As a full-time Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and part-time journalist/opinion writer, I have been following New Canadian Media’s stories regarding immigration lawyers vs. immigration consultants with interest.
Writer Fabian Dawson’s Nov. 26 article quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA), who attempted to make the argument that immigration consultants should work under the supervision of lawyers.
I have to point out to lawyer Barbara Jo Caruso, that with legislation passed by the federal government creating the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), that ship has sailed. It is so far out to sea, in fact, that it should not even be on lawyers’ radars. The battle is over, and lawyers did not get what they wanted.
The follow-up article by Dawson and Fernando Arce on Dec.1 did a good job explaining the role of the new College and quoting both its CEO, John Murray, as well as the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC) CEO, Dory Jade. The headline, “‘We are not subordinate to lawyers,’ say immigration consultants,” sums it up nicely.
Here’s my take:
Lawyers trumpet the fact that they went to law school. How many courses on immigration did they take?
A lawyer in North Bay told me she took no courses on immigration in law school. That’s why she enlisted my assistance with a family court case with an immigration component. Of course, lawyers specializing in immigration law have taken courses — but how many?
I took seven with the University of British Columbia. With the new College, all new Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) will have to graduate from the Queen’s University program operated by its School of Law or from the University of Montreal for French-speaking RCICs.
Prior to my UBC experience, I was the executive director for eight years of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, an immigrant settlement agency, which also has an office in Timmins. I chaired the board of directors for three years after that. Back in the 1990s, I was chair of the board of a previous immigrant settlement agency for six years.
Yet, my immigration background is not as fulsome as that of many of my 9,500 RCIC colleagues.
I am the only RCIC practicing in North Bay, Ontario. There are no immigration lawyers in North Bay, and I have clients here who abandoned high-priced Toronto lawyers because they were not getting their calls returned or they felt they were being gouged.
In general, lawyers charge more than RCICs for the same service, and that’s why clients come to us.
I have a BA from Carleton University and an MA from Central Michigan in addition to my year-long certificate from UBC. Sometimes, I feel uneducated compared to many of my colleagues, some of whom have MBAs, PhDs, or were Chartered Accountants in their previous lives. Many previously worked with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
‘Get over it’
Ms. Caruso says lawyers have to keep up with changes in immigration law and case law. So do RCICs.
I also subscribe to Lexbase, a monthly newsletter compiled by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, that keeps us current. I read The Globe and Mail daily plus many other media sources, such as New Canadian Media. I read Andrew Griffith’s daily immigration blog. He is a former director-general with IRCC. His blog posts arrive while I am eating my breakfast.
I read the daily forum of emails by RCICs, operated by CAPIC, which is an invaluable source of information on cases and technical tips to survive the wonky online world of IRCC and its portals.
I have the third edition, and the second edition as well, of the excellent text by lawyers Chantal Desloges and Cathryn Sawicki — Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law, A Practitioner’s Handbook, published in 2021.
I have current bound copies of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
Our regulatory body, the College, requires that we take 16 hours of approved professional development sessions each year. I chalk up more hours than that, as do most of my colleagues.
All this is to say to lawyers: we don’t need you looking over our shoulders. The federal government has decided that isn’t going to happen, so get over it.
No one is listening
Ms. Caruso says the new College is just a name change. It’s far more than that, as Jade pointed out in the follow-up article. A major change is that it now has the power to go after unlicensed consultants, also known as ‘ghost consultants’, who plague the industry. These people are the vermin of our industry and operate mainly in foreign countries.
I have had my own experience with them. A scam outfit calling itself “Burlington Associates” with a phony website and Edmonton address stole my full name and RCIC identifier number and used it on their website, claiming I was an immigration lawyer working for them.
I received two phone calls from overseas skilled technical people who had lost thousands of dollars in the scam. They both had phony job interviews on a video app and were promised jobs that never materialized in Vancouver.
Since I called them out on my website, pointing out that the operation is a scam, I have had no further calls. Prior to that, I contacted the RCMP, Canada Border Services, and our former regulatory body — all to no avail.
When I alerted others on the CAPIC forum about what happened to me, I was surprised to hear the many respondents who said it has happened to them too.
The lawyers I have named in this article understand there is lots of immigration work to go around and RCICs are no threat to their livelihoods. They know RCICs cannot represent clients in court and they have that field to themselves.
The vocal minority of lawyers apparently wants to continue their fight. But no one is listening.
Don Curry is the President of Curry Consulting, which provides immigration solutions for rural and northern Canadian municipalities, and an NCM director (2022 - 23). He is also the Founding Executive Director of The North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, a multi-award winning immigrant settlement agency with offices in North Bay and Timmins. It is the lead agency for the Local Immigration Partnership project, the North Bay Newcomer Network and the Timmins Local Immigration Partnership.