membership endorsed ICCRC becoming the new College at a Special General Meeting (SGM).
- October 21, 2019 – Federal Election, followed by appointment of a new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship who will issue an order proclaiming the College Act “in force.” Immediately thereafter, ICCRC will apply to be “continued” as the College.
- November – Spring 2020 (?) – Ministerial order approving the continuance and setting the “date of continuance” – on the date of continuance, the Council becomes the College. A transitional Board will oversee approval of the College By-laws and other procedures. Government Regulations made pursuant to the College Act will also be developed and promulgated during this period, through the usual government regulation-making process. This involves industry and public consultation periods and, ultimately, approval by the Federal Cabinet on the advice and recommendation of the Minister. These Regulations will include a new Code of Professional Conduct for licensees.
- The Minister will issue a final order setting the number and composition of the final College Board of Directors and prescribing a date by which the new Board must be in office.
- The College will hold an election for the licensee directors on the new Board.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. Why is the creation of a new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants necessary? What is wrong with the current system under the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council?
In Canada, almost all regulators of professionals are established under statute. ICCRC’s current authority arises from its designation by the Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act. This delegated authority creates administrative and legal challenges that can prevent ICCRC from delivering timely and effective professional compliance and regulatory services.
In the past two years, ICCRC has worked with IRCC and key stakeholders to obtain the necessary statutory authority. This will provide enhanced powers and tools for oversight, enforcement and investigation, and expanded authority to identify unauthorized immigration practitioners (ghost consultants) and hold them responsible for their actions.
The statute includes new authority to identify and pursue unauthorized immigration practitioners. It also provides enhanced powers to investigate, obtain evidence and order refunds of inappropriate fees. The legislation would also create a new fund to compensate persons adversely affected by the unlawful conduct of licensed immigration and citizenship consultants.
Very little will change in your daily work. ICCRC is working with IRCC on the development of regulations to support the new College and will have more detail on the specifics regarding licensing, compliance, professional conduct and professional development in the weeks ahead.
Clients will benefit from knowing that complaints made to the College will be vigorously and efficiently investigated. Clients who have been financially affected by the misconduct of a licensed immigration and citizenship consultant may be able to obtain compensation.
ICCRC is working with IRCC to ensure a seamless transition. Nothing changes with your current licence or authority. However, in due course, a new licence will be issued to you. Changes to the professional designations “RCIC” and “RISIA” have yet to be determined.
In the interim, there will be no changes. We anticipate that ICCRC’s professional development approach, requirements, and associated learning resources will be transitioned to the new College and hope that any changes will only result in a net increase of the services and resources available to you. We note that ICCRC has been reviewing its current CPD requirements, and this review, together with any changes that may flow from it, will proceed.
ICCRC has needed these enhanced powers since its inception and has worked with IRCC and key stakeholders to obtain this statute. We were thrilled to see this proposed statute included in Bill C-97 and look forward to moving ahead with the transition as soon as possible.
The expanded authority and investigative powers provided for in the statute will make the complaints and discipline process more efficient and effective. This is a benefit to both members and the public. Details regarding specific changes to current processes will be finalized through regulation. We are working with IRCC on the development of these regulations and welcome any feedback you have on how to improve on our current process under the new College.
9. The previous government believed remodeling the regulatory body in 2011 would resolve issues with the regulation of immigration consultants. Why should the public trust that transitioning to the College will resolve the outstanding issues within the industry?
The greatest challenge ICCRC faces today is its limited ability and authority to obtain evidence, collect fines and costs, enforce disciplinary sanctions, and pursue unauthorized immigration practitioners. ICCRC is essentially expected to enforce strict rules on our members and against fraudulent immigration and citizenship consultants without the right tools to do the job.
With this proposed statutory authority, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants will have robust powers to protect the public. These will include the authority to take substantive action against members who breach the Code of Professional Ethics and unauthorized practitioners. This will go a long way towards improving protection for consumers of immigration services and enhancing the reputation of our growing profession.
10. The Globe and Mail did an in-depth investigation of alleged fraud perpetrated by some former ICCRC members on immigration clients. How will this new statute achieve better results for those vulnerable Canadians and immigrants?
The abuses chronicled in the recent media flow from the ICCRC’s limited ability to collect evidence. The fact is that very few witnesses are willing to come forward for fear of compromising their immigration status. Those that do may be easily intimidated by unethical practitioners. Under the new legislation, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants will be able to launch investigations, obtain important evidence from other sources and compel witnesses to testify at disciplinary hearings. These new tools will go a long way towards helping to protect immigrants and those looking to visit Canada from misleading and fraudulent practitioners.
11. We have heard from individuals and organizations about growing problems with unauthorized practitioners who take advantage of prospective immigrants overseas. How does this proposed legislation help the government combat these illegal, oversees immigration consultants?
We are working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to establish the scope of authority and further cooperation with our colleagues in the RCMP and CBSA. Once it receives statutory authority, the new College will also have the enhanced status necessary to engage directly with foreign government agencies. Bill C-97 also includes additional funding for enforcement and public education that will go a long way towards clamping down on unauthorized practitioners who are operating abroad illegally.
12. Some argue that lawyers are the best option for consumers in resolving complicated immigration cases. Why wouldn’t the government just enable lawyers to take on a greater role and eliminate RCICs altogether?
Often it is a specific group of lawyers who argue that lawyers are the best option for providing immigration and citizenship services. Lawyers are already authorized to provide the full range of immigration services and certainly play an important part in resolving immigration and citizenship issues – but it is just one part.
Immigration and Citizenship Consultants have been representing immigration clients for decades, working on their own or alongside lawyers to provide much-needed immigration services. These services are needed for various reasons: many lawyers choose to practice in other areas of law that they find are more interesting or lucrative than immigration; immigration consultants often hail from and serve particular demographic groups in which lawyers are underrepresented; the barriers to entering the legal profession are often insurmountable to some interested in providing immigration and citizenship services; and, at the end of the day, the authorization of lawyers, immigration consultants (and notaries in the province of Quebec) to provide these services promotes consumer choice and healthy competition.
Reducing options for immigration and citizenship services limits consumer choice, creates financial barriers for some, and ultimately limits access to appropriate representation. Freedom to choose where to obtain immigration and citizenship services from among competent, ethical and regulated professionals provides new Canadians with the opportunity to obtain the best possible services to meet their needs.
13. Given this proposed new authority, what immediate benefits should the public expect to see? What early steps will the organization take to address fraudulent/unauthorized practitioners?
In the short term, the public can expect the College to step up its member-enforcement activities with respect to open-cases, and institute immediate actions against several unauthorized practitioners who have been on our radar. We will continue to build on our partnerships with the RCMP, CBSA and other levels of government to better share information and coordinate our efforts to crack down on fraudulent activity here and abroad.
ICCRC members are excited about this legislation and believe it will provide the necessary tools to ensure public protection, as well as enhance the reputation of this growing profession. While a small number of members, many of whom have been or are the subject of disciplinary action, appear to oppose ICCRC transitioning to the proposed College, we are confident that the majority of ICCRC members will support this legislation and the transition of ICCRC into the new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants.
15. Since the CIMM released its Report in 2017, what steps has ICCRC taken to rectify the problems identified in that Report?
Over the last two years, ICCRC has taken significant steps to strengthen the organization by increasing education standards, streamlining the complaint and discipline process, improving its governance mechanisms and revamping communications and outreach strategies. A key component of these new initiatives has been the hiring of new senior leadership including a new President & CEO and Director of Professional Conduct (each with a strong background and experience in professional regulation), Director of Education, and Director of Public Affairs & Communications. In addition, ICCRC has hired significant additional resources to support Professional Conduct activities. These include additional investigators and lawyers, a mediator, a case coordinator, and a legal advisor, all to expedite the complaints and discipline process.
On May 1, 2019, ICCRC announced the entry into an agreement with the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University to develop and offer the new Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP). Expected to launch in January 2021, the ICGDP will represent a significant upgrading of the educational prerequisites for becoming an immigration and citizenship consultant.
The Act provides for existing members to seamlessly transition to “licensees” of the new College. Going forward, we will continue to monitor proficiency standards and address any future upgrades through continuing education.
No, they do not require any additional education to be eligible to transition into the new College. They will “transition” to the new College along with RCICs.
18. Why will the (new) education in French be offered only in two years? What will Francophone candidates who want to obtain the diploma do in the meantime?
The transition to the Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP) will result in the gradual phasing out of the current Immigration Practitioner Programs (IPP). The cut-off date for new registrants into the IPP is July 31, 2020. As of August 1, 2020, only those educational institutions accredited by ICCRC to deliver the ICGDP will be permitted to accept new registrants into their program. Currently accredited educational institutions may continue to offer the IPP to students who are registered in the program prior to August 1, 2020. It is expected that the IPP will be entirely phased out by December 31, 2022. Students will be permitted to sit the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant Entry-to-Practice Exam (RCIC EPE) up to three years after graduating from the IPP; however, upon graduation of the first cohort of students from the ICGDP, the RCIC EPE will be updated to reflect the augmented National Education Standards. It is anticipated that the new French ICGDP will be available in September 2021.
The proposed statute does not explicitly provide for professional corporations as it is drafted. Current ICCRC rules permit members to offer services through business corporations. Professional corporations are usually created through provincial legislation. We will explore whether they may be created through federal legislation as we go forward.
There are mechanisms in place (i.e., feedback surveys, report cards, site visits as required, etc.) to monitor the quality of current Immigration Practitioner Programs and there will be similar mechanisms in place to monitor the quality of the Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program. Once admitted to the profession, RCICs have continuing education requirements, which include Practice Management Education courses. There is no intention to change this going forward.
The College Act provides for specialization for members who practise specific activities. The only specialized education being considered at the moment is for members representing clients before the IRB. The Specialization Program that we are working on is designed to increase the competence of RCICs appearing before the IRB. ICCRC has been considering specialization for several years. A resolution was passed at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2015 to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a specialist standard for RCICs. Subsequent to that, recommendations to implement a specialization for RCICs to appear before Tribunals were approved by the Board of Directors and presented to the membership at the 2017 AGM. The program is currently under development and ICCRC is receiving input from the IRB.
22. Why do you not have enough of a financial footing when you received $51 million over five years?
Funding for immigration enforcement activities in the federal budget ($51 million over five years) is not earmarked for the College. These monies are going to fund the CBSA’s resources for criminal investigations and to IRCC for the creation of a new system through which the department will impose administrative penalties and sanctions to ensure compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act. The federal budget also provides for the allocation of resources to IRCC for targeted public education and awareness activities. Outreach officer positions will be introduced internationally to inform populations in certain countries of the legal obligation to use the services of an authorized representative and of the consequences of using the services of an unauthorized representative. So, the $51 million is not for the College. The College will rely on annual membership dues to establish its financial footing.
The Act gives the College the authority to file an injunction against a person who acts as an unauthorized consultant. In other words, a Canadian court can charge the person with contempt of court if he or she continues to provide services without authorization. There will therefore be consequences as a result of the new authority of the College. To improve the fight against unauthorized consultants, the new system of administrative penalties will also make it possible to fine unauthorized consultants to urge them to change their behaviour and require them to become members of the College if they want to provide services. The budget will also allocate $2 million to CBSA so that they can conduct more investigations on unauthorized consultants.
It is possible to file an injunction with a Canadian court, but it is difficult to uphold the law in the same way abroad. For the law to have an effect, a person must travel to Canada. To improve the situation abroad, IRCC has considered two options for the 2019 budget: allocating more resources to public education and awareness abroad, not only to explain the reasons for using authorized consultants, but also to issue warnings about the risks of using unauthorized consultants; and creating five positions abroad, in India, Turkey, etc., to educate people about the dangers of using unauthorized consultants. IRCC has chosen countries where there is a high demand for immigration to Canada.
ICCRC is on a firm financial footing. The government has indicated that there will be no funding for self-regulation of consultants. If ICCRC members vote “NO” and a new College has to be created, then all start-up and operating costs will be borne by members of the new College.