Quebec imposes tougher standards on immigration consultants
By Marian Scott
The Montreal Gazette, February 19, 2010
The Quebec government plans to close a loophole that allows virtually anyone to pass him or herself off as an immigration consultant.
Under regulations to take effect in June, only lawyers, notaries and consultants certified by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) will have the right to represent clients in provincial immigration cases, Immigration Minister Yolande James announced yesterday.
The move comes more than six years after the federal government cracked down on fly-by-night immigration consultants, who bilked newcomers out of thousands of dollars, by requiring such advisers to be accredited by the CSIC.
The federal regulations do not apply to consultants who deal with provincial immigration authorities, however.
Quebec will also require consultants to pass an exam on immigration rules, to function fluently in French, and not have broken the province's immigration law in the previous three years.
To track down 'phantom consultants,' the government will require all immigrants to divulge the name of any immigration consultant they hire.
Consultants who break the rules can be disbarred or prosecuted.
The CSIC applauded the new regulations.
John Ryan, the society's chairperson and acting CEO, said the measures will guarantee consultants are 'held accountable to strict rules of professional conduct.'
Daniel Tardif, secretary of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Migration Institute, a subsidiary of the CSIC, also hailed the move.
'I think any measures to protect clients of immigration services from being exploited are welcome,' he said.
Of the several hundred immigration consultants operating in Quebec, only 156 are members of the CSIC.
Rivka Augenfeld, an immigration and refugee advocate with the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes rfugies et immigrantes, said immigration consultants are needed because it is almost impossible for the average person – let alone most new arrivals – to navigate immigration red tape.
'If you could get a clear answer, you wouldn't need them, but you can't,' she said.
Newcomers rarely have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with immigration officials, she added.
'The only time you see somebody is when they come to deport you.'