On March 18, 2011, Minister Kenney announced that a new regulatory body would be created to oversee immigration consultants. The name of the new agency will be the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (“ICCRC”). The public has been provided with 30 days to comment.
The change is the result of the government’s lack of confidence in the current regulatory body, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (“CISC”). That organization has been hit with allegations of governance issues and a lack of public confidence.
Transitional measures will be put in place to ensure continuity of service for both existing members in good standing of CSIC and their clients during the transition to the ICCRC. It is anticipated that the ICCRC will become the regulatory body this summer. The government has advised that individuals currently working with a CSIC consultant should continue to do so, and that their consultants will be informed of the requirement to register with the ICCRC once it is created. However, applicants should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that their immigration consultant is and remains an authorized representative.
The ICCRC has proposed the following strategies to regulate immigration consultants:
- developing ways to ensure accountability and transparency to its membership;
- creating a hotline for members of Parliament for complaints and questions;
- instituting robust certification procedures to accredit consultant training and continuing education programs;
- developing a fair and effective complaint and discipline mechanism; and
- launching public awareness campaigns and creating an outreach committee for regular communications with the public.
A transitional provision is being proposed whereby CSIC members will be permitted to, for a fee, represent, advise, or consult with applicants for a period of 120 days once the amendments come into effect. Consultants can take some comfort in the fact, however, that their annual fee will be reduced from an average of $2,095 to $1,550.
The reduction in fees may explain why ICCRC directors will make only $12,000 per year in director’s fees, while CSIC director’s received $55,000 per year.
The ICCRC was incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act on February 18, 2011. Prior to being incorporated, the organization was called the Institute of Chartered Canadian Immigration Practitioners (“ICCIP”). Its submissions to a committee that was created to address the issue of which body should represent immigration consultants going forward was received rather favorably, as the committee noted that:
In the view of the Committee, the submission addresses the selection factors outlined in the Gazette Notice.
The submission presents a plan to be transparent, to build the relationship between the regulator and its members and is a comprehensive and positive response to the Gazette Notice. The submission demonstrates that the candidate will have the ability to meet the competencies outlined. This is demonstrated through innovative strategies, such as a hotline for Members of Parliament, unity of thought and a coherent vision. The submission demonstrates that the new regulatory body will have the depth and breadth of experience in the field to effectively regulate immigration consultant activities in the public interest, to enhance public confidence in the immigration process and to preserve the integrity of the immigration system.
The submission demonstrates the capacity to engage in strategic planning and performance management (statement of problem, background, process, timeline, deliverables, outcomes). The submission recognizes the good practices and trends in other regulated professions with respect to an arms-length relationship between a regulator and educational institutions.
Some of the timelines presented in the submission are ambitious and may not be feasible; however, the submission recognizes the importance of a smooth transition to a new regulatory body and demonstrates considerable effort in describing how such a transition could be carried out. The submission recognizes the challenges that would lie ahead and demonstrates a willingness to work further on refining the submission if certain aspects require development or adjustment.
This can be contrasted with what the Committee said about the CSIC submissions:
In the view of the Committee, the submission technically addresses the selection factors outlined in the Gazette Notice.
The submission reflects that CSIC is the current regulator. The comprehensive supporting documentation regarding policies and processes currently in place demonstrates the complexity of the role as a self-regulatory body. While CSIC has undertaken an evaluation of several of its current practices, it is not clear in the submission how CSIC intends to implement recommendations found in those evaluations.
In the view of the Committee, the submission reflects an approach based largely on a continuation of the status quo if CSIC continues to be the regulator. The submission is not very forward-looking and does not provide an action plan to describe how CSIC would make changes or address areas of concern that were the impetus to the Gazette Notice. The Committee found the lack of a plan to respond more positively to these issues to be a weakness of the submission.
Not surprisingly, Nigel Thomson, the head of CSIC has reacted with disappointment to the news:
“We are saddened and surprised that the government has put over 1,900 accredited consultants and 38 staff members of CSIC in limbo. CSIC firmly believes that it should remain the regulator of immigration consultants because this would be in the best interest of consumers,” said CSIC Chair Nigel Thomson. “Rather than leverage CSIC’s extensive infrastructure and expertise the government has opted to designate a third party with no regulatory experience. It could be years before this group can build up the regulator sophistication that CSIC has today. Regardless, CSIC will continue to work to protect consumers as long as we remain regulator.”
Also not surprisingly, the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, who appear to be closely affiliated with the ICCIP, applauded the move:
“We are thrilled with the decision from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. We look forward to seeing the implementation of a regulator who will bring back confidence in our professional sector and its institutions,” said Lynn Gaudet, CAPIC’s Director of Communications.