OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/23/11 -- Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney welcomed today the final passage of legislation to crack down on crooked immigration consultants.
Bill C-35, originally introduced as the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act, has now received Royal Assent and is expected to come into force in the coming months.
"Once in force, this legislation will make it an offence for anyone other than an authorized immigration consultant, lawyer, other representative or authorized entity to conduct business at any stage of an application or proceeding," said Minister Kenney. "We are targeting undeclared "ghost" consultants as well as other unscrupulous immigration representatives who are engaging in unacceptable activity."
The Act strengthens the rules governing those who charge a fee for immigration advice or representation; closes certain loopholes; increases penalties for unauthorized representation; and allows for more government oversight in order to improve the way in which immigration consultants are regulated.
"Crooked immigration consultants pose a threat not only to their victims, but also to the integrity of our immigration system," said Minister Kenney. "This new legislation will help us protect people wanting to immigrate to or stay in Canada, as well as the integrity of Canada's immigration system."
In response to issues raised by stakeholders and members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, amendments to the Bill were made during the Committee's study of Bill C-35. Among key amendments are measures to:
-- Double maximum fines for the offence of providing unauthorized immigration advice from $50,000 to $100,000 and summary convictions from $10,000 to $20,000; -- Amend the offence provision to capture both direct and indirect representation and advice; and -- Recognize paralegals regulated by a Law Society as being exempted from prohibition on providing representation and advice.
Once in force, the Act will impose penalties on unauthorized representatives who provide, or offer to provide, advice or representation for a fee, at any stage of an immigration application of proceeding. This includes the period before a proceeding begins or an application is submitted. In addition, the legislation authorizes the disclosure of information on the ethical or professional conduct of an immigration consultant to those responsible for governing or investigating that conduct.
Bill C-35 received Royal Assent this afternoon after it was approved in the Senate on March 21, 2011. It was unanimously adopted at third reading in the House of Commons on December 7, 2010, after being introduced on June 8th.
This process is part of a broader strategy to protect people wanting to immigrate to or stay in Canada from immigration fraud.
Minister Kenney raised the issue of immigration consultant fraud in meetings with officials in China, India and the Philippines last fall and more recently in Pakistan. He has urged those governments to protect their citizens from exploitation and abuse by crooked immigration consultants.