Good afternoon, colleagues. We'll call meeting 156 of the 42nd Parliament of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to order.
Could you indulge me by having some conversations on the record about what we've discussed informally, for the benefit of the clerks?
First of all, my best wishes and congratulations for the elevation of our current/soon-to-be former chair. I thank him for his service.
It's my understanding that there has been agreement among the parties to reschedule the latter component of the agenda today, scheduled to take place at 6:30, to a date to be determined, but preferably—for the benefit of our colleagues sitting at this table—as soon as possible.
I would look to the will of the room for a motion to that effect, or a general consensus that we are good with that approach.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Colleagues, it's a pleasure to appear once again before this committee.
I'd like to begin by thanking the committee for its work on studying the issue of immigration consultants.
The committee produced a very thorough report, which we carefully studied and relied upon in developing the government's proposal. I am very pleased to say that we are implementing the vast majority of the committee's 21 recommendations.
The work of this committee put an important light on the dishonest and predatory practices of some unregulated or unscrupulous consultants, and the real harm they cause to people's lives. This is exactly why our government took the time to develop a thoughtful, multi-faceted plan to address the current gaps and to strengthen the way we protect the public.
Madam Chair, like all my colleagues around this table, in my role as a member of Parliament I have heard harrowing stories of exploitation and suffering from my constituents. Prior to that, when I practised immigration law, I saw the real impacts and harm that unscrupulous and unregulated consultants cause to our clients. It is the responsibility of governments to do all we can to stop this kind of unethical, damaging behaviour.
At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are many honest and ethical professionals who provide important services to clients, and help them to navigate the immigration system. They, too, suffer from the damage inflicted on their reputation and their profession by the bad apples among them.
It is imperative to create a system that better protects everyone involved. While fraudsters will always seek ways to benefit themselves, we can make it harder for them to succeed, and deter others from seeking to do the same.
I have been intently focused on improving the immigration system. We have made great strides in reducing processing times, eliminating backlogs, modernizing client experiences and enhancing our service delivery. Our hope is that by making these improvements, it will be easier for all clients to access our services, without necessarily relying on a lawyer or an immigration consultant.
That being said, there will always be a demand for service providers, particularly as more people than ever before are choosing Canada as their destination to visit, study, work or build a new life.
While there have been several attempts in the past, the reality is that the field of immigration consulting has never been properly regulated. The current framework fails to provide the tools, the mandate and the oversight the regulator needs to effectively carry out its work of regulating. When the previous government designed the current regulatory body, for some reason it failed to set up the statutory framework that the body required, despite previous studies that had recommended it be done.
Our government is proposing a three-pronged strategy.
First, we will overhaul how consultants are regulated by creating a new statutory regime for the profession. The college of immigration and citizenship consultants will have the explicit responsibilities and new authorities necessary to govern the profession properly, ensure consumer protection, and hold consultants to a very high standard of professional and ethical conduct.
A first-ever statutory regime puts consultants on the same footing as other regulated professionals in Canada, including lawyers, doctors and other trade professions. Clients of licenced consultants who do not receive ethical or competent advice will have, as recourse, a robust complaints and disciplinary process, which includes new powers for the college to effectively investigate complaints against its members. This includes the ability to enter the premises of a consultant to investigate when wrongdoing is suspected, as well as the ability to request court injunctions against unauthorized consultants.
Under the new legislation, the college will be required to establish a fund to compensate people who have been victimized and exploited by a consultant. In addition, the college will establish tiered licensing for providing different types of services. It will also introduce new educational and training requirements for anyone who wants to become a consultant.
The new regulatory framework will be coupled with very strong government oversight. This includes the authority for the Minister of Immigration to appoint public interest directors to the board, design a code of conduct, designate a civil servant observer to the board, step in if the college is failing to perform as expected and make regulations that govern the conduct of the college.
The second area of focus is compliance and enforcement. Budget 2019 commits $51.9 million to strengthen protections against fraudulent consulting practices. While the regulator will be responsible for discipline and professional conduct, the government will be responsible for enforcing the law. Therefore, we will be providing more resources to the Canada Border Services Agency to pursue criminal investigations. We will also be increasing criminal penalties. We will also establish a new administrative regime to penalize non-compliance that doesn't amount to criminal behaviour. The bill proposes the establishment of monetary penalties and bans to be administered by IRCC.
Finally, the government will launch robust public awareness activities in Canada and abroad to help clients protect themselves. This includes placing dedicated community outreach officers in our visa offices abroad. Budget 2019 will also be used for the translation of materials into other languages, making them more accessible to our clientele; social media messaging; and posters, pamphlets and other materials to be placed at visa application centres abroad.
Madam Chair, this committee's recommendations on stronger oversight, more effective regulation, better deterrence mechanisms and expanded public awareness activities were key in helping the government develop this plan. Our primary objective is to protect our clients from fraud and to stop those who choose to prey on vulnerable people.
Thank you. I look forward to answering your questions.
Thank you. That's a really important point to make.
I think the previous government's establishment of the body was a step in the right direction. However, unfortunately, the ICCRC was not given adequate tools to really enforce its mandate. There were limitations in the ability of the professional body to, for example, enter the premises of a business when there was a suspicion that an immigration consultant was not upholding the standards of the ICCRC. Also, there were other issues around its ability to provide enough deterrence in its mandate—to set up a compensation fund, for example, which is what we are proposing here.
They will be moving forward a requirement to set up insurance that will be available to people to pursue. In addition to that, we're coupling all these measures for the college with our own enforcement—more investigations, more enforcement and certainly more oversight in terms of making sure there are penalties and consequences to this behaviour. The criminal penalties are being doubled, and there will be a new regime of administrative monetary penalties that will be introduced for behaviour that doesn't quite meet the criminal threshold but is egregious enough to warrant intervention. In those cases, we'll be able to do that.
Finally, the college will be empowered to also publish the names of folks who are undergoing disciplinary processes, just like any other professional regulator.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. It's good to be here and to see you, Minister.
You said the changes made by the Conservatives were steps in the right direction. Given the things you normally say about Conservatives, I'll take that, and thank you very much.
Of course, those were always intended as a first step. After three and a half years of not seeing any action on this, I think people recognize that further steps are needed. We've been calling for those.
Minister, we've talked about the legal framework. I want to make this concrete because I think there are some ambiguities. We talked about a code of conduct that has yet to be developed. Let me give you a hypothetical. Actually, it's not that hypothetical—it might be something you've heard in your own riding. Say a person comes to Canada under a temporary visa. They're coming to visit. They're coming from a safe country. They're getting advice from an immigration consultant and they want to look for ways to stay longer. The immigration consultant suggests that they claim refugee status, which is not something we want people doing if they're coming from a safe country. Subsequently, that person's refugee claim is rejected. They're removed, and they become subject to other kinds of limitations. Essentially, they're acting on advice, and it's advice they shouldn't have been given.
What would happen to the consultant in that case? Would the person who is affected have any recourse, given that they were acting on the advice of a consultant? Do you envision this sort of thing being covered by a code of conduct?
I appreciate that there are differences, but there's a fundamental piece, which is the issue around trust of the industry itself. All around this table, every committee member, expressed very clearly that they did not feel that the industry could be trusted to be self-regulated anymore. That's why it was a unanimous recommendation for it to be government regulated and for it not to be regulated by the industry. In any event, you've decided not to proceed with that, and that's as clear as day.
I am troubled by this. Out of that study, the ICCRC, at the time when we studied this issue, had 3,600 members. At the end of December 2016, there were 1,710 complaints, almost one complaint for every two members. I would just flag that in terms of the significance of the issues before us. When you hear the stories of the people who've been cheated by these bad actors in the system and the lack of remedy for them, it's breathtaking. That's not even all of the people who actually went forward with the complaints.
I'm going to park that for a minute.
Now, you say in this new act that anybody who's not licensed would not then be able to provide immigration-related advice to individuals. My question to you is, what about the NGOs and the resettlement agencies? Are they covered by this act as well?
It will entail the government prioritizing the presence of our staff in key source markets for immigrants and to beef up that staff with outreach officers who can engage our clients proactively to tell them which consultants to use.
We'll also be using some of that funding to update application guides and kits, and for changing the application forms to make it easier for clients to use them and help themselves without requiring the services of a lawyer or a consultant.
It's also communicating directly with our clients, in addition to the consultants. If it's an unauthorized or crooked consultant who doesn't do the job they were hired to do, the client sometimes doesn't know, because we are dealing with their representative, who is the consultant.
We will be introducing a new measure where we'll be copying the client to make sure that when we are contacting the consultant, the client also knows about it. They can take action. They can be made aware when the consultant doesn't submit their application or hasn't done some of the work that they were supposed to do.
Thank you. That's a really good point.
Client service has been a key priority of mine. It's in my mandate letter. It means not just improving processing times and eliminating backlogs, but it also means improving the application processes, streamlining the forms, making sure that the website and the various information on the website is easily accessible and understood, and changing the application forms to make them easier.
It also means directly communicating with our clients to make sure they know the latest update in their application.
We're looking to create five new positions for outreach officers in 2019-20. One locally engaged staff will be in Chandigarh, India; Beijing, China; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Ankara, Turkey; and Nairobi, Kenya. The initial deployment of those five officers will be to do the outreach and information sharing with our clients from the visa offices so that the clients can avoid being taken advantage of.
It is much more stringent. It is very focused on the protection of clients. It sets up for the first time a compensation fund so that people who are wronged can have access to some sort of a financial remedy. It also sets up mandatory insurance for the members.
It really tightens the disciplinary process. In the current regime, there is no authority to compel witnesses, for example, to appear and to give testimony. In the proposed approach, the college will have the statutory authority to summon witnesses to appear and to testify. There will be consequences for obstructing the complaint and discipline process.
There will be a new prohibition on using the title “immigration consultant” or “citizenship consultant”. Right now, if the regulatory body wants to enter the premises of a consultant who's suspected of engaging in activity that is not within the bounds of the body, it requires the co-operation and the consent of the member to enter those premises. In the proposed approach, the college will have the statutory authority to enter the premises of the consultant for the purposes of investigations of misconduct, to search the premises, to seize documents, to require documents or to require that information be provided to the college.
Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you again for being here for the second hour.
I want to continue on with questioning about complaints, and, again, sticking with the theme of protection of the clients.
We often have heard that clients are often given wrong advice, or have paid a substantial amount of funds for a particular service. If that has been the case for the client, in the complaints process that we've put in place, we have put in additional tools to deal with complaints and disciplinary matters, and the authority by statute to search the premises and inspect the copy records.
If an immigration consultant has given wrong advice, or misled the client, if you were able to go into the premises and search certain documents, how are we protecting the client in this scenario?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Maybe I'll start with a comment about the testimony we heard from the minister. There is clearly a big problem here. We've got a section in an omnibus budget bill that says a subsequently developed code of conduct will define professional misconduct, but we're not getting—from the minister, at least—very basic questions answered about the content of that code of conduct.
The section of the budget bill that refers to this, says:
44 A licensee must meet the standards of professional conduct and competence that are established by the code of professional conduct. A licensee who fails to meet those standards commits professional misconduct or is incompetent.
We have no guidance from the legislation, whatsoever, about the nature of those standards, at least as far as I can tell.
As I asked the minister before, if somebody is advised to make a false refugee claim, would that qualify as professional misconduct? He responded that he didn't want to get into details that were that granular.
I feel that as members of Parliament, we don't have much meaningful direction in this legislation at all. For people looking at this and trying to make up their minds about what the impact is going to be, there is an accountability problem. It should be pretty easy for the minister to say that there is a problem with somebody being advised to make a false claim.
With that said, I'd like to hear your comments on whether the minister has given you advice about the content of the code of conduct. Have you given him advice about what the code of conduct should entail? How far advanced is the process of developing those standards?
I'll start off and then turn to my colleague, Ms. Kim, to help out.
Could I just step back for one second, and talk a bit about the composition of the board? Ms. Kim made an important point earlier with respect to that.
In the new college, our majority members are set by the minister as majority public interest directors. That body will be responsible for setting up the code of conduct, through regulation. We could assume what will be in some of those pieces, with respect to the code of conduct. They're the general kinds of things you would want to see: how you comport yourself as a professional, the expectations of comportment of consultants, conflict of interest issues, the types of inappropriate behaviours and so on.
Those kinds of things would be established in a code of conduct, but we couldn't presume at this moment to know what those would look like, because it will be set up in regulation. That is part of the task of the board, and will also be part of the task of setting bylaws.
There two things are that we have instituted and have worked well. One is the proactive approach, which is basically educating the clients overseas to apply early, apply with completed forms, use the e-applications and use the forms that are available on the Net. Also, we're sending out quick messages, through social media and others, that it is easy to fill out the forms, so...don't also figure out if these are the true agents or true immigration consultants and they are not somebody who is not trained properly....
The second thing is that for actually watching those parts, we have established, as the pointed out earlier, five more positions overseas where our source countries are the big source countries: India, China, Nigeria and Iran, which is processed through Ankara. Those are the ones that will actually be going out very much in advance and doing a lot of engagement, with a lot of engagement from students to prospective clients who are coming in as TRs or permanent residents in giving them more information.
The second part, which we always refer to as overarching, is that we've actually very much clarified our website so that you can look at it in your own way for how to apply and how much information you need and also monitor your own application through your own account.
Those are the factors that are helping us.
Just to continue on with some of the issues that have already been raised, a number of years ago, there was a big dust-up between the lawyers and the paralegals. The lawyers said, “Get rid of the paralegals; they're not any good.” Of course the response came back that the problem was that, for certain types of matters, you didn't need a lawyer; a paralegal could act in a certain way and charge the appropriate fees. That issue seems to have been resolved.
We had a study in 2017 in which the lawyers again came and said, “Get rid of the consultants; they're not any good.” We had the same argument. We had consultants who would do certain complicated things, and other consultants who were just simply filling out forms.
All of this gets down to the question as to how you're going to deal with that. There's always a grey area where, for the people who are filling out forms, maybe that's all they should be doing, but they're doing something else. I'm talking about consultants. I'm sure we're going to have some lawyers come again and say the same thing, maybe as early as today. This area was canvassed by my colleagues on the other side, but I'm interested as to how you're going to resolve that issue other than by saying that you are working on it.
I'll point out the problems with that right off the top, because with the outreach tool, you've got five staff for five countries. Let's just take China or India, for example, assuming you've got one person for each of those countries. Those are huge countries. I don't know how much one person can really get the word out. Really, at the end of the day, don't we need a mechanism for those ghost consultants elsewhere, who are taking advantage of these individuals who do not know our Canadians laws or the process and who are being taken advantage of and sucked in? Some of them have paid exorbitant amounts of money for these individuals to represent them, and they might even have gotten themselves here only to find out that, at the end of the process, the job they've been promised is actually not there. The pathway that they've been promised for permanent residency is also not there. At that point, what recourse is there? They can go and complain, but it doesn't actually help them. They might be able to get some sort of compensation, but at the end of the day they are screwed.
Part of the big problem we were dealing with at the committee centred on this issue too. What is there to prevent the government, for example, saying to overseas consultants that they have to meet these requirements and be registered to have met these requirements? Has that been considered by the government, and if not, why not?
First, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for giving me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Maria Esel Panlaqui, manager of community development and special projects of TNO, or The Neighbourhood Organization.
TNO is a community-based multi-service agency that has been providing a wide range of community services since 1985, specifically to newcomers to Canada. We are a non-profit registered charity funded through generous donations, government grants, foundation support and corporate partnerships. Our programs, services and activities support low-income, marginalized and newcomer communities across Toronto in more than 50 languages at no cost.
One of the unique programs that we offer at TNO is specifically around providing services and supporting the caregivers under the former live-in caregiver program and those under the new pathways. In addition to in-house settlement services offered at the TNO main office, we also offer them English classes in partnership with the Labour Education Centre, and workshops and information sessions every Saturday at TNO's 1 Leaside Park Drive office.
We also provide weekend itinerant services at the Juana Tejada Lounge, which is at Our Lady of Assumption Church, which is the Filipino chaplaincy office and also provides evening phone services. TNO has demonstrated its commitment in breaking down barriers to improve service provision and to fill the service gaps by adapting innovative approaches to respond to the unique and complex needs of these workers.
Because of our extended and flexible hours of service and greater scope of support services, TNO has become one of the primary points of contact of caregivers and other migrant workers arriving from the Philippines. For the past many years, we have been seeing workers who are victims of illegal recruitment and fraud and exploitation by either recruiters or sometimes immigration consultants and their employers.
As we all know, newcomers with precarious immigration status are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of. These workers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse largely stemming from the temporary nature of their immigration status as temporary foreign workers. These workers have claimed to have paid their agents tens of thousands of dollars and were released upon arrival or discovered upon arrival in Canada the job was never real.
Most of them are hesitant to file a complaint for unfair treatment to the regulatory body or report fraud to authorities for fear of deportation. Many are suffering in silence. All these things are nothing new to all of us. Abuse and exploitation of these workers has been allowed to become normalized within the immigration system.
The current regulatory body, ICCRC, which is the national regulatory body to oversee regulated Canadian immigration professionals, is not effective in addressing and solving these concerns. We've been continuously seeing recruiters and immigration consultants treat clients and workers and get away with exploiting them.
The new proposed regulatory body is supposed to make it tougher for consultants to rip off clients but we would like to share some of the concerns we have in our recommendations.
First, we have concerns about whether there are provisions in the new legislation to protect victims of fraud and exploitation who come forward to seek help from potentially being deported. How do we ensure that the complaint process and hearing won't be turned around and used against the victims?
IRCC should give special consideration to those workers affected and not penalize them through outright refusal of their immigration application. IRCC should also not blame and punish the victims but ensure that the immigration consultants and recruiters who abused these workers are prosecuted.
A holistic approach in dealing with the victims is also recommended. These are workers who are traumatized and forced to tell their stories over and over. The hearing process is traumatizing itself. Workers should have access to counselling and other support services needed to get them going.
IRCC should also provide regulations for migrant workers who have lost their status or are forced to work without status because of these fraudulent activities or recruitment.
Although most caregivers and their advocates welcome the decision of the federal government to allow open work permits for caregivers and the interim pathway, many still worry about those workers who will be left behind because they don't meet the language and education eligibility requirements to complete their PR application. The vulnerability of these workers is further exacerbated by these additional eligibility requirements.
Most of the workers facing challenges with their immigration status because of fraudulent recruiters or immigration consultants are being referred to various community legal clinics. The availability of legal clinic services in Ontario, as we all know, is currently uncertain after the cuts. That might put these workers in further vulnerable situations.
In the case of other migrant workers, the restricted work permits have also contributed to workers not formalizing their complaints because of fear of deportation. We strongly believe that this precarious immigration status is among the major causes of vulnerability of these workers. It allows recruiters, immigration consultants and employers to abuse them. The policies and labour migration laws in Canada, which are leaning to temporary migration, have contributed to the exploitative nature of the immigration process—from recruitment to actual renewal of work permits, other immigration-related applications and actual work practices.
We would like to recommend that “landed” status be provided to all foreign workers and they be allowed to enter Canada with their families. We would also like to recommend that IRCC extend eligibility for settlement services to people who are living in Canada on a temporary permit. This may include language classes and support for completing and renewing immigration applications. Migrant workers should be required, within a few months of their arrival, to meet with a non-profit organization, informal support groups and networks.
I would also like to mention that the impact of section 91 of the IRPA on settlement agencies is actually what prevents front-line workers from helping caregivers renew their immigration papers and complete basic paperwork. As a result, more caregivers—
Today, the context is derived from pro bono work with Canadian print and electronic investigative journalists from P.E.I., Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario into immigration issues related to our topic.
Here is the key point. Canada has a little-known collection device for taxation overseas called assistance in collection. It appears in Canada's tax treaties with countries like the United States, Germany and Norway. We heard previously today from a government witness that if something occurs overseas, the hands are thrown up. There's nothing we can do. Perhaps, not.
Canada can engage in discussions with other like-minded countries to allow similar assistance in collection agreements for Canada's immigration monetary penalties. Canada sets the penalty and collection can occur overseas in virtue of an assistance in collection agreement. To pursue the overseas wrongdoers in their home jurisdiction, overseas victims can seek justice and exercise their local remedies under their local laws, including seizures before judgment.
This gives the power to overseas victims to seek justice. Overseas enforcement of the Canadian penalty can be done with minimal or no cost to Canada. We're already doing it when it comes with the quiet matrix of enforcement control regarding the monitoring of overseas education agents.
When Canada, Australia or New Zealand flags an education agent, that operation gets shut down. Applications do not flow into the Canadian system. They do not flow into Australia, New Zealand and other like-minded countries. The mechanisms are there. The channels of communication are there. Assistance in collection agreements for Canada's immigration monetary penalties can be very effective.
I have two more points and I won't need the full seven minutes. Penalties should be attached to all persons connected to the particular immigration transaction. This includes any related affiliates or subsidiaries, when they engage in wrongful or reckless conduct. In the field now, related parties—not just the consultant or lawyer—are veiled, not responsible. That cannot be allowed to continue.
Lastly, not all immigration cases are created equal. What's missing here, a big miss, is that monetary penalties should contemplate significantly higher levels for economic class cases where an investment in excess of $100,000 is required. Follow the money.
There are two streams presently attacking the integrity of the Canadian immigration system from overseas. They are, first, in terms of volume, the educational-related applications. In terms of money, these are cases involving investment, either under PNP or our start-up visa program. Second, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being paid directly and indirectly to parties connected to the immigration transaction with Canada, hundreds of thousands for a single case. How effective is your monetary penalty given that threshold? Think ahead. It's not the penalty for deterrence today. This is contemplated to be a penalty for deterrence for the next 20 years.
Those are my opening comments.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is John Murray. I'm the president and chief executive officer of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
I'd like to begin today by thanking members of the committee for allowing me and my colleague, Michael Huynh, the council's director of professional conduct, to appear before you regarding the proposed legislation to establish the college of immigration and citizenship consultants under Bill .
As you know, the council is the national self-regulatory body that serves and protects the public by overseeing licensed immigration and citizenship consultants and international student advisers.
Since joining the council last November, I've come to appreciate the valuable services immigration consultants provide to immigrants coming to Canada. Understanding the complexities and the nuances of our immigration system is not easy. Immigration consultants provide valuable assistance to new Canadians, helping them to navigate the immigration system during what is usually one of the most stressful and uncertain times in their lives. Immigration consultants also offer consumers freedom of choice, providing advice and services at a reasonable cost.
Since your 2017 study, this committee has been quite familiar with the role of immigration consultants. The report on consultants tabled by the committee in June 2017 made several recommendations to address the challenges facing both the profession and the council. Challenges cited in that report included delays in resolving complaints, inadequate consumer awareness measures and lax educational standards. You've discussed many of these today.
A key recommendation of that report was the creation of an independent public interest body empowered by federal statute to regulate and govern the immigration consulting profession. We at the council could not agree more on the need for federal legislative authority, and we were thrilled to see Bill take this important step towards modernizing the legislative framework applicable to immigration consultants.
If passed, this bill would transition the council into the new college of immigration and citizenship consultants, and give the college enhanced authority to investigate, obtain important evidence and compel witnesses to testify at disciplinary hearings—three things we currently lack. These new tools will also go a long way towards helping to protect prospective immigrants from fraudulent practitioners.
Given the past challenges within the industry, I can appreciate that there may be some, even some on this committee today, who may be asking why we should give the council the opportunity to transition into this new role. Let me assure you that today's ICCRC is not the organization you reviewed in 2017. We have taken your concerns seriously and worked hard to make significant changes.
Over the last two years the council has evolved. We've increased education standards. Last week, for example, we announced the upgrading of prerequisite education to a post-graduate diploma level. We've streamlined and improved the complaint and discipline process. We've strengthened governance on the board of directors and revamped our public communications and outreach strategies. A key component of these new initiatives has been the hiring of new senior leadership, including me as CEO, and Michael as director of professional conduct. In addition, we have tripled staff resources for the professional conduct division and implemented new processes that have significantly improved our disciplinary process.
Despite these efforts, our main challenges remain our limited ability to properly investigate serious complaints and our lack of tools and authority to address ghost consultants. Ghost consultants, as you're aware, are unlicensed individuals who pose as immigration consultants to defraud potential immigrants to Canada. These unauthorized scammers pose the greatest threat to the immigration consulting profession because they operate completely in the black market, and often overseas.
The new college would have the tools and authority to take substantive action against ghost consultants. The act would also position the college to work closely with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to really crack down on these illegal operators.
We are confident that should Bill pass, we will be able to transition smoothly to the new college, continuing to build on the changes we've already made to create the effective, reliable regulator this committee would like to see. We've made tremendous progress in the last two years, and we look forward to leveraging this knowledge and experience into a new, improved self-regulatory body.
Thank you for your time. Michael and I welcome any questions.
Ms. Panlaqui, thank you for your testimony, and thank you for the important work you're involved in.
I know you presented as someone who's raising concerns about the activities, in some cases, of unscrupulous consultants. It seems to me, from listening to the testimony of the government, that it might come to view an organization like yours in certain situations as falling under the regulatory regime of this act, since you're supporting people who are interacting with the immigration system and they might come to you. There are some ambiguities in my mind around what would constitute legal advice. I had asked about the application of things like “for consideration”, and we didn't finish that line of questioning, but I think it was open-ended that if somebody was being paid to provide advice and they were being paid through grant funding from a third party, even if the person they were interacting with wasn't paying them, they could still certainly fall under the ambit of this legislation.
I'd appreciate your thoughts on how an organization like yours would feel about essentially being regulated as an immigration consultant in certain situations under this legislation.
I'd like to turn to the issue of protection for the applicants, or the victims, if you will. You mentioned the provisions that are required, which was a prominent issue that came before us when we studied this in 2016. For the people who are going to be caught out in this environment, even if they have a complaint process, it doesn't mean that they have actual recourse. As you have indicated, often they would have lost their status and many of them would be faced with imminent deportation.
Given this kind of scenario where bad actors have abused and exploited the applicants, what do you think the government needs to do to ensure that protection is provided to them through a complaint process? They've now established a compensation fund, which is good, I suppose. In terms of their status, however, in terms of the penalty they've already paid, which is that they won't even have a process to apply for permanent residence under this scenario, how can the government address this to ensure fairness in this process?