Ghost Consultants and Canada's Immigration System.

Author:Schroeder, Kari

If there's one thing most people --regardless of political stripe--can agree on, it's that 'crooked' consultants are incredibly problematic for Canada's immigration system. Stories abound in the media of unsuspecting immigrants paying thousands of dollars to an unauthorized consultant, only to arrive in Canada to find that the job or college program they were promised does not exist. Newcomers have been counselled to lie or forge documents to enter Canada, or the consultant does that for them without their knowledge. These vulnerable immigrants will often then turn to an immigration lawyer to fix the harm done by these unauthorized immigration representatives. But sometimes it is too late; even the most qualified lawyer cannot reverse the damage and save the person's immigration status. It is likely impossible to count how many vulnerable people have been exploited by these fraudulent activities.

By law, to provide immigration advice as a non-lawyer, one must become licensed as a consultant through the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). The ICCRC is a federally regulated body launched in 2011 to crack down on unauthorized consultants. It sets down rules for consultant conduct and has the power to enact disciplinary measures. However, as a regulatory body, its mandate is limited to the regulation of its own members. It is not authorized to deal with those individuals who are only posing as consultants. In other words, even though the purpose of the ICCRC was to put a stop to the unauthorized provision of immigration services, it was given no real power to do so. Further, members of the ICCRC are not subject to the same strict regulatory rules and oversight as lawyers, even though they engage in the same work for similar and in some cases higher fees. The ICCRC's own guidelines only dictate that fees must be 'fair and reasonable.'

To be fair, there are licensed immigration consultants who do provide legitimate services. Unfortunately, their reputation has been significantly damaged by the unauthorized work of ghost consultants, particularly those whose cases hit the media. Take some recent examples, such as Alfredo Arrojado, a well-known and respected member of the Filipino community in Winnipeg. A former commissioner with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, he has been charged with working as an unlicensed immigration consultant, allegedly receiving over $90,000 in fees over the past decade. In another well-known...

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