Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee on Bill C-35 to share with you Manitoba's position and some of the efforts we have made in Manitoba in regard to regulating the activities of third party immigration consultants.
We're very pleased that the federal government is proactively addressing the issue. As you may know, the protection of vulnerable immigration clients, such as temporary foreign workers, has been a priority in Manitoba that we are addressing through provincial legislation called the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act.
We believe that complementary provincial and federal regulatory systems will advance protective measures for immigrants, and we have some suggestions in regard to the selection of a regulator for immigration consultants.
We believe that regulatory capacity needs to have the power to sanction and regulate immigration consultants and to seek judicial enforcement of the disciplinary consequences imposed on the members.
We also believe that it's important that dissatisfied members and the public and others are able to influence the regulatory body's internal functioning through a formal review process.
We believe the Government of Canada should be involved in the affairs of any new regulator until it's fully functioning.
We also support the view that the relevant federal regulatory and enforcement authorities should work with their provincial partners to coordinate investigation, communication, and enforcement efforts to ensure that unregistered immigration consultants are either referred to the appropriate authorities for sanction or are prosecuted under existing federal provisions.
We believe the Government of Canada should ensure that the new immigration consultants regulator institutes a third party, no-cost complaints process in respect of unauthorized or improper representation to support immigrants who lodge complaints. We also want immigrants to be informed that their complaints to the regulator will have no negative impact on their immigration applications or proceedings and that the regulator has a prosecutor or investigator who will represent the public interest in prosecuting misconduct.
I mentioned the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act that came into force in April 2009 in Manitoba. I want to share with you some of its highlights.
First of all, it extended coverage to include the protection of children in the modelling industry from sexual exploitation, but it also protects foreign workers from unscrupulous recruiters and employers. It requires Manitoba employers to register with the province prior to undertaking any foreign international recruitment efforts.
It allows the province to provide two different types of service. First, it will educate employers about what they have to comply with in terms of the legislation. Second, it will help them access support for the ethical, coordinated international recruitment of skilled workers through international agreements with Manitoba. Employers can also receive assistance to identify a local pool of immigrants who are already in the province. There is no cost for this service.
I will list some of the key provisions of WRAPA in terms of the provisions for employers. They must register with the province. They have to declare that they are using the services of a third party recruiter, who must be licensed to provide those services in Manitoba. They must pay any recruitment fees owed to a licensed recruiter; temporary foreign workers cannot and should not be responsible for paying any recruitment fees. Also, they cannot apply for a labour market opinion before being registered by the Province of Manitoba.
Employers using an unlicensed recruiter are liable for fees charged to workers, and fines can go up to $50,000 for corporations. Of course, they may be ineligible to reapply for registration.
In terms of recruiters, they must be licensed by the province, and to obtain the licence they need to be members of the Law Society of Canada, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, or, currently, CSIC, and they must present a letter of credit for $10,000. Also, they are liable for charging any recruitment fees to workers.
To date, we have about 2,400 employers who have been registered through this legislation. We receive an average of 150 applications a month, with an average of 135 approvals. These registrations are completed in two or three weeks.
We've seen many improvements with this legislation. First of all, information-sharing agreements that we have developed with governments, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies allow the province to monitor, investigate, and enforce legislation. It gives us the ability to refuse or revoke a licence, to investigate, to recover money on behalf of workers, to prosecute offences of WRAPA, and to fine individuals up to $25,000--and $50,000 for corporations--for non-compliance with the legislation.
We firmly believe that it has been very successful in preventing countless workers from being exploited, and it provides the province with the tools needed to protect these workers once they are already in the province. We have created a new special investigation unit to administer WRAPA and to handle all investigations related to it.