CIMM Committee Report
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Mr. Robert Oliphant,
Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, and on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to respond to the report made by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled Starting Again: Improving Government Oversight of Immigration Consultants, tabled in the House of Commons on June 16, 2017.
The Government thanks the members of the Standing Committee (the Committee) for their valuable study examining the current “legal, regulatory and disciplinary frameworks governing and overseeing immigration, refugee and citizenship consultant and paralegal practitioners in Canada” and for providing meaningful recommendations to the Government.
The Government also thanks the many witnesses, including representatives of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (the Department), the Canada Border Services Agency, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (the current regulatory body), immigrant and refugee service provider organizations and other stakeholders, lawyers, consultants and individuals, who appeared before the Committee or provided written briefs. Their contributions to this study were informative and insightful.
The Government is seized with any issues related to inadequate protection of the public from cases of unprofessional or unethical practitioners and will undertake to address them appropriately. In addition, the Government agrees that a strong system of oversight of authorized immigration and citizenship consultants is essential, as well as sufficient action to deter those who would practice while unauthorized – that is, without oversight.
The Government acknowledges that there is a strong need and commitment to ensure that: those who are providing services operate in a professional and ethical manner; that public confidence and program integrity are maintained; and that the interests of newcomers and applicants who wish to retain the services of consultants are protected.
The Committee has provided meaningful recommendations that call for fundamental change in three main areas:
- Area (1): The legislative framework for the body responsible for governing immigration and citizenship consultants (Recommendations 1 – 9, 11, 20)
- Area (2): Investigations and enforcement concerning the offence of practising while not authorized and other offences (Recommendations 17 – 19, 21)
- Area (3): Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada procedures for processing applications and for communicating with clients and with prospective applicants (Recommendations 10, 12 – 17)
Given the complexity and inter-dependencies of the issues, the impact on public confidence, on clients and authorized immigration and citizenship consultants, the Government will carefully consider the Committee’s report and undertake a thorough analysis of key recommendations before determining how these issues could be addressed successfully.
The Government expects to be able to provide more information on the way forward next year.
In the meantime, the Government will continue to monitor the performance of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council and refer complaints regarding unauthorized practitioners to the Canada Border Services Agency. We will also urge the public not to use unauthorized consultants and to file complaints to the Council in case unprofessional and unethical advice and representation are provided. The Government encourages the Committee and all Members of Parliament to do the same. The Department will provide an information toolkit to the Committee and Members of Parliament in order to support outreach efforts.
While the Government considers the recommendations, it remains committed to improving client service, which is a key Departmental priority. This is demonstrated in the Department’s work on reducing processing times and on improving its service delivery and client services to make them timelier and less complicated. Through gathering and analysing service feedback, the Department knows that our clients want processes that make sense to them, that they want more assurance that their case is moving, and that they want someone to listen when they have issues. Recent examples of work the Department has undertaken to improve service in these areas include: a revamp of how processing times are communicated online, a plain-language review of our refusal letters, a pilot to text family sponsorship clients when their applications reach the Department, improvements to case status messaging in clients’ online accounts as well the ability for clients to link paper files to an online account.
Understanding that the Department’s client base has a range of abilities when speaking an official language, agents are trained in techniques to communicate efficiently with clients in clear and simple language and to be alert and sensitive towards clients with varying linguistic fluency. The Department’s Client Support Centre also has a standard process to facilitate calls between agent and client when an interpreter is used to assist in the communication.
As well, while reviewing Recommendations 13 and 17 – to provide more information to clients about the rules regarding legal representation and to process applications prepared with the aid of an unauthorized practitioner – the Department will continue to encourage clients to come forward and report such individuals. Taking action to address the problem of unauthorized practitioners and providing relevant information to all clients is a priority for the Department and in line with client service goals. The Department will continue to provide information about clients’ rights and responsibilities through its website, in application guides, and on the application form entitled “Use of a Representative”.
The Government is committed to keep exploring additional changes that could be made, including further simplifying the language in the guides, forms and on the Department’s website so that they are clear and simple for all clients. The Department is also pursuing engagement with clients on a number of fronts in order to better understand the challenges they face when dealing with these processes, and actively monitors the feedback received in an effort to improve services and target public awareness. In addition, the Department participates in Fraud Prevention Month by disseminating fraud prevention messaging to Canadians, newcomers and potential immigrants. The Department will also continue to work with missions abroad to increase public awareness about unauthorized representatives.
I again wish to thank the Committee for its comprehensive study. I believe that the Government’s analysis of the recommendations will positively inform Canada’s capacity to help maintain public confidence in the immigration system by ensuring that applicants are not misled by unauthorized representatives whose activities are illegal, and instead are served by professional and ethical authorized representatives.
The Honourable Ahmed
Hussen, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship