ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism at a news conference announcing the coming into force of Bill C-35 and the designator of a new regulator for immigration consultants

Mississauga, Ontario, June 28, 2011

As delivered

Thank you very much.  It’s good to be here at the new headquarters of the CIC in Mississauga in Peel Region, our new citizenship chambers.  I have not yet been here and it’s good to be also joined by a number of our citizenship judges.  Thank you to all of our local judges for being here and especially to our friends from the media. Good morning and thank you for coming.

One of the things that has been a priority for the federal government and in particular since I became Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has been reinforcing the fairness and integrity of our immigration system.  Because you know Canada welcomes more newcomers than any other country in the world and we are maintaining the highest levels of immigration in our country’s history, last year welcoming over 280,000 newcomers and our government admitting on average 254,000 permanent residents per year since coming to office and welcoming 180,000 of those immigrants to full membership in Canadian society as new citizens.

It’s so important to maintain the public’s support for the fairness and integrity of our immigration system and that is why we must deal head-on with those who seek to break the rules and cheat our system, to cut corners and who do not respect the legal integrity of our immigration system.  Amongst those people are those who we call crooked immigration consultants, ghost immigration consultants, the predators who prey on newcomers who are often unaware and sometimes confused about the complexity of our immigration and citizenship laws.

These operators sometimes charge newcomers tens of thousands of dollars, usually in hard cash, for advice that is often bad, wrong or fraudulent or to assist them in supposedly obtaining visas for temporary or permanent residency or indeed citizenship to Canada often on false grounds supported by counterfeit or false documents and false misrepresentations.

All of these things end up hurting vulnerable would be visitors, immigrants and citizens. That’s why our government has taken firm action in part by adopting through Parliament the Bill C-35, the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants legislation. I’m here to announce today that Bill C-35 will come into effect on Thursday, June 30th. This legislation will impose fines of up to two years in jail or $100,000 for those who are involved in providing advice or assistance to applicants for visas to Canada at any stage of the process and who engage in…  without being properly licensed or registered with the appropriate authorities.

These are very serious penal sanctions and fines because we take these offenses very seriously.  Now one of the problems in the previous regulatory scheme for immigration consultants was that we had no way of compelling those who acted in the shadows to be licensed.  Many so-called ghost consultants would sell advice or assistance but would not declare themselves on the immigration applications or the visa forms.

So we did not know that they were acting on behalf of clients, even though they might have filled out all of the forms. That way these ghost consultants were able to avoid paying the membership fees and conducting themselves in compliance with the regulations and the professional standards of the regulatory body. A lot of the problems that we’ve encountered have been because of these ghost consultants.

Bill C-35, the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act, solves that problem because as of June 30th it will be a criminal offense to be paid for advice or assistance on immigration related matters without at any stage of the process, from the beginning to the end of the process, without being a properly licensed member of a recognized regulatory body.

This is a very important change.  Bill C-35 also gives the Minister of Immigration the power to compel the regulatory body to provide information on its operations to the government so that we can ensure that it is accountable to the government and through the government to taxpayers and to consumers.  It clarifies that the Minister of Immigration has the authority to designate a regulatory body, streamlining the process again to reinforce accountability on the part of the regulatory body.

As you know we also launched late last year a process to identify a regulatory body for immigration consultants.  We held an open, transparent selection process.  We published the criteria that we were looking for in terms of an accountable regulator in immigration consulting.  We were looking for a body that would be responsive to its members, that would ensure professional conduct, that would take disciplinary action when necessary, that would be a sound custodian of its members’ fees and that would represent the public interest in a transparent way.

We received four applications that were considered and reviewed by an expert panel including external experts and members of the public service Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  They closely reviewed these four submissions and they identified one submission as being clearly the strongest, the strongest in terms of responding to our requirement to have an accountable, transparent, strong regulatory body that would avoid some of the very serious problems that we encountered under the previous regulator.

I should point out that the previous regulator, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, was invited to make a submission to be the regulatory body in the future and that their submission was given every consideration, was looked at in a fair and objective manner.  But I can point out that members of the public, hundreds of members of legitimate bona fide immigration consultants and indeed the House of Commons standing committee on citizenship and immigration all expressed very serious concerns about the operations of CSIC, about a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability, questions about financial management and concerns about lack of appropriate disciplinary action and many other concerns that were detailed in two reports of the House of Commons standing committee which is what in part led to our selection process.

In March as you will recall I tabled and published in the Canada Gazette a notice of intent to designate a new regulatory body.  I’m here today to officially announce the designation of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council as the governing body overseeing immigration consultants in Canada.  It replaces the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants effective this Thursday, June 30th.

As I mentioned we first proposed the ICCRC as the new regulator of consultants in the Canada Gazette in March of this year.  After that proposal more than 70% of the public comments that we received from interested parties supported the idea of establishing the ICCRC as the new regulator.

Members in good standing of CSIC can begin to register with the new regulatory body starting this Thursday, June 30th.

Current CSIC members in good standing are encouraged to register with the new regulatory body promptly, promptly – because after a 120 day transitional period they will no longer be recognized as an authorized immigration consultant unless they have registered and become members of the new body.  That means they would not be authorized to represent or advise a person or even offer to do so for a fee or other consideration in connection with a proceeding or application under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

After the 120 day deadline, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will not deal with CSIC members who have not registered with the ICCRC.  The ICCRC was chosen to be the regulator because it demonstrated a commitment to enhance standards of competence, integrity, accountability, viability and good governance in the immigration consulting industry.

This included proposing innovative strategies to ensure accountability and transparency to its membership, robust certification procedures to accredit consultant training as well as continuing education programs and the development of a fair and effective complaint and discipline mechanism.  These proposals are entirely in line with our stated goal, to protect and enhance the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.

I’d like to thank the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council for their hard work, for their collaboration and for their proposal and I congratulate them on today’s announcement.

So before I take questions I want to underscore that addressing the problem of those who exploit would be newcomers to Canada is likely going to be a challenge that we face in the long term. We’ll never be able to eliminate completely those who seek to exploit would be visitors and immigrants to Canada.  It’s going to be a challenge that we’ll always have to deal with. We have great faith that the new regulatory body will be a very effective tool in helping us to achieve that objective.

We do however recognize that many if not most of the immigration violations that are committed by agents, intermediaries, consultants, happen overseas beyond the reach of Canadian law.  That is why I have made it one of my key priorities as Minister to encourage foreign governments of major immigration source countries such as India, China, Philippines, Pakistan to collaborate with Canada, with CIC in identifying and bringing to book unscrupulous unlicensed and fraudulent agents and consultants.

We have made it a key priority in our bilateral relations with those and other important immigration source countries to encourage those governments to strengthen their legal and regulatory framework with respect to immigration agents and to cooperate with us in prosecutions.  I’m pleased to say that we’ve seen as a result of these efforts some successful prosecutions in India and elsewhere.

We look forward to continuing progress in that respect.  Finally we believe that public awareness is a very important part of this campaign and that is why of course we have run these ads, print and radio and television ads both here in Canada and around the world to make would-be visitors and immigrants aware of the risks of hiring someone who is not honest or scrupulous or licensed.

It’s very important that we continue to make consumers aware and encourage them if they’re going to use an intermediary to ensure that person is licensed and has a sound ethical reputation.  One last word because we’re here at a citizenship court and we have many of our hardworking citizenship judges and officials here.  The fraud committed by consultants, some unscrupulous consultants, is not limited to immigration cases but sometimes, all too often, we see people selling advice on how to game our citizenship laws.

I want to thank and commend our judges here and our officials who are alert to various forms of citizenship fraud and residency fraud that is often facilitated by paid intermediaries.  We will have some news in the near future about some strong enforcement action that we are taking in this regard.  I simply want however today to underscore that the government will in due course reintroduce the legislation that did not pass in the last parliament to require that consultants acting on behalf of citizenship applications also be members in good standing of the identified regulatory body which we anticipate will be the ICCRC.

We will strengthen the ambit of this new regulatory body to include the regulation of those selling advice and assistance on citizenship applications. Thank you very much. I’d like to invite Phil Mooney, the President of the ICCRC, to say a few words.

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