I am self-employed, and this is a lot of money for my organization. Attending this seminar gave me 20 CPD points. I will receive another 15 CPD points by purchasing the DVD at the 2007 seminar.
Remember, this was a mandatory seminar, and if you don't attend, you will have to buy the DVD for $800. Most of the information on the DVD is old, and there are new rules and regulations in place, but still CSIC forces me to buy it. This system is really a pay-for-your-points system. I'm sure I will have to spend a lot of money to get my five remaining points before October 18, 2008.
We now have to pay for a second organization. The directors have incorporated a for-profit organization to do some things CSIC should be doing. They call it CMI, Canadian Migration Institute. CSIC should be responsible for education for members. On March 20, 2008, CSIC announced that their CEO was moving over to be the managing director of CMI, and Mr. Ryan would be the acting CEO of CSIC. In other words, it now looks like CSIC members must pay salaries for two CEOs, as well as the cost of sets of books, two websites, two sets of directors' fees, etc.
CSIC has not provided any information to us about the need for this. When I was in Toronto on April 4 and 5 to attend the first CMI seminar, John Ryan spoke at his private party and told us that we, as CSIC members, are the owners of CMI.
By the way, the invitation for this party was printed with the CSIC logo. Mr. Ryan and a fellow board member paid for the room and they were extremely selective in handing out the invitations, so not all CSIC members were invited to come to this party. At this point I'm not sure who paid for the food and wine that was given away there, but I think I can guess.
With respect to ghost consultants, CSIC's slow pace in implementing enforcement policies remains a serious concern. It puts into question the ability of the society to regulate its members and protect the interests of the public. Thus far, even government seems uninterested in stepping in to ensure that CSIC's public protection mandate is being fulfilled. This is the government's responsibility, since they created the society and confer legitimacy on CSIC members as authorized representatives under IRPA. They cannot now disavow any responsibility for ensuring that CSIC is protecting the public.
If CSIC is not fulfilling its mandate, then the organization needs to be reorganized, the board given a definite mandate to get the organization in order within a specific number of months or risk being dissolved, or the current board removed.
The bylaws permit members to remove directors. Therefore, in theory, this is one method of accountability. This has been discussed within pockets of the membership insofar as the current board has lost the confidence of many members. However, to do so requires two-thirds of the votes of the members at a special meeting. We have no right to compel a special meeting. We have tried in the past, but it's just been ignored. Plus, we have no right to put motions on the agenda of an AGM. We've tried in the past; our motions have been ignored.
This effectively cancels any ability to put a motion before the membership to remove directors. Notwithstanding this impediment, one of my colleagues was courageous enough to propose such a motion and seek the 50 signatures required to advance it for consideration at the 2007 AGM. However, many members have experienced first-hand the consequences of daring to challenge the directors, and most people were afraid to sign this petition.
CSIC bylaws stipulate that the AGM must be held in person and its members must approve any amendment. The CSIC board chose an over-the-Internet AGM, although that is contrary to the current bylaw. That does not allow members' participation and it takes away our tools to make contributions. The electronic meeting was not properly planned. The meeting was eventually cancelled due to the lack of required quorum. In today's world, adding the Internet component to a worldwide organization is a great idea. However, it needs to be approved by members and proper tools must be in place to allow meaningful contribution.
In many organizations, one can look forward to an election each year to make changes to a board. When members are very dissatisfied, they can run a slate of candidates to get the organization turned around and moving in a better direction. That is not the case with CSIC. The initial directive set up a system now entrenched into the bylaws ensuring the initial decision-makers stayed on for years. As well, the system is designed so that only two consultant directors are elected in each election, making it impossible for the membership to elect a critical mass of persons who may challenge the status quo. This makes it very easy for the current executive to simply isolate any progressive voice or two that was elected. Also, we are not permitted to know how directors are voting on board issues so as to make elections meaningful.
The CSIC rules of professional conduct were amended in March 2007 to make it a professional offence to undermine the society and to compel members to treat the society with dignity and respect. These were widely perceived by members as offensive and inappropriate, particularly as the board appears to see itself as the society and was designed to deter any criticism of them under pain of professional discipline.
In the summer of 2007 an amendment was made to the discipline policy to allow CSIC to suspend a member first while conducting the investigation. This extraordinary power in the hands of responsible professionals who respect the rules of law and legal limits on interfering with people's livelihood may, indeed, be necessary in extreme circumstances, but in the hands of persons who are not legally trained and who themselves are known to use their authority against members who challenge them and who have created a deeply politicized atmosphere, including making it a disciplinable offence to disrespect the society, and acting as if they alone were the society, it is scary.
In general, people surrender membership if the needs are not met. There is no way we can quit our membership to CSIC. Once we would do so, we would be ghost consultants and act at the wrong side of the law. There is nothing we can do against the way CSIC is currently operating.
What are the solutions to this? In my opinion, the government cannot afford to play a hands-off game in the affairs of the society it helped create with public funds. CSIC must be mandated to follow a true democratic administration process that is free of intimidation of its members. In particular, the following steps are critical to the democratic participation of members:
First is the ability to compel a special meeting upon the written request of a percentage--five percent was approved by earlier boards--of the membership. This would go a long way to placing power back in the hands of members collectively, where it belongs, and will likely have a magical effect on encouraging the board to embark on consultations with members on major initiatives. To formally add this legal right, the bylaws must be amended. This should be a priority at the next AGM.
Second, the board must hold an in-person AGM in 2008 and each year until such time as the members pass a bylaw permitting electronic AGMs, including safeguards required by Industry Canada on electronic meetings. Of course, some members may wish to attend and vote online if they wish, but the board of directors cannot compel all members to do so and thus avoid facing the members at all.
Third, the bylaws should provide for a clear, fair, and democratic process whereby members can place motions on the agenda of the AGM. Until such time as they can be amended to do so, the board should adopt a policy for a clear, fair, and democratic process for members to have their motions on the agenda.
Four: Transparency is critical. Minutes of all board and committee meetings must be available to members to keep up on what their society is doing and to exercise their right to oversee the board's actions, as is their responsibility.
Five: A finance committee of members should be instituted immediately.
Six: All activities of CMI Incorporated should cease and be handled by CSIC until such time as a special meeting of members can be convened to discuss and debate and members can vote on the continuance or dissolution of second organizations.
Seven: The minister should ask the CSIC board to report back within six months as to what concrete steps, as above, have been taken by CSIC to ensure transparency, democracy, and accountability to the members of CSIC.
Eight: The government also needs to move swiftly to criminalize the operation of immigration consulting without being members of CSIC or provincial bar associations. Appropriate IRPA and IP-9 must be amended to reflect the necessary changes.
These measures would go a long way to reasserting the initial intention to establish a member-funded, member-driven society that benefits from the collective wisdom, talent, and resources of immigration consultants in the industry. Members too must start thinking like the owners. They are indeed the owners of an important initiative and the stewards of an important trust that the public of Canada has given them.
I respectfully ask that you intervene on behalf of CSIC members to permit them to take up their role as a boss.