February 3, 2010
The Protection of Immigrants? Yes! But who are we Protecting them from?
Recent announcements by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and initiatives like National Immigration Protection Day aimed at stopping ghost agents from exploiting unknowing immigrant applicants are important steps. But as I have been writing for a long time, more is needed.
Well a bone of contention is the Immigration Department’s public campaign that applicants who hire lawyer to represent them means and I quote “nor can you expect faster processing or a more favourable outcome” if you hire a lawyer. Does counsel’s work to avoid improperly or incomplete filings not assist in faster processing or processing, period? Does counsel’s work to effectively and comprehensively present certain legal and factual arguments not lead to a more favourable outcome? What about cases in particular involving considerable discretion on the part of officers? What about litigation matters – does this statement contemplate these cases? Does counsel not make a difference? Of course they do, each and every day and that reality should be reflected. The media and public relations campaigns focus on unlawful or negligent practitioners and in attempting to protect the public they generalize and present a severely distorted picture. In short, there is no mention how critical the role of immigration lawyers is to people’s lives. Moreover, all advice, counseling, preparation and presentation before a citizenship and/or immigration application is filed is legal work. The current legal position is that work prior to an application being filed does not require an authorized representative. So anyone can charge a fee to advise, counsel, prepare and present as long as their name does not appear on the final product? How are we protecting the public?
So I write again, it is high time that the public marginalization of lawyers in a process in which we play a critical role stop.