What happened to “Helping the hopeless…”

What happened to “Helping the hopeless…”

On September 19, 2018, exactly one year ago this month, I wrote an article for the Alberta Filipino Journal entitled “Preying on the Hopeless and the Vulnerable”. Surprisingly, an article from the staff of Triple Maple Canada, the immigration consultancy of Carl Benito also came out in the same issue with an article suspiciously entitled “Helping the Hopeless, the desperate and the vulnerable”. The article was long, unintelligible and gobbledygook.

What came up over and over were criticisms of the CBC report and of me for repeating CBC’s “false news” and that “Without data, the writer Mr. Marco Luciano was just another person with an opinion”. They continue to lambast me on how “CBC and Mr. Luciano failed to tell their audience the facts” on one hand and how “good” their company and their bosses, the Benitos are.

A year after the CBC released the news of the raid that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) conducted in Carl Benito’s office and home, on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the former Alberta Conservative MLA Carl Benito and his son Charles were charged with immigration fraud following a year-long investigation by the CBSA. He made his first court appearance on Thursday, September 5. Perhaps the Triple Maple Canada staff and the Benitos have different “truth” and “facts” than that of the CBSA. To me, the recent news was poetic justice.

On September 3rd, according to an article from Global Calgary News, Carlito (Carl) Benito, 65 of Edmonton, is charged with:
• Nine counts of unauthorized employment of foreign nations
• Two counts of counselling/aiding/abetting misrepresentation
• One count (90 occurrences) of counselling/aiding/abetting misrepresentation related to study permit loan scheme
• One count of misrepresentation
• One count of mischief

Charles Jefferson Benito, 25 of Edmonton, is charged with:
• Nine counts of unauthorized employment of foreign nations
• Two counts of counselling/aiding/abetting misrepresentation
• One count (90 occurrences) of counselling/aiding/abetting misrepresentation related to study permit loan scheme

It gave their victims some hope in obtaining justice. The news created quite a buzz in social media. Most of the comments on Facebook were feelings of vindication and victory while others had more strong, hateful words for them. In any case I will continue to follow the case closely.

The Benitos are just the tip of the iceberg. They are just a few of the many bad consultants out there that prey on the hopeless and take their hard earned money. In my article last year, I talked about the lucrative industry of immigration consultancy, where fees from $4,000 to $20,000 are charged. According to the Canadian Bar Association(CBA), there were 1,600 members of CSIC (Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants predecessor of ICCRC) in 2010. By 2018, it mushroomed to over 4,000 ICCRC (Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council) members. The CBA is insistent on their position that “The policy idea was for immigration consultants to simply work under lawyers, in the same way that paralegals came under the supervision of lawyers in Ontario.”

In April of this year, the Liberal Government enacted legislation that would create and make the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Canada’s official regulatory and oversight body. The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act or Bill C97 is legislation that is intended to “protect Canadians, prospective newcomers and immigration and citizenship consultants in good standing against fraudulent consultants who are preying on the most vulnerable” according to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen.
The Minister said the legislation would give the College “both the powers and tools they need for vigorous oversight, enforcement, investigations and punishment to root out fraudulent immigration and citizenship consultants and hold them accountable for their actions.”

The Act will also have an accredited university program. This new program will be at Queen’s University Faculty of Law and Uniersitéde Sherbrooke and will train immigration consultants. Launching in 2021, the universities will be the sole accredited schools training consultants in their respective languages and Queen’s expects 500 students per year to take the 66-week, mostly online course.

However, the creation of the College fell short of comprehensive protection of migrants. Why? The new College will still be self-regulated, similar to the current ICCRC. Its board will also mainly be ICCRC members with a couple of members from the Federal Government and perhaps a “stakeholder”. It will be a conflict when there are complaints or action is taken against their members, unless their investigation and complaint system is as rigorous as the CBA’s. But at the moment, nobody knows how it would roll out.

The sad reality is that ghost consultants will continue to operate outside of ICCRC’s regulation. Fraudulent consultants will continue to exploit immigration applicants through extremely high fees, threats or other criminal means. Like the Benitos’ alleged case, many of these consultants will continue to make empty promises, or represent applicants incompetently by providing services without sufficient knowledge of Canada’s immigration laws or procedures.

Meanwhile, the migrants seeking pathways to permanent residency and the community will also remain vigilant in ensuring that justice will prevail for the victims of the Benitos and other bad consultants. In the meantime I’ll cherish the quote of Triple Maple Leaf Canada Staff, “Mr. Marco Luciano is just another guy with an opinion”.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *