Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today. I would like to thank the member for Markham—Unionville for his contribution to the debate. I will paraphrase a Yiddish proverb that says, “Gray hair is a glorious crown won by righteous life”. I see the member is just not there yet. He is working on it. I think he would agree that in his situation it is a good thing.
We find ourselves debating this concurrence motion partially because the government provided a response that said, “The Government expects to be able to provide more information on the way forward next year.” It is interesting to note that the government will wait until next year to provide an answer to a report that was completed on June 14, and presented to the House. The report provides 21 pretty reasonable recommendations, so I want to approach this by providing a few points.
Like the member who spoke previously, I am an immigrant to this country. I came here when I was very young and so did my wife who came from Singapore.
I used to work for a professional association. A lot of the contents of the report deals with the relationship between a professional association that watches over its members on behalf of the public in the public's interest, like lawyers, notaries public, doctors. A lot of professions are self-regulated. Typically they have a statute that governs how their members are dealt with. The statute lays out rules for disciplinary action, a code of practice, a code of ethics, and the expectations of the profession while it undertakes work on behalf of the public. That is the way a lot of professional associations in Canada are regulated. The provinces regulate different professions.
Having worked for a professional organization and having worked for a minister of immigration in a previous government as well, those are the kinds of perspectives I want to bring to today's debate.
The 21 recommendations before us and the report itself are pretty reasonable.
Recommendation 3 talks about the need for a regulatory body to develop, establish and require high standards for admission, including but not limited to, the areas of training, education, and a standardized curriculum across the provinces and territories. We are talking about the creation of a pan-Canadian profession with standardized rules for admission.
Some members have said that not all immigration consultants, not all persons involved in this new and emerging profession are bad. There are those who steal. There are those who, through theft or subterfuge, specifically target people who are trying to come to Canada or new arrivals in Canada who do not understand our immigration system.
I cannot blame them for not understanding the system. It has become more complicated over the last 30 or 40 years, and that is not the fault of the Liberals or the Conservatives. It has become more complicated because life has become more complicated. There are more regulations, more rules, and more exceptions.
All governments in general across all provinces have attempted to toughen up our system to ensure it is fair, just, and equitable toward persons who apply to enter Canada under different programs. We sometimes change our immigration programs. We provide different programs for work permits, economic class, express entry, and they all come with rules and regulations that are sometimes hard to navigate.
Then we have what I will call an emerging profession of immigration consultants who advise members of the public, new arrivals to Canada. We find ourselves in a situation where some people have leapt ahead of what the government is able to regulate. The 21 recommendations in the report are an attempt by a committee of the House to provide the Government of Canada with some observations, some proposals, and recommendations on how to reign in some of the more corrupt and vile practices out there, where people go out and steal.
Before I continue, I should mention that each of us as members of Parliament probably has a case file manager in our offices. I have two fantastic people who work for me, Connor and Sukhi. They do amazing work on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Shepard to try to process files. None of us would say that we do the work all by ourselves. We owe a great deal to our staff members, who figure out the rules as they go along. They meet with some of these consultants, some of whom are good and some of whom are bad. It is usually the bad ones who give us more work, because we have to figure out what went wrong, how did it go wrong, and then try to undo the damage that was done by these crooked immigration consultants.
Recommendation 4 states that the new regulatory body should have training and education standards, more rigorous than current standards, for those seeking to become immigration consultants. It brought me back to a May 5 email I received from one of my constituents, Daniel Brière, who is an immigration consultant registered with the RCIC. I met with him and he had some observations that tie in directly with these 21 recommendations. A lot of what he wrote to me about I now find in the recommendations of the report we are now debating in the concurrence motion before us.
In my time at a professional association, having worked in human resources, I remember when HR was an emerging profession. In some provinces it is self-regulated and in some provinces it is not. It provides a designation that members of the public can achieve. There are educational standards and qualifications that have to be met. However, there is also a code of ethics to which people have to live up. That is a really important element of this.
I remember when I became the registrar for the human resources profession in Alberta. We had cobbled together six different associations to create one governing body to oversee human resources professionals in the province of Alberta. The parallel I draw here is that we introduced rules for disciplinary measures against members who violated the code of practice and the code of ethics. When we developed the code of ethics, we had a national code, set out by the CCHRA, which no longer exists as a national body. It has a different name now and different composition of what it does.
Volunteer members stepped forward and wrote a code of ethics and a code of practice. I was there to oversee the process as it was developed. At the end of the day, we always thought about one thing, and one thing only, and that was what we were trying to do on behalf of the public. That is what professionals do. That is what professionals are about. There will be that kind of behaviour until the proper rules are set by statute, which is recommendation 1 of the report, a single individual federal statute, that would govern this profession and basically give it the direction and tools it would need to govern its members.
We all have problems in our ridings with ghost consultants who will steal and cheat, but we should give the profession the right tools and statutory rules to discipline non-members, such as sending out cease and desist orders, which other professions have. The legal profession has this tool. The medical profession has this tool. Dentists have this tool. All professions do. Engineers have this tool as well. A member mentioned, too, engineers, the largest professional association in Alberta, with 70,000-plus members, have this tool. Therefore, those who are not members of the profession cannot pretend to be. It is the job of professionals and the professional associations to tell the public what to watch for, such as whether people are dealing with a professional or not.
Here is where the problem exists with the RCIC as it currently exists and immigration consultants. It is really hard to tell whether one is dealing with someone who meets some reasonable standards of professionalism or someone who does not. A licence sometimes is just not enough when it is nicely framed, in French we call it encadré, on a nice piece of paper. However, it does not really convey that the person is a true professional and will have the organization's best interests in mind instead of its own financial interests. That is also important to take into consideration.
Some of the other recommendations proposed in the report talk about better coordination with other federal governing bodies. That is an important component. CBSA and RCMP have a role to play in all of this. Recommendation 21 states, “That the Government of Canada provide adequate, sustainable and targeted funding to CBSA to allow for an expanded ability to investigate and lay charges...”
Recommendations like recommendation 21 are perfectly reasonable. We should give CBSA the tools it needs to police the system. What more can be said? In our constituency offices, we all deal with situations where people have abused the system or individuals have lied on their applications, either the immigration consultants or the applicants themselves. We owe it to our constituents, ourselves, our staff, and constituency offices to concur in this report and vote in favour of the motion. I will be doing just that.