Use of representatives: The investigation process

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Offices should continue to use their existing procedures for performing local investigations and to engage their local enforcement agencies. It is important that Immigration Program Guidance Branch (IPGB) at National Headquarters (NHQ) is kept informed of all major developments regarding investigations so that it can assist as needed and report on the effectiveness of the Regulations concerning authorized representatives.

Authority to share information

When an officer has determined that the conduct of a representative is likely to constitute a breach of their professional or ethical obligations, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), authorizes Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) to disclose information relating to the professional or ethical conduct of the representative to their respective governing bodies.

Provisions of the Privacy Act, IRPA/IRPR or the Citizenship Act and its Regulations, allow for the sharing of information and/or the referral of complaints to the appropriate designated organization. Both Citizenship and Immigration regulations provide IRCC with the same authority. Examples of relevant acts or omissions could include:

  • false promises made to the applicant
  • providing false information to clients about Canada’s immigration or citizenship processes
  • misleading advertising
  • failing to provide services agreed to between the representative and client
  • counselling to obtain or submit false evidence
  • acts or omissions which would appear to be contrary to the code of ethics of the governing body.

If a client complains to an officer about general misconduct of a representative, the officer should encourage the client to contact the respective regulatory body directly.

However, if an IRCC officer has information about the professional or ethical conduct of a representative, for which they determined that the conduct of the person is likely to constitute a breach of their professional or ethical obligations, they should follow office investigation procedures and if warranted, complete the Representative Referral Report and email it to Immigration Program Guidance Branch (IPGB).

IPGB will take the next steps which may include a referral to the appropriate governing body for action.

CBSA officers should forward the information to CBSA investigations.

Investigation procedures

Investigations could originate from a complaint or an officer’s concerns about maintaining program integrity standards. If a representative’s actions constitute an IRPA and/or Citizenship Act offence and/or professional misconduct, it is necessary to determine whether the issue affects the integrity of the Acts or Regulations respecting immigration or citizenship representatives.

If an officer becomes aware of an issue through a complaint, or notices common trends/patterns among citizenship or immigration representatives that cause concern, they should raise the matter with their direct supervisor. If the supervisor determines that the concern is justified, they should consult their manager/director to determine whether the issue warrants a local investigation. If the manager and/or director, in consultation with the supervisor, confirms that the concern affects the integrity of the Acts or Regulations respecting citizenship or immigration representatives, they may authorize a local investigation. This involves allocating staff and resources to monitor, research and gather information about an individual or issue to prove that unscrupulous activity (whether criminal or involving professional misconduct) has occurred.

With respect to citizenship misrepresentation issues, refer to the misrepresentation instructions for the role of local offices, Citizenship Judges, and Case Management Branch.

If management determines that the issue is of limited concern and does not affect the integrity of the Acts or Regulations, the representative’s information should be filed for possible future reference and emailed to IPGB.

When completing a local investigation, it is important to identify whether the representative is authorized or not. If the representative is unauthorized, only the IRPA or the Citizenship Act offence investigation process may apply. However, if the representative is a member of one of the designated regulatory bodies (Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), Chambres des notaires du Quebec, or provincial law society), the person responsible for overseeing the investigation must determine whether it falls under the rubric of an IRPA or Citizenship Act offence or professional misconduct which may lead to a referral to the appropriate regulatory body for possible investigation.

Where a referral is warranted for cases involving members belonging to one of the designated governing bodies (law society or ICCRC), officers are advised to complete an investigation referral report that includes all the supporting evidence and email it to IPGB.

Note: CBSA only has a mandate to enforce the provisions of IRPA. Citizenship Act provisions are enforced solely by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and IRCC staff should not contact the RCMP directly, but work through Case Management Branch and/or Program Integrity Branch. Any enforcement beyond what IRCC is able to do in its own right is the responsibility of the RCMP.

Offences

If the alleged offence may affect the integrity of the Acts or Regulations respecting citizenship or immigration representatives or any of the sections of the Acts noted below, officers are advised to follow office procedures specific to that offence.

IRPA offences

The examples of IRPA offences described in this section fall under both the Criminal Code and IRPA.

It is important to note that an investigation will only be initiated on the basis of information and circumstances that would lead an officer to believe that there has been a violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations. The Department’s enforcement activities are both proactive, in preventing violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations, and reactive, in recognizing the constraints on a civilian organization with enforcement duties (ENF 7 Section 5.1).

Types of immigration offences

IRPA Offence Refer to
Contravention of Act A124
Fraudulent documents A122
Misrepresentation (civil) A40
Counselling misrepresentation A126
Misrepresentation (criminal) A127
Counselling offence A131
Organizing entry into Canada A117
Trafficking in persons A118
Crimes against humanity and war crimes A35(1)(b)
Terrorism A34(1)(c)
Representation or Advice A91(1)

A124 (1) (a) states:

  • Every person commits an offence who
  • (a) contravenes a provision of this Act for which a penalty is not specifically provided or fails to comply with a condition or obligation imposed under this Act.

Officers should be as specific as possible when identifying whether an individual has committed an offence under IRPA, as the particulars of the offence will help local law-enforcement authorities to prioritize the case.

Citizenship Act Offences

Citizenship Act Offence Refer to
Offences relating to documents A29
Personating, issuing, altering, counterfeiting, trafficking in documents A29
Counselling misrepresentation A29.2(1)
Misrepresentation A29.2(2)
Representation or Advice for consideration A21.1(1)

Professional and ethical misconduct

Professional and ethical misconduct means conduct by a representative that is likely to constitute a breach of that person’s professional or ethical obligations. Examples of relevant unethical acts or omissions could include:

  • false promises made to the applicant
  • providing false information to clients about Canada’s citizenship or immigration processes
  • failing to provide services agreed to between the representative and client
  • counselling to obtain or submit false evidence
  • acts or omissions which would appear to be contrary to the code of ethics of the governing body
  • violating or attempting to violate a requirement of IRPA or the Citizenship Act or the Regulations
  • being found guilty of an offence that is relevant to the member’s suitability to practise
  • knowingly assisting or inducing an employee or agent to violate or attempt to violate a requirement of IRPA, the Citizenship Act or the Regulations
  • stating or implying an ability to improperly influence a government agency or official
  • engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice
  • providing unprofessional and unethical representation or advice.

An officer should continue to monitor applications received from any representative in respect of whom they have specific concerns. Risk management and due diligence principles for document verification should be applied.

Misleading advertising

Misleading advertising may be an IRPA offence as identified in A127(b), which states, “No person shall knowingly communicate, directly or indirectly, by any means, false or misleading information or declarations with intent to induce or deter immigration to Canada”. It may also contravene IRPA as identified in A91(1), which states, “no person shall knowingly, directly or indirectly, represent or advise a person for consideration — or offer to do so — in connection with a proceeding or application under this Act.” Risk management and due diligence principles for document verification should continue to be applied.

Misleading advertising may also be an offence under the Citizenship Act, as per paragraph 29.2(2)(b), which states “Every person commits an offence who knowingly communicates directly or indirectly, by any means, false or misleading information or representations with the intent to induce a person to make, or deter a person from making, an application to become a citizen, to obtain a certificate of citizenship or another document establishing citizenship or to renounce citizenship”.

Cases of misleading advertising by representatives should be forwarded to IPGB. Misleading advertising includes guaranteed acceptance of the application, declaration of a close or preferential relationship with an IRCC office, or references to ICCRC membership without giving the individual names of the members. The referral must include an investigation referral report.

Professional and ethical misconduct investigation process

In cases of professional misconduct, the IRCC office should perform a local investigation using current practices to compile evidence.

If the individual is an authorized representative with a governing body, the results of the investigation and all supporting documents should be forwarded by email to IPGB. The Branch will review the investigation report, gather input from key stakeholders, such as Legal Services, the CBSA or the RCMP (if required), and determine the appropriate action. Once a course of action has been established, IPGB will notify the office of its decision.

Each designated body (Canadian provincial/territorial law societies, the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the ICCRC) has its own complaints and discipline process. Members of these designated organizations are subject to their principles, rules and regulations, and may be penalized based on the outcome of the designated organization’s investigation.

Suspended or disbarred authorized representatives

If a representative is under investigation, officers must continue to conduct business with the representative until the investigation by the regulatory body has been concluded.

Suspended members are not considered to be in good standing for a specific period of time. If a member is suspended, the governing body normally requires that the suspended member contact their active clients to inform them of their change in status. The client will then have the option of selecting a new representative by submitting a new IMM 5476.

When IRCC becomes aware that the representative has been suspended/disbarred (no longer in good standing) IRCC will not do business with the representative. The suspended member is disassociated from the application(s) in the Global Case Management System (GCMS). A note is to be added to the member’s Party ID.

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