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House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we too support issuing permits for prohibited or restricted firearms. However, we do not want to unfairly target farmers and hunters. There is a worrisome trend on the opposition side, and that is to be more lenient with criminals and harsher with honest citizens.

The leader of the Liberal Party, who claims to be a democrat, should listen to his party members who represent the regions, because they see the unfairness and the inconvenience of this measure for honest citizens.

There is only one party in this House that takes into consideration the interests of the regions, and that is the Prime Minister's party, the Conservative Party.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

September 21st, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first, I should point out that the actions of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition appointing me and the member for Ottawa South has seen a significant reduction in the heckling in the House. Those two should get some just reward for their actions on decorum. There is leadership.

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I believe you will find there is unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight on the Motion to concur in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry)), the Chair shall not receive any quorum calls, dilatory motions, amendments or requests for unanimous consent; at the end of the time remaining for the debate, or when no member rises to speak, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division be deemed requested.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Papineau had the floor before question period. There are five minutes now for questions and comments about his speech.

Therefore, I call for questions and comments. The hon. member for Trinity--Spadina.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2004 the former Liberal government established a self-regulating body. The body unfortunately did not have the power to regulate any of those consultants. Subsequently we have noticed that little has changed and in fact, some things might have gotten worse and there are more consultants who are unscrupulous and are preying on the most vulnerable.

It led to a series of articles in the Toronto Star called “Newcomers bitten by toothless law”. Because this body had no power, it really did not get the job done.

My question for the hon. member of the Liberal Party is, what was the rationale in 2004 in creating such a body that had no teeth whatsoever to ensure that the most vulnerable immigrants would be protected?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was obviously not in the House in 2004, but I know that for many years, since the 1980s, voters have often told members of the House that they were exploited, mistreated, misled and stripped of their savings by immigration consultants who did not do their job very well.

Obviously, in 2004 there was a desire by the House, by Parliament and by the government at the time to address this issue, which led to the creation of the CSIC. Over the past few years, the CSIC has had some troubles but has improved in its way of dealing with things.

We shall see at the end of the call for bids process this fall whether or not there will be an alternative to CSIC selected or whether a renewed CSIC will continue to regulate immigration consultants in Canada. Until then we will continue to try to make sure that these most vulnerable people are not preyed upon by unscrupulous business people who have no interest in their well-being.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-35, which deals with the important issue of immigration consultants.

This has been a long-standing issue. There are people committing fraud and profiting from others' naïveté, and this has always been the case in all areas. And even though we as parliamentarians or citizens fight daily to lessen its presence, the problem will most likely continue to exist. You only need to watch television shows like J.E. or La facture to see that this is true. There will always be people who will abuse others to try to make a lot of money in a short amount of time.

That said, there is something different about immigration. The people going through this process are much more vulnerable than the average person, which means that there are many more people trying to take advantage of them. This issue has become very troubling.

MPs, especially those of us from urban areas, have all heard stories about people who have had unfortunate dealings with immigration consultants, with people who defrauded them, gave them bad advice or took their money. I would say that this is the tip of the iceberg because the people living in our ridings are those who have been able to navigate the process and settle in Canada. There are many people living in other countries who were fleeced by such consultants and whose voices we seldom hear. That is just as worrisome.

Why are these people more vulnerable to fraud than the average citizen? Because of their ignorance of the legal system and their rights as citizens. Even though they are not Canadian citizens, anyone who lives in Canada is protected by Canadian law. Immigrants often have a vague idea about the country they are going to. It is often a dream and some people are prepared to make sacrifices to make it come true.

Many people do not immigrate for themselves but do so for their children. They hope to give their children a better life and are willing to make many sacrifices. They find themselves dealing with disgraceful people who tell them that they can easily obtain permanent resident status, a visa and Canadian citizenship, but that it will be expensive. They claim to be good consultants with the necessary contacts and say that they are needed in order to follow the procedures.

That is obviously not true; they are taking advantage of the immigrant's ignorance. In theory, anyone should be able to immigrate to Canada without using a consultant or someone paid to help them. Some people feel reassured. The department probably has some work to do in order to simplify the process and make people feel comfortable navigating the immigration system by themselves.

In general, I tell people that they do not need to spend a fortune on immigration consultants and that they can apply on their own. I often tell them that if they have legal problems or a special legal situation they can see a lawyer or notary, who will be more qualified to help them with the process.

So, lack of knowledge is the first factor. Another factor is often the political culture. Some people come from countries where corruption is common and where many things happen through nepotism or shady deals. Something like that seems to happen here sometimes, even in this Parliament.

Generally speaking, I am sure everyone would agree that we have far fewer problems here than in certain other countries, where that is the norm and that is how things are done, and where one must know a politician to make things happen.

Some people therefore believe that someone from the political sphere needs to intervene directly in order to move their file along. So consultants claim, either truthfully or more often falsely, that they know the right people to help someone get his or her visa and become a permanent resident. Once again, that is obviously absurd, since there is no need to know any one particular person to immigrate to Canada. One must simply meet all of the criteria and make the application. Although the system is not perfect, generally speaking, no matter who examines the application, the decision should always be the same.

In addition to the lack of knowledge about Canada's legal reality and the political perceptions that they may bring from their home country to a destination country, there is a third factor, namely, the bonds of trust that certain consultants abuse when dealing with people of the same ethnic origin. Some consultants will use the fact that they went through the immigration process themselves and will tell their clients that they can do the same thing for them, because they are of the same ethnicity, come from the same country and are now successful immigrants. People will blindly trust such individuals, and that is clearly abusive. We looked at this issue in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, because we were told that this is a very common problem. We are therefore very concerned about this issue.

The committee did a comprehensive review and prepared a report with a number of recommendations. The first recommendation made by the committee—not the last or second last—was that in the committee's opinion, consultants working in Quebec who make applications in Quebec should be officially recognized under Quebec laws. Canadian laws should therefore take into account this reality and ensure that a transfer is made to Quebec with regard to regulating the profession, in order to address the specificity of Quebec in terms of its immigration powers under the Canada-Quebec agreement, and because of its specific professional system. Furthermore, Quebec is its own nation with its own particularities and it is important that Quebec has control over this type of tool and the way immigration consultants are governed.

This recommendation exists. I hope that the parties that supported it will continue to defend this same position and defend Quebec's right to govern its immigration consultants. What is more, the Government of Quebec subsequently developed supplementary rules to take these characteristics into account because the need truly exists. Immigration consultants in Quebec need to speak French and must pass an exam on aspects of the immigration process that are specific to Quebec, such as the Quebec selection certificate. They will have to know related standards and how to assess and evaluate individuals in Quebec. It is quite different from the system used in Canada.

When the Quebec government put these regulations in place, it referred to the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, which already exists. That was the fastest and simplest option, but we must think seriously and take this opportunity to be even more effective, since this society will probably disappear and be replaced with something else.

In Quebec, there could be an association governed by Quebec laws, and in Canada, there could be another association. This model would be more effective, and would be in line with the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Why am I talking about the importance of giving Quebec control? It is a matter of jurisdiction under the British North America Act. Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over regulating professional associations. I would like to quote an excerpt of the brief presented by the Barreau du Québec to the advisory committee on immigration consultants:

Although the provisions of the former Immigration Act allowed the federal government to create a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, and allowed a barrister, solicitor or “other counsel” to represent individuals for a fee, that is not the case with the issue of establishing a college of consultants and establishing strict regulations to govern a profession. The Barreau du Québec believes that the creation of a college of consultants is not constitutionally viable.

Bill C-35 does not change anything. As it stands, the federal government essentially governs those who make representations on behalf of their clients to the federal government, but it does not truly have control over a person's ability to act as an immigration consultant and to provide advice for a fee.

But with Bill C-35, the government wants to take things further. We are not opposed to the intent, because we agree. However, by taking this further, the government is getting very close to creating a professional association. That completely interferes with the Quebec government's jurisdiction.

I would like to quote Quebec's criteria for establishing a professional association or order:

(1) the knowledge required to engage in the activities of the persons who would be governed by the order which it is proposed to constitute;

(2) the degree of independence enjoyed by the persons who would be members of the order in engaging in the activities concerned, and the difficulty which persons not having the same training and qualifications would have in assessing those activities;

(3) the personal nature of the relationships between such persons and those having recourse to their services, by reason of the special trust which the latter must place in them, particularly because such persons provide them with care or administer their property;

(4) the gravity of the prejudice which might be sustained by those who have recourse to the services of such persons because their competence or integrity was not supervised by the order;

(5) the confidential nature of the information which such persons are called upon to have in practising their profession.

These five criteria are clearly fulfilled in the case of immigration consultants. It requires knowledge—point 1—which must be governed by an appropriate order. People who work as consultants are very independent, and it is difficult for an outside person to assess their work if they do not have the same qualifications. The fundamentally personal nature of the consultant-client relationship is obvious.

Clearly, serious negative consequences can befall those who get bad advice. Their lives can be turned upside down and their plans can come to an abrupt halt. Confidentiality is also a factor.

As we can see, this is all about Quebec's jurisdiction, so much so that Quebec felt the need to establish its own regulatory system. The federal system, even with Bill C-35, cannot guarantee that specific elements of Quebec immigration law will be taken into account.

They also use the term “shared jurisdiction” and talk about how this does not fall under federal jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is one thing, but what about competence? Is the federal government competent to do this?

The abject failure of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants proves that the federal government does not have the competence to do this because it does not have the necessary expertise. In Quebec, the Office des professions du Québec oversees all professional groups. The regulations are a hundred or so pages long. The laws are substantial and provide real powers to investigate, intervene and sanction. The federal government does not have that. It would have to start from scratch and come up with all-new legislation for something that Quebec is already equipped to deal with. Personally, I do not think that is an efficient way of doing things at all.

The Bloc Québécois is concerned about the transfer of information proposed in the bill. In committee, we will ask questions about whether this bill goes too far in terms of what it wants lawyers and notaries to transfer to the federal government. Does this respect Quebec's legislation regarding confidentiality and the transfer of information? We will take a close look at that.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be supporting this bill—at least at second reading—in order for it to be considered in committee. This is an issue we care about. We agree with the government and the other parties that the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants is not working. It has serious governance and transparency problems. I have seen student associations that were much better managed than this outfit.

I have personally tried to obtain information and have been routinely prevented from getting my hands on it. Members come and see us regularly complaining of the association’s exorbitant fees. They also complain of questionable policies, overly bureaucratic offices, outlandishly high fees, cronyism, general meetings where only the chair speaks and folks can only give input by way of email. In short, it is not a glowing record and there is nothing to inspire people’s confidence. The association has very serious governance issues and it fails at winning over its members and giving the profession a credible and professional face.

In closing, I would like to talk about the bill’s title. The government is carrying on its ridiculous tradition of giving bills ludicrous titles. In this particular case, the title is, “The Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act”. The title in English is even more ridiculous. That has to stop. They will tell me that what I am saying is of scant importance and that it has no bearing on anything, but as parliamentarians, we pass laws that should be objective and not subjective.

What will the next step be? A good budget and a good piece of immigration legislation? It does not make sense. We will settle this matter in committee, and I hope that the government will stop grandstanding and making grand gestures. Rather than giving bills really menacing sounding names and saying that they are going to stiffen penalties, they need to get out there in the community. Even if the penalties were 10 times stiffer, without people to enforce them and prosecute, there is no point.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber on his very clear explanation of the situation and on the work to be done in committee.

I wonder if he can explain why consultants in Canada seem to be incompetent, yet those in Quebec appear quite competent. What do they have in Quebec? Can we do something to help those consultants become competent? Is the member suggesting that the other consultants should be allowed to do their own thing, by province or otherwise? I would like to know what he intends to propose in committee.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and I appreciate his interest, especially considering the blatant lack of interest demonstrated by the Liberals in this issue. They have not asked any questions since this debate began.

To answer the question, honestly, I do not think the committee or any other body has ever taken a close look at the degree of competence of consultants based on what province they come from. What we have noted in Quebec, in terms of numbers, is that there are far fewer immigration consultants, at least those who are officially registered with the association. Does that mean the phenomenon is more marginal? We do not know. Does it mean fewer consultants register because they do not identify with the association?

Some members came to see us, saying that they had difficulty taking the tests and communicating in French. One thing may explain the other; it is difficult to say. There is no doubt, however, that Quebec, with its civil code, has a different legal reality than Canada, with its common law. With the Canada-Quebec agreement on immigration, Quebec's immigration framework is quite different, so people need to have training that is specific to Quebec, and not Canada, in order to practice in Quebec.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, particularly in my instance, a lot of immigration work comes through my office in Yellowknife. I have very capable staff there but they are not trained, especially by any organization or agency, to a standard that would perhaps be equitable across the country in how they treat these very sensitive immigration files.

I wonder if my colleague has any comments on how this bill might be interpreted by people who perhaps would not get advice that was perfect from employees of members of Parliament. As we all know, the offices of members of Parliament are often the last refuge of immigration appeal or immigration information. How does this work out there? How do we separate this from the concern that the consulting activities of our own staff are protected under this legislation?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question and all the more appropriate given the lack of questions from the Liberal Party. I get the impression things will go well in committee. There will not be many questions from the Liberal Party because this subject does not seem to interest them since not a single Liberal bothered to stand up. Either that, or my presentation was so clear they did not feel the need to ask any questions.

I want to come back to my NDP colleague's question. Employees in our constituency offices are currently not affected, nor will they be under this bill. We are not paid for our advice, or at least not in my riding. I would hope that my colleague does not send his constituents a bill for his advice. The idea behind regulating those who do give advice is to control those who do so in exchange for payment from their clients.

As far as the advice my colleague gives to his constituents is concerned, I encourage him to tell them that generally speaking, they do not need to pay someone to file an application for immigration. They can apply on their own. If they run into specific legal problems during the process, my colleague should encourage them to talk to a lawyer or a notary who has the necessary training to address legal issues.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleague from the Bloc.

One of the substantial things this bill does is provide for significant investigative measures and outcomes that will enable the regulatory body to pursue crooked consultants.

I point out that the bill authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations providing for the disclosure of information relating to the ethical or professional conduct of a representative. The governing body could then investigate the conduct and, where appropriate, pursue disciplinary action.

The bill also proposes to extend the time of the investigation from about six months to about five years. The bill allows for the pursuit and, in some cases, the conviction of those who have not been acting in accordance with the law.

I would simply ask the member to comment on both of these points. Will his party be supporting these important additional measures?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to quickly answer in order to allow a Liberal member to ask a question and take some interest in the matter.

We are concerned about the real ability of the government to intervene and to take coercive action that will make people feel they have some support.

Having said that, the measures outlined by my colleague are all in the Quebec Professional Code, legislation that has been developed over the decades, is very extensive and has a very good framework. They are trying to recreate in Ottawa something that already exists in Quebec, where professional orders already have these abilities and powers, and even more when it comes to investigative powers, disciplinary measures, sanctions and court action, and so on.

In my opinion, it would be more efficient and respectful of Quebec's jurisdictions to allow a Quebec body to regulate consultants working in Quebec while recognizing that the rest of Canada may feel the need to create such a tool for itself. We recognized this in our committee report. It was the intent of recommendation 1. We will be studying this issue.

We said that we would support the bill at second reading. We will study it carefully and wait for everyone's comments before forming a definite opinion about the details of each clause.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, given that there are still no Liberals asking questions, I will ask my colleague a question myself.

I have two points to raise. First, will the committee study the training that consultants receive? Second, will there be resources or methods for monitoring these consultants, not only in Quebec and Canada, but overseas as well?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right to bring up the lack of Liberal participation in the debate. However, we were treated to some rhetorical gymnastics by the member for Papineau this morning. We thought that he would be quite actively involved in the debate and concerned by the issue, but it seems that he did not have many points to bring to the debate today other than those in his speech.

The issue of overseas consultants is really quite problematic. Quebec has taken a step forward in regulating consultants by asking people to state whether they paid for consultation services overseas. I can assure my colleague that I will raise this point in committee in order to take the issue of overseas consultants as far as possible.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, crimes against immigrants cannot and should not be tolerated. For far too long, we have been soft on those who prey on the most vulnerable, prey on those who have dreams to make Canada their home. The media is littered with stories of potential immigrants who pay some consultants thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, and are taught to lie and end up having their applications destroyed because they were given poor advice. The New Democratic Party of Canada has been pushing for tough and effective legislation to crack down on these unscrupulous and crooked consultants.

Many years ago, in the early eighties, I was an assistant to a former member of Parliament, at that time the NDP critic for immigration, Mr. Dan Heap. During my time with him at the constituency office, I saw a wall of potential immigrants being cheated out of thousands of dollars and having their dreams of being able to stay in Canada destroyed.

Working at that time with the Globe and Mail, I had my mother carry a concealed tape recorder to look at some of these unscrupulous consultants. This was in the early 1980s. Subsequently, there were a series of articles in the Globe and Mail that documented many cases where she was given the wrong advice or overcharged. Back then, we were hoping that something would be done.

Unfortunately, even in the 1990s, nothing much was done and matters became worse and worse until 2002, when the House of Commons immigration and citizenship committee conducted a study, and then in 2004, when the former Liberal government enacted legislation and set up an organization. Unfortunately, the advice from the immigration department and the community was ignored and the organization had no power to regulate. The agency that was charged with protecting the vulnerable newcomers did not improve the situation. In fact it got worse. The Liberal government just never got the job done.

The bill before us today, Bill C-35, is a step in the right direction. Consultants must be licensed in order to charge fees or act on a person's behalf. The Canadian Border Agency must be given resources to enforce this law. We could have the best law, but if there is no enforcement, it would not be worth the paper it is written on. Immigration officers must be trained to detect fraud. They must be trained so that sufficient information is given to applicants and there is no need to hire an expensive consultant or a lawyer for straightforward immigration applications.

At the immigration committee, we have studied this issue for many months and we have issued two reports. During our travels, we have heard that the existing organization, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, has a lot of shortcomings. The membership fees are too high and membership examinations are prepared and marked in a questionable way. We also heard that CSIC has failed to develop an industry plan. We heard that their decision-making lacks transparency and is not conducted democratically. We heard that the CSIC board of directors is not accountable to anyone. This is the board body that was established in 2004. There is no possibility for CSIC members to call a special meeting of the society. Compensation for CSIC board members, like their spending, is extravagant, ill-advised, and unaccounted for. CSIC board members are in a conflict of interest, because they created and currently serve on the board of the Canadian Migration Institute, a related for-profit corporation.

We heard that many members had little choice but to pay $800 to buy an outdated educational video in order to obtain sufficient continuing professional development points to maintain a CSIC membership; that the ability of members to voice concerns about CSIC has been limited since the CSIC rules of professional conduct were amended, making it a professional offence to “undermine” CSIC and compelling members to treat CSIC with "dignity and respect”; and finally, that the CSIC website is set up so that members cannot communicate with one another by sending bulk email messages.

These are allegations, complaints that we have heard. The committee, after this long study, decided to take action. We issued a report recommending that we find some ways to protect the most vulnerable; that we establish a new corporation with the power to license its members, examine their conduct, and resolve complaints; and that the Government of Canada remain involved in its affairs until it is fully functioning.

We also recommended that a regulator establish no-cost complaint procedures to support immigrants with precarious Canadian status in lodging complaints. That is important, because some of those who are the most vulnerable feel that if they complain, they will get deported, which means that their case would not be examined by the immigration department. We have to establish complaints procedures for these immigrants. Part of the recommendation said that we have to inform immigrants that their complaints to the regulator will have no negative impact upon their immigration applications.

Moreover, we recommended coordinated investigations and enforcement of the law. We wanted a lead agency to be named to coordinate investigation, communication, and enforcement efforts within four months after the 2008 report. It is unfortunate that this never quite happened, but I sure hope that if this bill passes a lead agency will be named as quickly as possible to make sure that the law approved in Parliament is enforced properly. If not, it would be a real mistake.

We also recommended that the CSIC website should contain a list of authorized representatives practising in this country .

In November of last year, I moved a concurrence motion on these recommendations. The House of Commons supported these recommendations and supported the concurrence motion, so the intention of this House is clear. We want new regulations, new legislation to protect the most vulnerable. We want clear enforcement guidelines. We also want to make sure that education will continue so that potential immigrants, even if they are overseas, will understand their rights and know how to go about filing a complaint.

The new regulations would provide the minister with the power to designate a new body to govern immigration consultants, and we need to make sure that this body is picked in a way that is transparent, and that this body is legitimate, democratically run, and willing to go after those who are violating the law.

We note that under their rules of conduct, a consultant must never “knowingly assist in or encourage any dishonesty, provision of misleading information, fraud, crime or illegal conduct”. Yet through the Toronto Star series, we have noticed that a number of CSIC members allegedly gave wrong information and told people how make up a story to get into the refugee claimant process, even though they had no such refugee experience. They end up giving the entire immigration system and refugee claimants a bad name.

It is important for the minister to continue monitoring a new body to ensure it behaves in a way that will protect the most vulnerable because if not, lives could be ruined.

One day I hope immigration regulations can be clarified and simplified in a way so potential immigrants do not feel they need to hire someone to submit applications for them. I also hope the laws will be applied in a way that immigrants do not feel is arbitrary. They should be transparent so immigrants know where their applications are. Also the whole process should be on the Internet so applicants can tell how far along their applications are, how much longer they have to wait, what their application numbers are and whether they have submitted all the right documents.

I note the minister has just returned from Australia, which has that kind of processing. Because it is e-filed, immigrants can tell whether all the documents are done in a way that is appropriate. This kind of processing would be transparent and immigrants would not need to hire a consultant, a lawyer, or even come to a member of Parliament to get a status update of their applications.

Also one day I hope visitor visas or refugee claims are done in a way that is clear. Then migrants or potential visitors who want to come to Canada will not feel they need to hire consultants. After all, we are supposed to serve those who want to come to Canada.

Why is this important? It is critically important because we know some of these immigrants have a choice to go to other countries and we want the brightest and the best to come to Canada. If they keep hearing all these horror stories of relatives, neighbours or friends who have been ripped off by the most unscrupulous consultants, they will not have confidence in Canada's immigration system.

I also note that Australia's website shows almost every month which immigration consultants have been de-listed, for what reason and which new consultants have been listed. Those kinds of lists on the Internet are kept up-to-date so any time people want to hire a consultant, they will know clearly who is qualified and who is not. I certainly hope this would be the kind of system we would go toward.

Last, it is critically important that through the Canada Border Services Agency there would be some kind of investigation of the type of fraud now being committed by some of these consultants. Those who are victimized will then feel they have a chance to speak out. If the investigation of their claims proves their case was completely messed up because of bad advice by unscrupulous consultants, their claims should be re-evaluated.

In the meantime, on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada I will continue to carefully monitor the progress of the crackdown on crooked consultants and scrupulous consultants so that all crimes directed against immigrants will be severely punished.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague the member for Trinity—Spadina for her thoughtful comments, her work on this issue for many years and, particularly, for her leadership in crafting the 2008 standing committee report from which she quoted.

I will respond in particular to some of her suggestions about operational and administrative improvements that would help to reduce the demand or the need essentially many people feel to hire consultants to simplify the very complex process to apply for visas or immigration to Canada. I agree with her that the CIC could do a whole lot more to improve the process to simplify it and make it more transparent.

I readily admit that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been significantly behind the curve when it comes to harnessing new information technology that would help to simplify the process in the way that the Australians have. She is quite right that they have a system that works easier to attract applications and reduces a lot of administrative burden because people are able to apply online for most of the business lines in its immigration ministry.

I am pleased to report to her and to the House that we have begun the process of finally rolling out the global case management system, which will, in the not too distant future, create a seamless worldwide electronic management of immigration and visa applications. An increasing number of applications will be able to be done directly online.

I can also report that in 2006 there was a simplification of most of the forms and we continue to look for ways that we can simplify those forms. We continue to look at ways that we can improve service and make things simply more user-friendly, and that is really the objective.

I want to thank her for that. Perhaps this is an area the committee could dig into in greater detail. It could look at the Australian and other reference points.

As a ministry, we are finally beginning to enter the 21st century as it were in terms of facilitating easier client service. She is quite right that this will mean less reliance on consultants, both legitimate and crooked.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for taking this step and introducing the bill in front of us. It has been a long time coming.

A user-friendly, seamless service would be tremendously good news for many of the applicants who are struggling with the paperwork. Members of Parliament have spent thousands of hours trying to get status updates for their constituents. Constituency offices in some urban centres would tell us that 80% of their cases are immigration-related and it really should not be that way. It is costing us time and it is costing the visa office time to dig up these cases every time an MPs office calls. This is not helping the immigrants. It is not helping the department. It is not helping the MPs office.

The Auditor General has been telling us to get this done right, to be user-friendly. It would be really good news if we could get out of the paper-driven process. I cannot wait to see that day arrive.

In the meantime, at committee let us look for the most constructive ways to get this bill through and see if there are ways we can even improve it. Let us work together to provide the best services for potential immigrants.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I had asked this question earlier of the Bloc member and I want to clarify some aspects of this vis-à-vis employees of members of Parliament who act so many times on behalf of immigrants across the country. In some cases they may give advice that would determine the course of action immigrants would take on whether they would move for one type of visa or the other. According to this situation, exemptions given would be under agreements or arrangements the government has. Does that suggest there would be some training or some understanding of how to apply this?

Right across the country, as every MP will indicate, we are the front line for the immigration services of Canada. Is that going to change or are we going to find some way that we can interpret this law so our people can rest assured that they, acting on behalf of us, are not going to be in contravention of the law?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, my reading of this bill is that it is totally legal for any non-profit organization or MP's office to provide as much information or act on behalf of constituents. A lot of immigrant service organizations, non-profit ones, will continue to give that kind of advice as long as a fee is not charged. It is illegal to charge a fee if not licensed. MP's offices will not charge a fee. If no fee is charged, then it is totally legal to provide advice, and that includes relatives, MPs' offices, or any immigrant serving agency. I do not think there is any problem with that at all.

MPs' offices should not be a sub-office of the immigration department. Sometimes we feel like we are one. There is no reason why we should be one. However, until the day when we do not need to get status updates, et cetera, we will continue to provide the service to our constituents. I do not think we need to fear that we will be contravening this law because no MP's office is requesting a fee from constituents, at least I hope not because I believe it is illegal.