In Defense of Immigration Consultants

I generally support much of what the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, is doing. I think he is bringing in much needed reforms to many areas of immigration law. I think that several of these steps are necessary to restore public confidence in immigration in general.

However, there is one thing that Minister Kenney is doing that I just don’t understand, and that is his near vilification of immigration consultants, and occasionally immigration lawyers. The campaign has ranged from statements in the media, to changes made to application forms, to official publicity campaigns.

The most recent salvo comes in the form of a series of youtube videos appearing in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Here is the English one:

The Video Diminishes all Immigration Consultants and Immigration Lawyers

Note the opening sentence of the video.

“This man is an immigration consultant.”

Not “this man is a ghost consultant”. Not “this man is an unregistered immigration consultant”. But rather “this man is an immigration consultant”. The implication is that all immigration consultants are shady and untrustworthy.

Indeed, a reading of the video’s transcript on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website suggest that the focus of the anti-fraud campaign is not against ghost consultants, but against lawyers. The transcript reads:

Video length: 30 seconds

OPEN ON CLOSE-UP OF WELL-DRESSED MAN, A RESPECTABLE LAWYER.

Announcer: This man is an immigration consultant who claims he can help you immigrate to Canada.

The Video Does Not Achieve Its Objective

Videos like these do nothing to combat the legitimate concerns over ghost consultants. No amount of videos and sweeping statements can ever defeat the liar that states “I’ve scammed Citizenship and Immigration Canada before, I’m still doing it now, and it’s still working”.

All videos like this do are marginalize registered, legitimate, immigration consultants. It also promotes an antagonistic relationship between immigration consultants and CIC staff.

Representatives Perform a Valuable Service

Immigration consultants perform a valuable service. They help clients navigate a complex web of forms and procedures that are spread out over dozens of websites that do not even link to one and other. They can do in five minutes what it would take an average individual hours to research. They reduce the opportunity cost of submitting an application to immigrate.

Many of them are also excellent advocates on appeal. Indeed, as recently recognized by the Federal Court of Appeal, representatives perform an extremely valuable service in leveling the playing field between the individual and the state.

Without representation, an individual may not able to participate effectively in the decision-making process, especially when facing a more powerful adversary, such as a government department.

Indeed, some of the statistics on the benefits of representation are stunning.  According to the Toronto Star, for example, a refugee claimant with representation has a 48.58% chance of success.  For those who are unrepresented, the chance of success plunges to 11.79%.

Conclusion

I’m not sure who is advising the Minister on these issues, and I can understand the general motivations of that individual, however, I think this person needs to seriously consider the unintended consequences of videos such as this one.