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.
An immigration scope of practice update previously appeared in SCOPE.