Internal documents reveal how much consultants shaped the National Gallery

While most of the attention has been on McKinsey, reminder that other organizations are involved.

Given all the management and staff upheavals, hard to see the value for money in these consulting contracts. One also has the impression that Sasha Suda, the director who launched them, was “just visiting” until she got a more important gig in the USA, leaving the mess behind:

Consulting companies had profound influence on the National Gallery of Canada’s reimagining over the past few years, with senior management relying on hired guns to help craft the new identity of the country’s premier visual arts institution, documents released through access-to-information requests reveal.

The documents paint a picture of the extent to which two consulting companies – one headquartered in Vancouver and focused on diversity and inclusion, the other a California-based change management firm – shaped the gallery’s new focus, operations and culture.

The contracts began in the spring of 2020, shortly after Sasha Suda became director of the gallery (she left last summer to run the Philadelphia Museum of Art). Under Ms. Suda’s leadership, and under current interim director Angela Cassie, the gallery embarked on a reinvention intended to make the institution, its collection and its staff more diverse and inclusive.

Management viewed this as an overdue step toward restoring the gallery’s relevance and correcting its blinkered past. Current and former staff members and donors have criticized the project as well-intentioned but poorly executed, and they have said it left the institution in disarray.

In May, 2020, the gallery signed a contract with NOBL Collective, a change management consultancy based in California, for strategic planning work, at an initial cost of $95,000. As the scope of its work expanded, NOBL would eventually bill the gallery $632,500 over two-and-a-half years, making it the single biggest line item among the museum’s outside contractors during that time.

The documents, which were obtained by researcher Ken Rubin and shared with The Globe and Mail, include an initial proposal in which NOBL wrote that the gallery was “in the midst of a sea change” that represented “a moment of uncertainty but also of rebirth.”

“You have many of the right ingredients: a dedicated team, hungry for direction and empowerment; a rich history and story; a world-class collection; a new Director willing to do what it takes,” NOBL wrote. “We would be honoured to help your team make it happen.”

The documents detail a program of one-on-one interviews with senior management and other team members, as well as surveys and strategic planning sessions focused on topics such as “Sensing, Vision and Bet Making.”

Eventually, the scope of NOBL’s work became all-encompassing. The consultancy laid out plans and timelines for defining the museum’s values and crafting its “change narrative.” It said it would create working groups and synthesize for the gallery what it heard from them; communicate with the board of trustees, department heads and team leads; align blue-sky strategic ideas with budgets and staffing; even design and help to deliver the all-staff meetings in which the new vision would be shared.

The result was a strategic plan titled Transform Together. Unveiled in 2021, it is the spine on which the museum’s new direction rests.

“The Gallery’s strategic transformation is about how we can better develop, preserve and present our collection for the learning and enjoyment of generations to come,” said Douglas Chow, the gallery’s director of communications. NOBL “did not have the expertise required” to incorporate a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) approach, so NOBL recommended Elevate Inclusion Strategies as a subcontractor to its own work, he said, and the two jointly helped to craft the strategic plan.

Getting some specialized help with strategic development is fine, said Richard Powers, who teaches governance at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, but it should always be an institution’s own management that does the heavy lifting.

“It appears that management has handed off all the work to the consultants: tell us what we should do,” he said of the gallery. “Any consultant will never know as much as management – that is why management must be intimately involved in the development of the strategic plan.”

In August, 2020, Ms. Suda wrote a confidential memo explaining the gallery’s reasons for embarking on this work, and why it required sole-sourced contracts rather than the usual competitive bid process. When the pandemic struck, the gallery was forced to close and most employees shifted to working remotely, she wrote, and at the same time the gallery was affected by “various social movements that catapulted the necessity of diversity and inclusion review and reconciliation with BIPOC groups.”

The unusual pandemic circumstances and the “extremely sensitive nature of the subject matter” justified an exception to the standard procurement processes, Ms. Suda concluded. The following month, she wrote a virtually identical memo laying out the need to sole-source work from Elevate, which is based in Vancouver.

One year later, in September, 2021, Ms. Cassie – then vice-president of strategic transformation and inclusion at the gallery – wrote a more detailed confidential memo explaining the reasoning for an additional sole-sourced contract with Elevate.

Elevate had conducted an assessment of the gallery’s inclusion environment, and “significant differences in the level of knowledge and understanding amongst the team” became apparent, Ms. Cassie wrote. Among the key recommendations from Elevate was that the gallery remedy this. Because Elevate staff had already built a relationship with gallery employees, Ms. Cassie wrote, the company was “well positioned to create a safe and positive environment” for the ongoing work.

Mr. Powers said this process – with Elevate conducting an assessment of the gallery, then producing a report that effectively recommended further services provided by Elevate – appears odd.

“They are in a clear conflict of interest and the National Gallery should have gone to a competitive bid to avoid the conflict or the perception of a conflict,” he said. “Elevate may be the best company to do this type of work – and a competitive bid could have come to that conclusion.”

Asked for additional context on the sole-sourced contracts, Mr. Chow replied with sections of the internal memos on that topic. He added that the board was aware of the contracts. “The Elevate team had built that trust using a trauma informed approach and had the knowledge and expertise to carry on the next phases of work without requiring employees to retell stories of their trauma and racism experienced within the workplace to new people,” he said.

The gallery subsequently signed a contract with Elevate for $352,200. That fee included a retainer of $10,000 per month from September to February, 2022, for services including the development of a “JEDI working group,” meeting with gallery leadership or other consultants as needed, attending staff meetings and assisting with the onboarding of new staff. The hourly cost and hours of work covered by the retainer are redacted in the documents, because access-to-information laws permit public bodies to withhold those details about their private contractors.

Elevate’s contract also included a coaching program described as “a deep dive for senior leadership and management who wish to develop and practice critical inclusive leadership skills,” and the development and delivery of a suite of inclusive workplace training modules.

In June, 2021, the gallery again turned to NOBL, this time for a more targeted project that hinted at tensions behind the scenes. There had been near-total turnover among the gallery’s senior leadership since Ms. Suda’s arrival.

In its proposal, NOBL wrote that the gallery had evolved a great deal over the previous year, and now, with its new team members in place, it was time to focus on “engaging in productive, courageous conversations.”

“While conflict is a necessary part of our day to day existence on a team, both emotions and assumptions take the lead when we’re not paying attention,” NOBL wrote. “You’d like the team to improve their ability to separate the people from the problem and create space for learning for all involved.”

To that end, NOBL would design and deliver a four-hour team-building workshop for the seven members of the gallery’s senior management committee, at a cost of $15,000. The topics included conflict style, giving and receiving feedback and empathy perspective.

“Even though the session will be half a day, we’d request that SMC members clear their full day calendars to allow time to process conversations and bring their full presence to the session,” NOBL wrote to the gallery. “Development experiences should feel like an opportunity to slow down and set yourself up for success.”

Source: Internal documents reveal how much consultants shaped the National Gallery

How immigration dreams turned into nightmares

Another case of apparent consultant fraud:

Andres Medellin thought he had struck gold.

In 2021, Medellin says a  Vancouver immigration consultant pitched him and a room full of other Latin American workers on a wunderkind Canadian immigration program that  could allow anyone to legally remain and work in the country.

Instead, Medellin is back home in Mexico, his dreams of studying in Canada on hold and his immigration file full  of red flags that will cause future problems.

Medellin and dozens of other migrant  workers, mostly Mexicans, are suing that consultant, Liza Lucion,  alleging she collected thousands in fees to apply for a Canadian  immigration program that never existed.

The proposed class action  lawsuit against Lucion, which is not yet certified, alleges the  consultant’s actions deprived clients of their chance to apply for  other, legitimate ways of staying in the country.

The lawsuit has been filed  with the B.C. Supreme Court and Lucion has filed a statement of defence.  The next step is a hearing on whether the class action lawsuit can  proceed.

Some of the clients, like Medellin, have  since either chosen or been forced to leave. Lucion’s licence to work as  an immigration consultant has since been indefinitely suspended by the  College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants.

Lucion categorically denies the allegations against her, which have yet to be tested in a court of law.

In a statement sent by her lawyer, Lucion  said she “made her best efforts to honestly and in good faith provide  foreign nationals in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic with  information regarding the options available to maintain legal status in  Canada based on relevant government policies.”

She said complainants “likely misunderstood  what she told them and have been encouraged by others to make this  vicious attack on her business and reputation.”

Susanna Quail, co-counsel for the proposed  class action lawsuit against Lucion, says the case highlights deep flaws  in Canada’s immigration system.

The system is “so prone to exploitation and preying on vulnerable people,” Quail said.

Medellin says he met Lucion at a time of  uncertainly. He arrived in Vancouver in August 2019 on a visitor visa.  Medellin had visited the city when he was 15 and was staying with  friends in town.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic began. Medellin  said he had apprehensions about returning home, fearful he would spread  the virus to his mother and family. “I considered myself a visitor that  was stranded in Canada,” Medellin said in a phone interview from Mexico  City.

Over time, Medellin said, he began working  construction jobs to make ends meet, getting paid in cash. He knew it  was illegal, he said, and felt ashamed for going around the law.

“I know I was doing that illegally. I don’t  want people in Canada to get me wrong. We are proud of working very  hard, but shameful at the same time because of being illegal. It’s a  sentiment that is not very easy to communicate,” Medellin said. “We feel  ashamed because we really respect the country. It could sound a little  contradictory.”

Medellin said a job site supervisor  recommended he see Lucion. He remembers sitting in the waiting room of  her consulting firm with between 10 and 12 other people, mostly Latin  American. He said they received a presentation — translated by an  interpreter into Spanish — about a new program, which Lucion said had  been opened to all migrants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic  regardless of their legal status in the country. Medellin said Lucion  told them she had special knowledge of the program, which is why it was  not publicly advertised.

In her filed court response,  Lucion said those meetings happened but argued she had only promoted  existing and legitimate immigration programs into Canada. In the chaos  of the early COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government had implemented  policy changes aimed at helping migrant workers stay in the country,  including temporary measures giving migrant workers more time to restore  temporary residence status. Her statement of defence says she had an  “honestly held belief” that applicants would be legally eligible for the  programs they applied for.

Medellin said Lucion told the crowd the  process cost $7,000 — half to start, and the other half upon completion.  He says she urged them to apply soon, since spots were limited.

Medellin was suspicious but desperate. He  had a dream of getting legal status in Canada and eventually going to  graduate school at the University of British Columbia to study art  history. “My impression was, if something good comes out from this, I do  not want to be out of it,” Medellin said.

He described himself as holding out the money with one hand while using the other to cover his eyes and turn his head away.

Quail says the roughly 50 other  migrant workers who have come forward describe a similar pattern: an  information session of eight to 12 people, a request for cash, then  silence.

“For some people, it appears she took their  money and did nothing. And then for some people she took their money  and did other kinds of applications they weren’t actually eligible for,”  Quail said.

Medellin alleges Lucion had promised she  could secure a visa in as little as two weeks. But his messages to her  went largely unanswered.

At one point, he said Lucion told him she  could not explain the delay because he did not speak English, a language  he commanded well enough to conduct a 45-minute interview with The  Tyee.

Concerns about the promises began to spread  through the Mexican community in the Lower Mainland. Medellin said he  hosted information sessions with workers in Stanley Park and the issue  was discussed on social media.

Court filings show Lucion sued two separate  people she alleged had defamed her in a Facebook group. She also sued  three other people after a tense office meeting, where one of the  defendants claimed Lucion had threatened to have the three of them  deported. None of those cases appear to have moved forward in the court  system beyond statements of defence.

It is not the first time Lucion took court  action against a critic. In 2017, she sued a fellow member of a Filipino  volleyball team for, among other things, “purposely hitting the ball  aiming to the plaintiff.”

Word about the allegations reached Berenice  Díaz Ceballos, Mexico’s consul general in Vancouver, who said the  consulate began to direct affected migrants towards Quail’s legal team.

“Some had to leave Canada, because there  were no options and they were in a risky situation. They didn’t have  status anymore,” Ceballos said in a November interview. She worries some  people may not know about the lawsuit.

“Here you are deciding or obstructing the  opportunities of real people, of real families,” Ceballos said. “When  humans are involved, it’s a very sensitive issue.”

Quail believes the case highlights  longstanding problems with the Canadian immigration system that place  desperate, vulnerable workers at risk.

Many economic migrant workers coming to the  country are on strict closed permits, allowing them to work only for a  specific employer in a specific location at a specific time. Getting an  open work permit is considerably more difficult.

“At each step of this process, we have  people who are very vulnerable to being scammed by consultants, because  people are really desperate for a way to get status in Canada. They hear  it and they want to believe it. If you can get status in Canada, it’s  life-changing,” Quail said.

Immigration consultants in Canada do have a  regulatory college. In July, its disciplinary council passed a decision  to indefinitely suspend Lucion’s right to practise after it received 11  complaints about her in the span of two years. But Quail believes  oversight of consultants is lax compared to other professions, like lawyers.

On the other hand, expectations of would-be immigrants are strict.

Amanda Aziz is Quail’s co-counsel on the  lawsuit and a lawyer at the Migrant Workers Centre. She says many of her  clients are often stuck untangling themselves from legal trouble after  an issue with an immigration application or being misrepresented by a  consultant.

“For the most part, people aren’t coming to  Canada and enjoying living here without status and just being flagrant  about the immigration system,” Aziz said. “For the most part, people are  trying very hard to make sure their status is legal, working very hard  to make sure they can get their next status. We make it difficult, and  when a mistake is made, we make it very hard for them to fix.”

In October 2021, months after he met Liza  Lucion, Medellin got a visit from immigration officials. He was not  deported, he said, but was told he had to leave the country, an order he  complied with. He is now back in Mexico City. He is currently appealing  a rejected application for a student visa in Canada. He hopes the  lawsuit, if it is certified and successful, will help clear his name  with Canada’s immigration officials.

“We know that we could get money out of the  class action, but we’re not really concerned about this… Money is not  important to us,” Medellin said. “We want justice.”

Source: How immigration dreams turned into nightmares

The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Would be nice to have more data rather than just examples of advertising by immigration consultants. That being said, not surprising that alternate and backdoor pathways emerge:

In order to circumvent strict norms put in place by the United States, rich Chinese people are on the lookout for easier alternatives to acquire the US citizenship.

They have recently discovered that obtaining Turkish citizenship first would make it easier for them to acquire US citizenship.

Chinese websites and social media platforms are flooded with advertisements for obtaining Turkish citizenship.

These advertisements underline that the alternate way to obtain US Citizenship is by first obtaining Turkish citizenship which can be acquired through an investment of at least USD$250,000 in property.

The advertisements emphasise that it is possible to go to America and other western countries easily after obtaining Turkish citizenship.

The tagline of ads reads, “if you buy real estate, all your family members get their passports as gifts.”

As a result of China’s strained relations with the USA and many European countries in recent years, it has become difficult for Chinese citizens to obtain a residence permit in Western countries.

One Chinese real estate consultancy firms that deals with real estate sales from Turkey, emphasises in one of its advertisements that for Turkish citizenship, “Britain is the best springboard for settling in developed countries, such as the USA.”

The expressions used in the advertisements for Turkish citizenship published in China are as follows: “AFTER YOU BUY THIS, YOU CAN GO TO THE USA.”

The advertisements highlight the features of the Turkish passport: It can only be earned by buying a house for USD$250,000.

• It is a cheap and simple process, and it has two great advantages: It is the best springboard to go as an immigrant to developed countries such as the UK and the USA. After obtaining a Turkish passport, you can go to the USA as an immigrant with an E2 investor ID.

• E2 is a visa issued by the USA only to countries with mutual trade partnerships. After you get Turkish Citizenship, you can commute to and from the USA, you can live in the USA. Your spouse can work in the USA. Your children can study in American schools.

• Turkey is a country that has a trade partnership with the US. The E2 visa is the country’s most issued visa. It can take 500-600 people every year.

• If you get a Turkish passport, you can go to England with a business visa. The UK government allows Turkish citizens to engage in business. A 1-year commercial visa can be obtained on the first application. After five years, the right to stay in the UK indefinitely can be earned. After getting a business visa from the UK, your children can study in the UK. They can study for free in public schools.

• You can earn a Turkish passport with very simple transactions, just by buying a house. You don’t need to go yourself. If you buy real estate for 1.600 million yuan (USD$250,000), all your family members will be given passports. It does not ask for any documents. You can complete the transactions without leaving home.

It is recalled that a Turkish passport guarantees visa free travel to over 100 countries. You can get an E2 visa to the US with it.

Turkey has provision vide, in which a foreigner can obtain Turkish nationality on the basis of certain amount of investment in real estate, capital investment, by way of business generating employment for Turkish nationals, or by investing in Treasury bonds or any type of government loan instrument.

In 2018, with a legal regulation, the lower limit of real estate investment, which is one of the options for citizens of other countries to obtain Turkish citizenship, had been reduced from USD$1 million to USD$250,000.

However on January 06, 2022, the regulation on the ‘Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law’ was amended and the investment values were enhanced.

The Turkish government facilitated the regulation for foreigners to acquire Turkish citizenship in a bid to support the Turkish lira.

However, China is exploiting this provision of Turkey, whereby Chinese citizens are purchasing real estate in Turkey or making a fixed capital investment to obtain Turkish citizenship.

This is in order to bypass the difficulty its citizens face in obtaining the residence permit in western countries.

Source: The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Owners of 30 immigration firms in Chandigarh booked

At one point, the Canadian consulate had a “wall of shame” of fraud examples ….

Two days after the UT police booked owners of 29 immigration consultancy companies for not providing their information to the Police Department, the owners of 30 more such companies operating from Sector 17 and 22 have been booked for the same offence.

As per the District Magistrate’s orders, the immigration consultancy companies are supposed to provide information about the company and their antecedents to the police. The list of these companies is then uploaded on the Chandigarh Police website to assist people.

A police official said a majority of the companies operating from the city had not provided information to the police following which a check was being conducted and action being taken against erring company owners.

“We advise people to choose among the consultants whose names are mentioned in the list as in case the consultant commits a fraud, the police can easily track them,” said an official.

Meanwhile, an investigation has been initiated into the cases at the Sector 17 police station.

Source: Owners of 30 immigration firms in Chandigarh booked

Curry: Sorry, lawyers, that ship has sailed [re consultants]

Of note:

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:

More education?

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.


Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Good overview by one of the immigration law firms:

We will see how well the new regime works and whether it results in better practices and more professional immigration consultants:

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act has come into force, representing another step on the way to forming a new self-regulating body for immigration consultants. 

The act provides the framework for the creation of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), the body replacing the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).

The act, which came into force on Thursday, November 26, 2020, but was first tabled in 2019, will see the introduction of a new licensing regime and a new code of professional conduct for immigration consultants.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the CICC will be subject to ‘significant government oversight’.

The government will establish the code of conduct, set the composition of the College Board of Directors, and appoint up to a majority of directors, IRCC says.

“We’re taking decisive action to hold immigration and citizenship consultants to account by improving oversight and increasing accountability to protect both the public and consultants in good standing from dishonest consultants who are taking advantage of vulnerable people,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act

1.  Creates a licensing regime for immigration and citizenship consultants and requires that licensees comply with a code of professional conduct established by the minister, through regulations to be tabled by the government.

2. Authorizes the College’s Complaints Committee to conduct investigations into a licensee’s conduct and activities.

3. Authorizes the College’s Discipline Committee to take or require action if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or was incompetent.

4. Prohibits persons who are not licensees from using certain titles and representing themselves to be licensees and provides that the College may seek an injunction for the contravention of those prohibitions.

5. Gives the immigration minister the authority to determine the number of directors on the board of directors and to require the Board to do anything that is advisable to carry out the purposes of that Act.

6. Gives the new regulatory body to hear complaints regarding licensed members under the former regulatory body (ICCRC).

7. Fines doubled for consultants found to be violating rules.

In reality, the formation of the CICC represents a missed opportunity for the federal government to bring the regulation of immigration consultants directly under its remit. Self-regulatory bodies like the ICCRC and its predecessors have failed to the required job.

Ottawa should follow the example of Quebec, which regulates immigration consultants within the provincial government Ministry of Immigration. There is an established infrastructure that successfully regulates immigration consultants, without the repetitive problems faced by ICCRC and its predecessor.

The new act comes after years of investigations and reports citing abuse and violations by licensed and unlicensed consultants in the Canadian immigration industry.

The regulation of the immigration consultancy industry has long been a source of controversy, even before a Standing Committee report in 2017.

That report called for action in three main areas:

  1. The legislative framework for the body responsible for governing immigration and citizenship consultants.
  2. Investigations and enforcement concerning the offense of practicing while not authorized and other offences.
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada procedures for processing applications and for communicating with clients and with prospective applicants.

Previously there have been a number of damning reports into the conduct of the existing ICCRC, exposing an unprofessional organization beset with infighting and poor practices.

An overwhelming concern is that unregulated ‘ghost’ consultants who operate in Canada and overseas without sanction.

The previous legal framework did not enable ICCRC to police unlicensed consultants inside Canada or abroad.  

This left the task for CBSA and RCMP, as well as the federal government, to try and address this problem. A number of high-profile fraud cases have thus made their way into the Canadian legal system.

The advice for immigration candidates is to exercise caution when hiring an immigration consultant.

Candidates who wish to receive representation are encouraged to hire a qualified immigration lawyer, monitored by a provincial law society.

Source: Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Queen’s launching new program to train immigration and citizenship consultants

Interesting back and forth between the lawyers and academics quoted. Although I am not a great fan of consultants compared to lawyers, given the history of poor and, in some cases, fraudulent representation, the program is professionally designed given the people involved:

On Aug. 1, Queen’s University will launch a graduate diploma in immigration and citizenship law. The program will be the only English-language educational pathway to becoming a regulated immigration consultant.

Queen’s developed the program and won a competitive bid with immigration consulting’s national regulator and will be the sole accredited English provider of the program.

Ravi Jain, national chair of the Canadian Bar Association Immigration Law Section, says the program should not exist, arguing it lends credibility to an industry that has been marred by incompetence and misconduct since its inception.

“By continuing to facilitate immigration consultants to be engaged in the practice of immigration law, it does it does actual Queen’s law JD students a disservice,” says Jain, who is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in immigration law and is partner at Green and Spiegel LLP, in Toronto.

“This program is a terrible idea. Graduates will claim that they have ‘gone to law school.’ The public will be even further confused. Most think that they are hiring lawyers when they hire immigration consultants,” says Jain. “Immigration consultants have a horrific history in Canada.”

Queen’s Law Dean Mark Walters says the problems known in the industry is one of the reasons his school launched the program.

“We all appreciate that at present, the profession of immigration consultant is not well regulated, and that there have been abuses in the system and concerns legitimately raised. And that’s, in fact, why we’re involved,” Walters says.

Associate Professor at Queen’s Law and expert in immigration and refugee law Sharry Aiken says the federal government decided long ago that there was a place in the immigration administrative process for consultants.

“It’s a profession that’s here to stay. And the key is to ensure that it’s properly regulated and that the people in that profession are professionals and trained as such,” she says. “It’s a massive system and non-lawyers can perform a really important role to ensuring that vulnerable people get proper advice and assistance as they work their way through elaborate administrative system.”

The program at Queen’s comes after the regulation of immigration consultants has gone through three different stages. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada case Law Society of British Columbia v. Mangat ruled it was not a breach of the Legal Profession Act for non-lawyer consultants to represent people in immigration hearings in B.C. Since then, the door has been open for the non-lawyer consultants to serve clients looking to relocate to Canada.

The first governing body — the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants — eventually attracted a parliamentary review in 2010 due to lack of policing and professional and ethical standards. The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council followed but problems persisted, and another parliamentary review took place in 2017. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration produced a report: “Starting Again: Improving Government Oversight of Immigration Consultants.” The report showed misconduct was still prevalent, with international students, live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers being the most vulnerable to abuse. The committee’s witnesses repeatedly accused the ICCRC of failing to deal with unauthorized practitioners, known as ghost consultants.

The 2017 report produced the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, which turned the ICCRC into a new self-regulatory College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants — instituting a licensing regime, code of conduct, complaints and discipline committees and putting the board of directors under the guidance of the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

While the argument in favour of including consultants in the immigration system involves the need to increase access to justice, Jain says that the immigration bar is uniquely accessible to the public they serve. Jain calls the access to justice argument “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I would ask the dean and others to point me to evidence that there are problems with respect to immigrants and refugees retaining lawyers,” Jain says. “The average income of an immigration lawyer is about $75,000. People go into it out of humanitarian instinct and there’s lots of pro bono work and low-bono work where there are very low fees. So, there’s no evidence of an access problem. None, whatsoever.”

He adds that the issue raises the question of why society deems immigrants and refugees, who are particularly vulnerable, to not need the help of a trained lawyer.

“Why should immigrants and refugees be told that they don’t need a proper lawyer? It’s only the marginalized and the racialized that are told that, in our society. It’s never the other areas of law. And so, I just find that argument to be highly problematic.”

Aiken says that many other areas of law also use paralegals and consultants play “a very important role in access to justice for vulnerable communities.” She adds that the new iteration of the regulatory body, past forms of which have been “plagued with structural deficits” has made positive changes, including an expanded regulatory authority to discipline members and other new enforcement powers.

Before setting up the Queen’s program, Aiken established a National Advisory Committee, which included members of the immigration bar including past chair of the Canadian Bar Association national section for Citizenship and Immigration Robin Seligman and Lobat Sadrehashemi past president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Source: Queen’s launching new program to train immigration and citizenship consultants

Arrest of immigration consultant sparks questions about why regulator didn’t act sooner

Valid questions and it remains to be seen whether the reforms to the ICCRC will prove effective or not:

Artem Djukic’s paralegal licence was revoked in April 2016 when he admitted to “misappropriating” $900,000 from two former clients of his immigration consulting business.

At the time, Djukic, 55, was facing 10 outstanding complaints related to his work as an immigration consultant and was barred from representing asylum seekers at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)

But four months later, without resolving the complaints, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) said Djukic could continue working as a consultant so long as he complied with a strict supervisory system.

According to the IRB, this was to include financial audits, monthly reporting requirements and open access to his books.

Based on these assurances, the IRB lifted its restrictions against Djukic and allowed him to again represent claimants at the board.

But ICCRC now tells Global News it did not have the authority it needed to properly monitor and investigate Djukic during this supervisory period.

It also alleges that over the past decade, Djukic, while running Soko Immigration Consulting Service, improperly took roughly $155,000 from six clients, encouraged dishonest and illegal conduct, and, in at least one case, provided advice that led to a client being deported.

And much of this alleged misconduct occurred while he was under the regulator’s supervision, according to a January decision from ICCRC that revoked Djukic’s licence to practice as a consultant,

Now, lawyers such as Darcy Merkur and Ravi Jain, chair of the immigration law section of the Canadian Bar Association, are asking whether the council shares any responsibility for Djukic’s alleged wrongdoing while under its supervision.

“I’m not impressed with their replies around how they supervised him,” Jain said. “I don’t think they did anything at all.”

Djukic arrested, charged with fraud

Djukic was arrested in January by Peel Regional Police and charged with defrauding the public in connection with an alleged $95,000 immigration scam.

The council denies it shares any blame for Djukic’s alleged actions, including while he was under its supervision, adding that recent decisions made against him show he is “ungovernable.”

They also say revoking Djukic’s licence in January and ordering him to repay the money he allegedly took is proof that changes to its complaints process over the past two years have worked. These include going from four to 23 full-time complaints investigators, hiring more experienced senior staff and prioritizing the most serious cases.

Djukic did not appear at the hearing when his licence was revoked and did not provide a defence against any of the allegations.

“Responsibility for his egregious behaviour and unprofessional conduct is his alone,” said ICCRC spokesperson Christopher May.

John Murray, ICCRC’s president and CEO, also says the regulator did its best to discipline Djukic in the past based on the information it had at the time.

But he acknowledged that, until very recently, the council’s discipline committee lacked the training and expertise it needed to deal with complex cases, adding that if the past complaints against Djukic were made today, they would be handled quicker and more effectively.

Murray also thinks the regulator was “set up to fail” by the government because it wasn’t given the same powers to investigate and monitor its members that other regulators were given, such as provincial law societies or colleges of physicians.

This lack of authority, Murray said, made it impossible for the council to protect the public and go after individuals such as Djukic.

“It’s fair to say that prior to 2018, the council did not have an efficient complaints and discipline process,” Murray said.

But ICCRC has always had the power to suspend or revoke a consultant’s licence due to misconduct.

Still, in 2017, when Djukic was found to have committed eight breaches of the council’s code of conduct, its discipline committee decided to keep him under supervision rather than revoke or suspend his licence.

Neither May nor Murray would explain why ICCRC decided to keep Djukic under supervision in 2017, although the ruling said he agreed to pay back the money he’d improperly taken.

This decision was made less than a year after the Law Society of Ontario revoked Djukic’s paralegal licence for admitting to “misappropriating” roughly $900,000 from two former immigration clients and using the funds for his own personal gain.

The law society ruling said Djukic showed no remorse for his “devastating” actions.

Refugee claimant felt ‘used’

Mirela Todorovic, her husband and two children hired Djukic in 2014.

Todorovic says Djukic guaranteed their refugee claim — based on fears of persecution for their Roma heritage — would be successful because he had “connections” and because he knew all the adjudicators at the IRB.

Djukic encouraged them to pay cash and didn’t provide a receipt, she said. The family says they agreed to pay Djukic $6,000 for his services, including representing them at the IRB, translating documents and preparing them for their hearing.

But other than processing their work and study permits, he did nothing for their asylum case, she said.

Todorovic wonders why ICCRC — knowing what it knew about Djukic’s past behavior and given his long history of complaints — didn’t revoke his licence sooner.

“Half of it was their fault,” Todorovic said. “Why didn’t they stop him?”

Pending changes to regulator

Djukic was the subject of at least 30 complaints between 2011 and 2018 while working as an immigration consultant. Sixteen of these complaints, including the six that led to his licence being revoked, resulted in disciplinary action, May said.

May did not provide information on the number of complaints made against Djukic in the 19 years he claims to have worked as a consultant before the council was created in 2011.

ICCRC says one of the reasons Djukic was able to engage in alleged wrongdoing while under its supervision is because it lacked the authority to properly investigate consultants.

But this will soon change, Murray said.

Legislation passed by the government last April — which will see ICCRC transition to a self-governing “college” similar to provincial law societies — provides enhanced protections for the public.

The legislation will give the college greater investigatory powers, such as the ability to compel consultants to provide testimony and evidence, as well as the legal authority to enter and search immigration consulting offices without obtaining a warrant.

It will also allow investigators to take action against former consultants and to work with law enforcement officials from other countries to go after alleged wrongdoing abroad.

But Jain says it’s not only about complaints. He thinks the requirements for becoming a consultant are insufficient to practice law, especially when appearing before the IRB..

The solution is for the government to require all immigration consultants to work under the supervision of a lawyer, Jain said, such as in the United States, where the practice of law is limited to lawyers.

“Criminal lawyers would be shocked if all of a sudden we said, look, you don’t need a law degree to practice criminal law,” Jain said.

The IRB, meanwhile, has called refugee and immigration law one of the most complicated areas of law.

Paul Aterman, a former head of the board’s immigration division, testified before Parliament in 2017 saying there’s a “big distinction” between the type of work done at the IRB — where representatives must examine and cross-examine witnesses, develop complex legal strategies and argue cases persuasively — versus helping would-be immigrants fill out forms.

But May believes consultants are qualified to appear before the board and that it’s unnecessary for them to be supervised by lawyers, adding that the government agrees with both of these points or it would have changed the rules when it passed its new legislation last year.

May also says the vast majority of consultants conduct themselves professionally, that most complaints the council receives are targeted toward a small group of problematic consultants and that once the new rules are in place, ICCRC will be able to go after these cases more aggressively.

The council is also strengthening its educational requirements by developing a post-graduate program for certification, creating a compensation fund for victimized clients and developing more stringent standards for consultants who appear before the IRB.


Up to a quarter of Russian immigrants to Israel may have left after receiving passports

“Citizens of convenience:”

Thousands of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union may have come only to receive an Israeli passport before moving back abroad.

The Hebrew weekly Makor Rishon reported that a cottage industry of companies promising expedited Israeli citizenship, and the passport that comes with it, have sprung up in Russia since the passage of a law allowing new immigrants to receive the travel document within the first three months of their aliyah.

For many in the post-Soviet world, an Israeli passport is considered as desirable as a European Union passport is to Israelis. Russian fixers have started advertising that they can help prospective “olim” obtain “Israeli citizenship within two days” for a cost of thousands of euros.

Under certain circumstances, the paper reported, the three-month period can be shortened to as little as a day, and some immigrants have even been able to receive their passports without having to leave Ben Gurion International Airport.

Based on data from Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, Makor Rishon estimated that approximately 8,500 emigres from the former FSU have come just for the passport before immediately leaving the country. One Jewish Agency official estimated that about 25 percent of the immigrants came for a passport and “left the country immediately after receiving it.”

Approximately 10,500 Russians and 6,400 Ukrainians made aliyah in 2018, which was the first year that the majority of new immigrants were not considered Jewish under halacha, or Jewish religious law.

Source: Up to a quarter of Russian immigrants to Israel may have left after receiving passports

Immigration consultant regulator to turn into new body under budget bill

Not convinced that this will address all the problems with the previous body:

The head of Canada’s current regulator for immigration consultants says his organization is set to reform as a new, industry-managed oversight body now being proposed by the Liberal government.

“That’s our intention,” John Murray, president and CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), told iPolitics. “Our preliminary view at this point is, of course, we would.”

The decision to transition will have to come up for a vote among ICCRC’s members. Murray said anecdotally, he’s heard licensed immigration consultants would be in favour of the new college.

As a way to crack down on unscrupulous immigration consultants, the Liberals proposed in its budget bill tabled on April 8 to create the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, which will bring regulation of the practice in similar line with other professions including accountants.

The ICCRC, which has long been criticized as ineffective in tackling unethical consultants that exploit new immigrants, will be able to transition to the college under the new rules. The bill also states if that doesn’t occur, the proposed college will be established as a new corporation.

The legislative changes will also provide the college injunction power to go after unlicensed practitioners, often known as “ghost” consultants, for violations. The new rules will also require licensees to comply with a code of professional conduct established by the federal immigration minister.

Murray said he supports the Liberal government’s move for statutory authority to regulate immigration consultants, which he believes will be able to resolve some of the problems that have long plagued his organization.

“Right now, our bylaws give us authority to investigate our members and compel them to appear before tribunals,” he said. “But we don’t have the authority to bring in witnesses who are not members or obtain documents and other information from third parties who are not members.”

He said the proposed powers would allow for more authority to compel violators to pay fines.

“It’s one thing to make a decision that involves a financial penalty. It’s quite another to try to collect that when they’re no longer a member,” he said.

But critics say regulation should be handled directly by the government given the precarious status of many victims of bad consultants.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan told iPolitics earlier this month that the new college amounted to little more than a name change, and lacked provisions effectively protecting victims who risk being deported if they come forward with a complaint.

“They need some sort of protection for them to speak out and that the process won’t be turned around and used against them when seeking permanent resident status,” she said.

Murray said an issue right now is when ghost consultants are identified by ICCRC, they are referred to the Canadian Border Services Agency, the body tasked with deporting people without status.

But he said since the new regulatory body will be able to investigate unlicensed consultants, the process would not have to involve the CBSA.

Murray said ICCRC will have to work with the government going ahead to hammer out the details of what new regulations would look like.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Shannon Ker said Ottawa will be working closely with ICCRC on transition plans while limiting disruption to licensed consultants and their clients.

She said whether ICCRC transitions into the new college, existing members will become members of the new regulatory body. She noted transitional provisions are found in the budget bill, including the continuance of the disciplinary committee.

“For both scenarios, there are provisions to ensure that the regulation of the profession is as seamless as possible,” Ker wrote by email.

She also said the $52 million found in the budget to increase protection of immigration won’t go to the new college, which will be self-funded through membership fees.

Murray said he hopes the budget bill can be tweaked to allow the new college power to take over abandoned or closed down consultancy practices, as well as to allow its own disciplinary committee to set its own fines.

Source: Immigration consultant regulator to turn into new body under budget bill