Summer Musings – Part I
Say what you will about our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, just don’t call Jason Kenny lazy. It has been less than two months since his Conservative Party won a majority government and in that short time he has made a number of game-changing pronouncements. Two of these appear below along with my comments. More will follow in next month’s blog.
Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants
Legislation came into force on June 30, 2011 making it illegal for anyone to operate as an unauthorized representative, for a fee, at any stage of a Canadian immigration application or proceeding. Authorized representatives must be a member in good standing of a provincial bar (a licensed lawyer), a Quebec notary, or the government body for immigration consultants as designated by the Minister of Immigration. The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) is the new body that the Minister has designated for this purpose. Unauthorized representatives who accept a fee for Canadian immigration services are liable, on conviction, to a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years. Applicants who pay an unauthorized representative and fail to disclose this information to the Canadian Government may have their applications returned or refused.
This legislation is clearly meant to educate consumers about the fact that there are many unscrupulous “ghost” consultants out there and that ultimately the applicant is responsible for choosing a properly authorized representative. In addition, the Government had lost confidence in the ability of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) to regulate the activities of its members and so it was replaced under the new law. It remains to be seen whether the newly designated body, ICCRC, has any more luck in reining in its members. Personally, I have my doubts.
Revoking Fraudulent Citizenship Status
Last week Mr. Kenny confirmed that as many as 1,800 Canadians could be stripped of their citizenship because they were allegedly obtained through fraud. This follows a three-year joint investigation carried out by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the police. Notice of the Government’s intention to revoke citizenship is being sent to each of the accused individuals and they will have 30 days to file a contestation in Federal Court.
The reality is that some foreign nationals do not want to live in Canada but desire a Canadian passport so they can hop on a plane and come to Canada when all hell breaks loose in their country of residence. To their chagrin, Canada requires three years of residency to qualify for citizenship and it often happens that these Canadian citizens of convenience use fraudulent means to show they have been living in Canada when they have not. To boot, they don’t pay taxes, but consume our social benefits.
The knee-jerk reaction here is to say “good riddance to bad rubbish”. While this response is understandable we should be mindful that the revocation of citizenship status is about as serious as it gets and as a result our government should proceed with caution. This issue has complexities.
What happens to the minor children who obtained their Canadian citizenship through the fraudulent actions of their father? Do the sins of the father extend to them even if they are living in Canada? It doesn’t seem fair. In fact, it would be downright un-Canadian.
The Minister has indicated that these alleged fraudsters hired crooked consultants to obtain false proof of Canadian residency so as to qualify for citizenship. But suppose this wasn’t the case. Let’s say that instead of hiring crooked consultants these misguided citizens worked with or relied on the advice of a Canadian financial institution’s agent or a lawyer at a top-tier law firm. If you think that can’t happen you would be wrong. Not so many years ago, a lawyer with one of Canada’s most distinguished law firms was advising wealthy clients from Hong Kong on how to gain Canadian citizenship without having to spend much time in Canada. The scheme was somehow uncovered and as I recall, the lawyer involved took his own life before all the details of his mandate became known. Could his clients have been acting on what they thought was sound advice? Who knows? The point is that prudence is called for and all Canadians deserve the full benefit of any doubt before their nationality is taken away.
Give Mr. Kenney credit. He is doing his best to put right a murky area of his domain. His predecessors, both Liberal and Conservative, chose to look the other way even though most everyone in the immigration field suspected this kind of cheating was taking place. As a result, since 1977 only 63 individuals have lost their citizenship status in this manner. Better late than never.