|For immediate release||December 9, 1998|
Law Society of B.C. to Appeal Mangat Decision to Supreme Court of Canada
VANCOUVER - The Law Society of British Columbia said today that it will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada the recent BC Court of Appeal decision relating to immigration consultants and the unauthorized practice of law. On November 27, 1998, the BC Court of Appeal reversed a BC Supreme Court decision prohibiting immigration consultant Jaswant Singh Mangat from practising immigration law without the necessary credentials or membership with the Law Society of British Columbia.
"The Law Society is very disappointed with the BC Court of Appeal’s far-reaching decision," said Law Society Treasurer Trudi Brown, Q.C. "Our public protection mandate is to regulate the practice of law in the province, including identifying and ending situations where people are practising law without a license. Some immigration consultants openly practise law and pose a risk to immigrants who mistakenly believe them to be qualified legal advisors. The Law Society believes that this should not be happening, whether these violations of the Legal Profession Act occur in court or before federal tribunals."
The Law Society began court proceedings against Mr. Mangat and Westcoast Immigration Consultants in 1992, based on a series of complaints made to the Law Society by Mr. Mangat’s former clients, including complaints that Mr. Mangat misrepresented himself as a lawyer.
The Society is calling on Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard and Justice Minister Anne McLellan to take steps to ensure that any regulation of immigration consultants not be structured to encompass the practice of law.
"Advising clients on legal issues and representing their legal rights and interests is practising law," said Ms. Brown. "Whether it is a matter before an adjudicative body, such as the Immigration and Refugee Board, or before the courts, the Law Society believes that the public is not well served receiving legal advice from people who are not qualified to give it."
"The Law Society of B.C. does not want to eliminate immigration consulting practices, but these individuals should not be practising law," she said. "Public protection should be the primary consideration in any regulation proposed by the federal government or other authority."
Ms Brown also had a word of caution for people who are personally involved in the immigration process or have relatives who are immigrating to Canada.
"Take the safest, most proven course of action and use an immigration lawyer to help you with the immigration process," she said. "Non-lawyer immigration consultants do not have formal education in immigration law, nor do they have a code of conduct. Moreover, they have no negligence insurance, no compensation fund for defrauded victims, no regulated trust accounts, no formal complaint mechanisms and no disciplinary procedures to deal with unethical or incompetent individuals. Immigration lawyers, by contrast, must meet professional standards set by the Law Society of B.C."
To find an immigration lawyer, contact the Lawyer Referral Service at (604) 687-3221 in the Lower Mainland or toll free outside the Lower Mainland at 1-800-663-1919.
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For more information contact:
Trudi Brown, Treasurer, Law Society of B.C.
Elizabeth Cordeau, Public Affairs Manager
Telephone: 604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in B.C.