Immigration Scope of Practice Update

Photo: Courtesy Andrea Sesum

Photo: Courtesy Andrea Sesum

Contributor Andrea Sesum updates Paralegal SCOPE readers on proposed changes to the scope of practice:

The Licensed Paralegal Association, along with the Paralegal Society of Ontario, is taking the issue of Immigration scope of practice to the Law Society of Upper Canada, April 29. Our united Motion may have an impact on the 4,500 current practising Ontario Paralegals, as well as those preparing to enter the profession.

The argument that will be presented to the LSUC Committee concerns the current scope of paralegal practice relating to By-Law 4, section 6 (2) (iv) and specifically the current scope of Immigration practice. There has been a lot of controversy, confusion and ambiguity throughout the profession regarding the definition of the outdated (2011) Paralegal By-Law number 4.

Currently, Paralegals are authorized to perform work before an Immigration and Refugee Board, including the following:

    1. Refugee Protection Division (RPD) – This is the division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) that hears claims for refugee protection made in Canada and decides whether to accept them.
    2. Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) – The Division considers appeals against decisions of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) to allow or reject claims for refugee protection.
    3. Immigration Division (ID) – The Immigration Division conducts admissibility hearings for certain categories of people believed to be inadmissible to, or removable from, Canada under the law. It also conducts detention reviews for most persons being detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
    4. Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) – The Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) hears and decides appeals on immigration matters, such as appeals from refused sponsorship applications and from Removal Orders.

June 2011 marked major changes to the Federal legislation, when Jason Kenney’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada amendments were passed with Bill C-35, originally called “The Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act.”

The amendments included paralegals as “authorized representatives” before Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), in addition to the current scope of permissible paralegal practice of Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

This change is outlined in s.91(2)(b) of Bill-C35. Paralegals, lawyers, ICCRC members and Notaries du Quebec are classified as “(b) any other member in good standing of a law society of a province or the Chambre des notaires du Québec including a paralegal.”

In addition, changes in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) last December mean that an Inland Refugee Claimant must first apply for Refugee Status by submitting appropriate applications to the designated CIC office. If the officer decides that a claimant is eligible, the applicant is given an IRB Hearing date.

Are we then to tell our clients that, as paralegals, we cannot assist them in making an initial refugee claim before CIC for the purposes of it being referred to IRB and are only able to represent them at the actual hearing and before IRB? This is equivalent to saying: “I cannot assist you with the preparation, drafting and submission of your Plaintiff’s claim, but I can represent you during your trial.”

This overlap between CIC and IRB is highly prejudicial to paralegals and it goes against the Competition Act. If I were a potential client, I would be very reluctant to hire a paralegal; the scope is confusing and I would rather opt for a lawyer or an ICCRC member who could handle my file from the beginning.

The issue lies with By-Law 4, section 6 (2), which needs to be amended to reflect the change and superiority of the Federal legislation.

By being one of the first paralegals who became licenced as an Immigration Consultant by former Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC), I have survived double licencing fees of LSUC and former CSIC and have witnessed a lot of changes in the governance of Immigration practice. I am adamant that paralegals should no longer be required to pay double dues in order to practise the full scope of Immigration as mandated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

With 10 years of experience within the legal field, both as a Licenced Paralegal and an Immigration Consultant, I am an expert in these areas. I feel confident that I can competently and capably represent the profession.

I am grateful to the LPA for their initiative in this matter and am honoured to have the opportunity to assist them in presenting this issue on behalf of the profession.

Andrea Sesum
Paralegal, Immigration Consultant, Commissioner for Taking Oaths & Affidavits; Paralegal and Immigration College Professor.

Legal Solutions Group Inc.

Andrea updated SCOPE on the meeting with the Law Society.

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