Recently, I was invited to speak at an educational conference for the current regulator of Canada’s immigration consultants, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (“CSIC”).  Such an opportunity allows immigration lawyers like myself to showcase my expertise to Canadian immigration consultants who may wish to retain me for work that they don’t normally offer to their clientele.

I spoke on the topic of marriages of convenience and divorces of convenience at the Immigration Refugee Board, along with the current Assistant Deputy Chairperson of the Immigration Refugee Board, Hazelyn Ross.  Member Ross lectured on best practices for immigration lawyers and consultants who appear before the IRB.

The conference was part of the continuing education that is mandatory in order for Canada’s immigration consultants to remain licensed.  Some consultants I spoke to during the conference were complaining about the expense surrounding the requirement for mandatory education imposed by CSIC.  These consultants also complained about what they saw as the exorbitant cost of such mandatory education.  Lawyers in many parts of Canada also are required to show proof of continuing education, but the cost for lawyers for their required continuing education is less expensive.  The May 2011 conference shall likely be the swan song for CSIC, given the re-election of the Conservative government, which shall push forward with its controversial immigration agenda.

The writing was on the wall for CSIC when the Minister of Immigration announced proposals for a new regulator in June 2010 despite the fact that CSIC had been in operation for over six years.

CSIC was recently on the unsuccessful side of a federal court case (Federal Court Docket Imm-2077-10) where Mr. Justice Russell determined that CSIC’ investigation of three immigration consultants (Mr. Phil Mooney, Mr. Gerd Damitz, and Ms Rhonda Williams) was “inaccurate and overharsh”, constituted “making an example” of the disciplined immigration consultants.  Mr. Justice Russell determined that CSIC was stifling debate on the matter of immigration consultant regulation as follows:

In disciplining Mr. Mooney in this way, they are attempting to prevent CSIC members from advancing opinion on how CSIC can better fulfil its mandate and governing principles if that opinion does not accord with their own.  In my view, this is not a legitimate use of CSIC’s Rules of Professional Conduct….The evidence before me suggests that the Letter was no more than a legitimate contribution to that debate.  CSIC’s sensitivities to criticism are understandable, but I see no reason why Mr. Mooney should have been singled out for discipline.

With respect to another plaintiff against CSIC, Rhonda Williams, the Court stated,

[162] To single Ms. Williams out for a warning in this context was unfair and unreasonable.  She was led to believe that she had satisfied Mr. Briand’s investigation.

With respect to the third plaintiff Mr. Gerd Damitz, the Court held,

[166] I find that, for much the same reasons as in Ms. Williams’s, it was unreasonable and unfair to single Mr. Damitz out for a warning when other directors were excused, and that Mr. Damitz was never made aware of the case he had to meet or provided with an opportunity to answer the complaints against him.

Interestingly, the individuals who successfully fought CSIC in the lawsuit above on the grounds of inappropriate discipline, were some of the individuals behind the creation of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.   The ICCRC has not yet been given authority by the Immigration Department to become the new Regulator for immigration consultants, but given the speed in which the process of initiating the search for, and announcing the success of, ICCRC as the forthcoming regulator (i.e. nine months), the duration shall be short.   I look forward to  guest speaking at a  ICCRC conference on immigration law in the near future.

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