Division 15 of Part 4 enacts the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act. That Act creates a new self-regulatory regime governing immigration and citizenship consultants. It provides that the purpose of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants is to regulate immigration and citizenship consultants in the public interest and protect the public. That Act, among other things,
(a) creates a licensing regime for immigration and citizenship consultants and requires that licensees comply with a code of professional conduct, initially established by the responsible Minister;
(b) authorizes the College’s Complaints Committee to conduct investigations into a licensee’s conduct and activities;
(c) authorizes the College’s Discipline Committee to take or require action if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or was incompetent;
(d) prohibits persons who are not licensees from using certain titles and representing themselves to be licensees and provides that the College may seek an injunction for the contravention of those prohibitions;
(e) provides the responsible Minister with the authority to determine the number of directors on the board of directors and to require the Board to do anything that is advisable to carry out the purposes of that Act; and
(f) contains transitional provisions allowing the existing regulator — the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council — to be continued as the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants or, if the existing regulator is not continued, allowing the establishment of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, a new corporation without share capital.
The Division also makes related amendments to the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to double the existing maximum fines applicable to the offence of contravening section 21.1 of the Citizenship Act or section 91 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
In addition, it amends those Acts to provide the authority to make regulations establishing a system of administrative penalties and consequences, including of administrative monetary penalties, applicable to certain violations by persons who provide representation or advice for consideration — or offer to do so — in immigration or citizenship matters.
Finally, the Division makes consequential amendments to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
To read the Act in full, click here+
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.+
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.+
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.+
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.+
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.+
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.+
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 Marketing and 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 agreements with the Faculties of Law at Queen’s University and Université de Sherbrooke to develop and offer the new Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP). Expected to launch in January 2021 (in English) and in September 2021 (in French), the ICGDP will be developed cooperatively between the two providers and 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.+
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.+
Our understanding is that the Minister wants to know that RCICs are committed to being a self-regulated profession. Imposing a member vote requirement under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (CNCA) – ICCRC’s governing legislation – allows RCICs to demonstrate this. Also, the CNCA requires that “fundamental changes” for an organization be approved by special resolution. The intention of the bill is that ICCRC will request continuance and become the College. However, if two thirds of ICCRC members do not vote for it, the Act allows for a new organization to be created. Obviously, IRCC prefers to have ICCRC transition to the College for two reasons: to avoid losing the knowledge and experience of the existing organization and starting over with people who would need time to learn, which makes no sense; and to favour a simpler and more effective transition for clients and consultants by changing the name and structure and implementing new guidelines for the organization.+
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.+
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. The ICGDP will not be a translation of the English ICGPD. Rather, Queen’s University and Université de Sherbrooke will be developing their own ICGDPs while working collaboratively to ensure consistency between the two programs.+
In order for the vote to pass, we need two thirds of the votes cast in connection with the special meeting. ICCRC’s Outreach and Communications Committee has reviewed a communications strategy which was implemented in June. We will keep you apprised of developments.+
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.+
It is not! The French ICGDP will not be a translation of the English ICGPD. Rather, Queen’s University and Université de Sherbrooke will each be developing their own ICGDPs, working collaboratively to ensure consistency between the two programs.+
The French Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP) will not be a translation of the English ICGPD. Queen’s University and Université de Sherbrooke will each be developing their own ICGDPs, working collaboratively to ensure consistency between the two programs. It is anticipated that the English ICGDP will launch January 2021 and that there will be two intake dates per year for the English ICGDP and that the French ICGDP will launch September 2021 as there will only be one intake date per year for the French ICGGDP.+
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.+