Feds To Crack Down On Crooked Immigration Consultants

Feds to crack down on crooked immigration consultants

By BRYN WEESE, Parliamentary Bureau
The Toronto Sun
Last Updated: June 8, 2010 10:49am

OTTAWA – Crooked immigration consultants beware. The feds are gunning for you.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Tuesday the federal government is moving to come down hard on illegitimate Canadian immigration consultants.

In fact, the new law Kenney is introducing is called – to avoid any confusion – the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act.

If passed, it would become a criminal offence to offer immigration services without being a registered consultant.

The act also calls for a new regulatory watchdog to monitor practitioners, who are currently self-governed by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants that was created in 2004.

“While most immigration consultants working in Canada are legitimate and ethical, it is clear that immigration fraud remains a widespread threat to the integrity of Canada's immigration system,” Kenney said Tuesday. “Crooked immigration consultants victimize people who dream of immigrating to Canada.”

Kenney added the bogus consultants even encourage prospective immigrants to lie on the applications, concoct bogus refugee stories, and enter into “sham marriages” with Canadian citizens.

“This undermines the integrity and fairness of Canada's immigration system,” he said.

Recently, the self-governing CSIC – mandated to regulate the industry – has been criticized for being toothless, unfocused, secretive, and “mired” in litigation with its members, according to the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, which is made up of CSIC members.

In a recent news statement, the association's past-president said the rumoured changes being proposed by the government were welcome.

The group has even published a document on its website: Seven reasons why CSIC must change.

CSIC has no mandate to prosecute unregulated agents, and has been challenged with governance problems ever since three initial directors resigned in protest over spending practices in 2005, stated Phil Mooney in the news release. It needs an overhaul.

The board runs a very expensive operation, focused on too many things outside their core mandate for example, in addition to the wholly owned CMI, they have their own TV studio, professional lobbyists, an online academy, a Coat of Arms, a CSIC merchandising store, etc. All CSIC resources should be marshaled solely to protecting consumers.”

But the Society, which is expected to be able to apply to be the industry regulator when the government opens it up to a public bid, said recently the problem is unscrupulous illegitimate consultants, or “ghost consultants,” not the Society.

“We must not allow misinformation to distract us from the problems that really matter, stated Nigel Thomson, the Society's chairman, in a recent news release. Despite what other groups seem to think, CSIC is not the problem. Unaccredited ghost agents are the problem, and all this rhetoric only serves to distract media, decision-makers and the public from this critical issue.”

The Society has also been critical of negative media coverage it has received.

Weve been doing our job, and its unfortunate that prime media space that could have been used to warn consumers about ghost agents or to discuss solutions to the ghost agent problem has been wasted, Thomson added. Lets get back to a productive dialog on what can be done to put ghost agents out of business. Kenney said the watchdog must regulate “effectively, and must be held accountable” to make sure its members act ethically and professionally.