Paralegals Plea for Clarity in Immigration Scope

Photo: Courtesy Andrea Sesum

Photo: Courtesy Andrea Sesum

Andrea Sesum, a paralegal and immigration consultant at Legal Solutions Group, updates SCOPE readers on the “White Paper” she and paralegal Gerri Camus presented recently to the Law Society.

Last month, the Licensed Paralegals Association (LPA) and the Paralegal Society of Ontario (PSO) presented a research paper to the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Gerri Camus — who chairs the LPA’s governance committee — and I presented submissions, research and case law regarding the current scope of paralegal immigration practice. We asked the Law Society to clarify Bylaw 4, as it limits paralegals’ work to the Immigration and Refugee Board only.

The limitation on the scope of practice does not derive from the bylaw itself, which states that paralegals can engage in work “before a tribunal established under an Act of the legislature of Ontario or under an Act of Parliament.”

Instead, the restrictions on practice before Citizenship and Immigration Canada stem from the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Law Society’s web site. It states:

    “Paralegals who are licensed by the Law Society can appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to represent a client or clients in an IRB hearing, and can provide legal services to clients for matters relating to an IRB hearing. Drafting of documents or other legal services practices that are not related to an IRB hearing remain outside of a paralegal’s scope of practice.”

Our submission included a book of authorities, including case law that supports our position that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is, in fact, a tribunal.

At its website, the LSUC provides this guidance on what to consider before seeking Judicial Review: “Examples of federal decision-makers include the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, a federal government official (such as a visa officer) or a minister.”

Therefore, if we consider the Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a “specialized tribunal,” our practice in immigration law should go beyond the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Additional submissions and case law consider the doctrine of paramountcy. On Nov. 1, 2010, former LSUC Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza made submissions to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. At the time, paralegals working in immigration were required to join both the Law Society and the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. “A number of our licensees have raised this duplication with us,” Pawlitza told the committee.

She said the Law Society could effectively regulate paralegals who work in immigration matters and immigration consulting, in the same manner it governs lawyers practising immigration. “We respectfully suggest that it would be in the public interest that paralegals, licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, be provided with the support of the law society to provide immigration services, pursuant to federal legislation contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”

A year after Pawlitza’s committee submission, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada. Paralegals are now among the “authorized representatives” for the purposes of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), in addition to the permissible paralegal practice at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

The change falls under s.91(2)(b) of the amended Act.

In my view, then, it is time to take a closer look at the issue of what paralegals can do in immigration law.

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

Legal Solutions Group Inc.

An immigration scope of practice update previously appeared in SCOPE.

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8 comments

  1. Bakhshish Toor · · Reply

    I am working as a paralegal since 2011. Before being licensed,I attended Humber college and passed both the Immigration Consultant and Court and Tribunal Agent Diploma programs.When we talk about the Immigration and Refugee board and go to the definitions, this Board consists of Refugee protection Division, Refugee Appeal Division,Immigration Division and Immigration Appeal Division (Commission), nothing left behind. How can paralegals will represent a client when they are not able to draft a document in favour of their client .We hope the LSUC will soon clarify and allow its paralegal members to continue to provide their legal services for immigration as lawyers and immigration consultants. There should be no doubt that paralegals are less competent than immigration consultants.

  2. Rajesh Sehgal · · Reply

    If you go on the web site of CIC, it explicitly starts that all paralegals regulated in a province can provide services related to immigration practice just like lawyers and authorized immigration consultants.

  3. No, you are not missing anything…We are allowed to represent clients before a Tribunal(s) being IRB-we had presented the argument that based on the case law that CIC had been deemed to be a Tribunal-we are awaiting the response from the Law Society. As things stand now, we are only allowed to do work before IRB, and as the LSUC stated they have the right to discipline anyone practicing outside of the permitted scope.

  4. @Andrea, I have read your previous article (April 15) and I still do not see the light. That article expanded on the wrongly interpreted FAQ posted by the LSUC, and therefore not authoritative as to paralegals scope of practice in Immigration Law (IRPA).
    In this current article (May 12), you explicitly stated “The limitation on the scope of practice does not derive from the bylaw itself….Instead, the restrictions on practice before Citizenship and Immigration Canada stem from the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Law Society’s web site.” I totally agree with these two points.
    Yes, LSUC is our regulator, which states that I must comply with the Law Society Act and the By-Laws (not FAQs). The FAQ answer on paralegal scope is NOT the law. I fully support and thankful for the work that you and others are doing to have it clarified. I see nothing in the By-law 4 to restrict my full practice in the immigration field as suggested in the FAQ. I have read every single word carefully, several times over. The IRPA is an Act of Parliament, which allows paralegals to act as authorized representatives. There is no limitation stated in the IRPA as to which part of the IRPA paralegals are only authorized as representative. Until the LSUC satisfy me as to which word(s) in the IRPA restricts my practice to what they have stated in the FAQ, I have the right to ignore the flawed FAQ and not breaking any laws. Am I missing something?

  5. Thank you for your comments and for taking time to read my article! @Thinh, By-Law and the LSUC as our regulator limit the current practice of Immigration Law for Paralegals. Please feel free to read my earlier article which explains what kind of work Paralegals can do perform in the field of Immigration.

  6. I am puzzled as to why this topic is still not clarified or needs to be clarified after so long.
    The amended IRPA clearly states that paralegals are authorized representative as you have stated in the article. So why should I care about what is written in a FAQ by the LSUC and disregard the IRPA? I am practicing immigration to the fullest extent as allowed by the IRPA and as allowed by the Law Society Act. Please let me know if this is wrong. Thank you very much for your efforts in this subject matter.

  7. Thank you, Andrea, for this interesting submission (presentation) on PSP (Immigration) on behalf of Paralegals (interested in practicing Immigration law). I hope the LSUC will respond positively on this matter.

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