MESSAGE FROM THE ICCRC PRESIDENT & CEO

As I approach the first anniversary of my tenure as President and CEO of the ICCRC, I thought it appropriate to update the membership on some of my activities over the past year, focusing on the many meetings I have had with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other partners and stakeholders. You will understand that my first year has been very busy, as I have transitioned from 30 years as a visa officer to running a Not-For-Profit regulatory body, but I intend to communicate to the membership on a regular basis in the future, on matters of interest to RCICs.

I checked my calendar and was surprised to see that I have attended over 40 meetings with partners and stakeholders outside the ICCRC over the past year. Almost half of those were with various senior managers at CIC, including Minister Kenney and his senior political team, while the others were with CBSA, Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), provincial governments and other partners and stakeholders. I have also held town hall meetings in Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina and hope to hold more, as opportunities to do so present themselves, so that I can hear directly from members. A sample list of some of those meetings, focusing on those most recent and their outcomes is attached to the end of this message. You will see that I have spent much of my first year travelling, but there is still much to do to bring the ICCRC to the attention of our partners, stakeholders, and the public, so I intend to continue to travel often to do so.

At my last meeting with CIC last week, they reiterated very forcefully that the ICCRC is expected to fulfill and respect its mandate to protect consumers, and not to stray into areas outside our mandate such as lobbying or promoting the immigration consulting profession over other authorized representatives as defined in IRPA. Given this strong message from CIC, I thought it might be timely to clarify for members the ICCRC role and mandate.

The ICCRC is a regulatory body whose sole purpose is to protect the public by effectively regulating the immigration consulting profession. The ICCRC is in the business of consumer protection, in exactly the same way as are provincial law societies and other professional regulatory bodies. The Government of Canada expects the ICCRC to take all lawful actions necessary to fulfill this mandate. I spoke recently with our British and Australian counterparts, who provided very useful context in this regard. Both are regulatory bodies very similar to the ICCRC, but neither is self-regulating. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the ICCRC is the only self-regulating body of immigration consultants in the world. The Australian body, the Migration Advisors Regulatory Authority (MARA) was originally a government regulator, then was self-regulating, but was then taken over by the government again. One of the reasons for this was that their activities were straying into non-regulatory activities, such as lobbying and promoting the profession. The lesson for the ICCRC was clear: be true to our mandate to regulate the profession, and do not exceed it.

The other regulatory bodies have wide authority to fulfill their mandate. For example, the UK body, the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) of the Home Office, can enter the premises of its members and require them to provide documentation as requested. Further information on OISC audits of their members can be found here: audit

No members of either the OISC or the MARA are involved in decision-making at either organization, though they do perform a restricted advisory role. Decisions on suspensions and other penalties for breaches of professional or ethical behaviour are made by the public servants who staff the organizations. Their decisions are appealable only to other public servants. All rules governing immigration consulting practices are made by the public servants working for the MARA and OISC.

I also want to take this opportunity to provide information on other areas of concern to RCICs. While we have recently updated and improved the ICCRC homepage, I recognize that the website is not as user-friendly as it should be. One reason for this is that it includes more than one piece of software, and these pieces cannot communicate with each other. We are undertaking a needs assessment to determine what improvements can be made to the website. Our Communications team will be contacting you in the near future for your input.

I have also noted much concern, and understandably so, about the increase in Errors and Omissions insurance premiums. The increase was due to the fact that claims for compensation far exceeded the amount of money in the E & O fund, due to the activities of one member. Unfortunately, the previous E & O policy did not include a provision for the release of information from the insurer to the ICCRC, so the insurer was not able to give us the name of the member concerned. Nor were we allowed to be provided any information beyond a very basic and general explanation of the reasons behind each claim. These matters have been addressed in the new policy, so that if and when claims are made against members in the future, we will know both the name and full nature of the claims, and so can take action as appropriate. I am hopeful that if the cost to the insurer of claims this year returns to its previous much lower level, the cost of the premiums will also come down.

CIC

-Action against unauthorized representatives - after I met with the Director responsible for unauthorized representatives (ghost consultants), information provided by CIC, in consultation with the ICCRC, to local law enforcement authorities led to the arrests of several unauthorized representatives in India.

-International Student Advisors - after I met several times with various senior managers including the Director-General in the Operational Management and Co-ordination Branch, she sent a letter to educational organizations clarifying that neither ISAs nor Education Agents are authorized representatives as defined in IRPA. I have already met with two national education organizations, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) and will meet another next month to ensure that they understand the consequences of CIC's clarification.

CIC website

after a meeting and several e-mail messages, I persuaded CIC to amend the page on its website regarding representatives so that it was clearer who may provide immigration services and who many not: Stakeholders dos and don’ts

CIC Evaluation of the ICCRC

I met several times in person and by phone with the senior manager in charge of the Evaluation, which is required by Treasury Board. At my last meeting with her I was advised that preliminary indications are very positive. I will receive a full briefing on the results of the evaluation next month and will share what I can with you again at that time. CIC will not likely release the full results until early 2014.

Communications to the public

I met with the now former Associate Deputy Minister and with the Director-General of International Region seeking an opportunity to present information about the ICCRC and encourage visa and other offices to more proactively act against unauthorized representatives. As a result, I have been invited to prepare an information package to be sent by CIC to all offices explaining the mandate of the ICCRC, how we deliver it, and how to refer complaints to the ICCRC, and of course encouraging them to do so.

CBSA

I have met 7 times with various senior managers at CBSA, including twice with the new Director of the Criminal Investigation Division, an RCMP officer on loan to CBSA, as well as with other Directors at CBSA NHQ, and senior managers in two regions (with whom the Director of Complaints and Discipline also meets regularly). All the meetings focused on unauthorized representatives and how the ICCRC can assist CBSA in taking action on current specific cases we have referred to them and in the future. I hope to meet the new Minister of Public Security in the near future.

I am negotiating an operational protocol which will govern how the ICCRC and CBSA work together and share information on investigations of unauthorized representatives and RCICs about whom complaints have been received. And as with CIC, I have been invited to prepare an information package to be sent by CIC to all offices explaining the mandate of the ICCRC, how we deliver it, and how to refer complaints to the ICCRC, and of course encouraging them to do so. I have also been invited to make in-person presentations to CBSA staff about the ICCRC and to encourage field staff directly to act more proactively against unauthorized representatives.

MICC (ministère de l'Immigration et des Communautés culturelles)

I met with the Director of the "Direction de l'authentification, de l'évaluation professionnelle et de la révision administrative" (the Division of the Quebec government that accredits professions and standards) and her senior managers and persuaded them to support the CIC and ICCRC position that ISAs should not be allowed to provide immigration advice or representation. At their request, I will now meet twice a year with them to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Saskatchewan

I met with the Assistant Deputy Minister for the immigration services division with the government of Saskatchewan and other senior managers to advise them of the ICCRC's federal mandate to regulate RCICs and discuss their legislation affecting our members. While the legislation was not withdrawn and has now become law, I am negotiating an operational protocol with them to try to ensure that when the legislation becomes operational later this year, it imposes the smallest burden possible on RCICs, does not jeopardize the ICCRC's ability to deliver its mandate, and allows us to work together to take strong action against unauthorized representatives.

IRB

I have met twice with senior managers to determine how to share information and otherwise deal with unauthorized representatives and RCICs about whom complaints have been received. And as with CIC and CBSA, I have been invited to prepare an information package to be sent by CIC to all offices explaining the mandate of the ICCRC, how we deliver it, and how to refer complaints to the ICCRC, and have been invited to make in-person presentations to IRB staff about the ICCRC once they have completed adapting their processes and hiring new staff to deal with the legislative changes that took place in December last year.

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC)

I have met twice with the LSUC, initially regarding a group of paralegals who made a proposal to the recent LSUC AGM to expand their scope of practice to include immigration work. Ontario is the only province that regulates paralegals. IRPA authorizes paralegals who are members of a provincial law society to provide immigration services, though LSUC's own regulations do not allow them to do immigration work beyond appearing before tribunals. ICCRC regulations were amended to allow paralegals who were members of the previous regulatory body, but resigned before the ICCRC was created, to write the FSE and if successful, join the ICCRC, and the proposal to the AGM was withdrawn. I have established excellent relations with the LSUC and hope to do the same with other law societies in the future, given our mutual interest in acting against unauthorized representatives. I also persuaded CIC to amend the information on their website.

IPPs

I met with the IPPs in Ontario that offer a paralegal program and they have agreed to offer a prior learning assessment and otherwise facilitate the training of those paralegals who were members of the previous regulatory body - who do not pass the FSE - to assist them in passing the IPP and joining the ICCRC. This will reduce the risk of paralegals acting as unauthorized representatives and grow the ICCRC membership.

Media

I have been interviewed by IMMQuest magazine, the Telelatino television network and the National Post.

I and the rest of the ICCRC team look forward to continuing to work towards making the ICCRC a model regulatory body and will keep you informed of more developments in coming months.