Mr. Wrzesnewskyj and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
The substance of much of the discussion to date has focused on the responsibilities of the ICCRC and whether or not those are being met. The ICCRC has a well-established system of handling complaints against its members. It has an investigation section, as well as complaints and discipline committees. Mr. Orr, who is from the IRCC department, also mentioned that a complaint against a member in good standing of the ICCRC will not have a negative outcome on a pending immigration case.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention that the federal government also has responsibilities to ensure the effective operation of the regulatory scheme. I will be discussing two key areas of federal responsibility that I believe should be brought to the attention of the committee: (a) provincial regulation of immigration consultants, and (b) the action taken against ghosts for the contravention of section 91 of the IRPA. Ghosts are people who are giving immigration advice without being a member of the ICCRC or a provincial law society. Many of these so-called ghosts are located inside and outside of Canada.
The first issue is provincial legislation.
In 2001, the Supreme Court, in the Mangat case, decided that provinces cannot have rules that conflict with federal rules, and that where two levels of government have incompatible regimes affecting immigration consultants, the federal scheme will prevail.
In 2013, the Province of Saskatchewan passed legislation to regulate the profession of immigration consulting, a profession that was already regulated by the federal government. Through its legislation, Saskatchewan requires federally regulated immigration consultants to also apply for registration with the province and to adhere to its own regulatory scheme, complete with statutes governing all aspects of a consultant's practice.
The issue is that Saskatchewan's requirements are in conflict with the requirements of the ICCRC. The Saskatchewan regulations do not govern only the provincial nominee program. The Saskatchewan government has taken over federal jurisdiction with respect to who may represent federal immigration applications such as labour market impact assessments, study permits, work permits, family sponsorships, and all federal permanent residence applications, excepting refugees. In any immigration application where the destination is listed as Saskatchewan, the Government of Saskatchewan has usurped federal jurisdiction and has enacted stiff penalties for any federally licensed consultant who is involved without also holding a Saskatchewan registration.
Hence, we have two regulatory regimes that are incompatible. Consultants are being forced to choose compliance with the federal scheme or compliance with a provincial scheme that has been aggressively enforced and where violations can be prosecuted in a court of law. The Supreme Court decision in Mangat would state that the federal regime takes precedence, yet Saskatchewan continues its actions.
Ideally, the federal government would use section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to assert their paramountcy on matters concerning the regulation of immigration consultants. There is an urgent need for the federal government to clarify and enforce their jurisdiction with the provinces, and I would suggest that this could be best accomplished through the use of the annual federal-provincial agreements on immigration and, later, also through a federal statute.
The second issue is the potential lack of action taken about section 91 contraventions.
It is not possible to make general statements and conclusions about isolated cases; however, I am going to use two cases to demonstrate a potential problem.
On April 23, 2015, I submitted a complaint to the Canada Border Services Agency in Toronto about a ghost agent that accepted several thousand dollars from an Australian citizen. The ghost agent informed the Australian that the case would be signed off on by a lawyer in Toronto. I called the lawyer, who mentioned that she had never heard about the Australian citizen. Subsequently, I sent evidence of the immigration advice given and evidence of the contravention to the CBSA via email on more than one occasion. Also, the Australian citizen was in Toronto for a visit and was willing to speak to the CBSA. I'm not aware of any action taken by the CBSA. The Australian was never contacted by the CBSA. It seems as if the CBSA has ignored the complaint.
In another case, I reported a so-called ghost to The Law Society of Upper Canada, but they just mentioned that the ghost was not a member of the law society and they cannot act.
As a result of these two frustrating cases, I submitted two access to information requests to the CBSA and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Before providing the report about the outcomes of these two access to information requests, I should mention that from its inception until the third quarter of 2015 the ICCRC has reported 671 contraventions by ghosts to the CBSA. If the ICCRC reported 671 contraventions to the CBSA but the CBSA listed only 412 cases, it seems as if 259 cases are not being accounted for by the CBSA.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada reported that on October 15, 2015, charges were laid in only 15 cases. The statistics presented here are 18 months old, but they show a potential and worrying trend of a lack of action by the federal government when contraventions of section 91 of IRPA are being reported by the ICCRC.
Another report by the ICCRC indicated that 1,115 contraventions by so-called ghost agents were also reported.
On March 6, 2017, Mrs. Zahid of this committee asked Ms. Jennifer Lutfallah, the director general of intelligence and compliance of the CBSA, if the CBSA had enough resources to investigate the offences. The response was there are sufficient resources, as 200 investigators are investigating immigration and customs offences, and 148 immigration cases are being investigated with respect to immigration consultants. It was not clarified how many of these 148 cases were of members in good standing of the ICCRC and how many were on ghost agents illegally providing immigration advice.
My advice is that the committee consider obtaining from the ICCRC updated statistics about reported ghost agents, the actions taken by the CBSA, as well as prosecutions by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.