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Federal immigration committee to discuss allegations department misled a judge

Former immigration minister Marco Mendicino has denied claims
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino arrives at a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The House of Commons committee on immigration has called an urgent meeting next week to discuss allegations that the department and former minister misled a federal judge during a trademark infringement case — an allegation former immigration minister Marco Mendicino has categorically denied.

The allegations stem from the creation of a new college to regulate immigration consultants in 2020.

An existing firm called the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council took the government to Federal Court in an attempt to stop it from using a similar name: the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants.

On the day of the court hearing, the Privy Council published an order on its website declaring the legislation to establish the college had come into force.

That information was also passed on to the Federal Court.

The government issued a press release a few days later, in which Mendicino declared the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act had indeed come into force.

“With today’s announcement, the minister is honouring his mandate commitment to advance the full implementation of the new professional governance regime for immigration and citizenship consultants,” the original press release read on Nov. 26, 2020, according to a cached version preserved by the Wayback Machine internet archive.

In fact, the legislation didn’t actually come into force until Dec. 9, 2020. The press released was corrected several days after it was published.

Mendicino’s director of communications, Alex Cohen, said Sunday that the discrepancy was the result of human error.

Officials in the department mistook the date the Governor General signed the order with the day it was supposed to come into force, Cohen said in a statement. When the problem was discovered, it was reported to the courts.

On Oct. 4, independent media outlet Blacklock’s Reporter published an article with the headline “Minister Backdates Document,” citing internal emails obtained through Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) legislation.

The outlet reported the emails reveal “an apparent bid to mislead a federal judge,” and that Mendicino’s office did not respond to Blacklock’s request for comment.

The report alarmed NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan enough to write to the chair of the immigration committee last week to request an emergency meeting to discuss the “concerning allegations.”

“It’s never okay for documents to be altered or falsified to seemingly mislead the courts,” Kwan said in an interview Sunday. “We’re not sure exactly what happened here and so it’s important for us to get to the bottom of it.”

A meeting has since been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, when members of Parliament are expected to debate whether or not to launch a full-scale study of the allegations.

“This report is untrue,” Cohen asserted in his statement. “It is completely false and wholly unsubstantiated by the ATIP in question.”

He refuted that the documents were “backdated” and said Mendicino and his office were not involved.

Mendicino’s office provided the 730-page package of emails to The Canadian Press, which shows considerable back and forth between department officials and communications staff sharing the incorrect date the legislation would come into force.

The week after the press release was published, exchanges show the department’s legal team flagged the error and, on Dec. 1, 2020, department officials discussed whether “remedial measures” were needed.

Cohen says the government told the Federal Court about the issue on Dec. 9, 2020 — more than a week before the court decided whether or not to force the government to stop using the name of the college temporarily.

In her ruling on Dec. 24, 2020, Justice Janet Fuhrer laid out the correct dates before siding with the plaintiffs in the trademark-infringement case and issuing an injunction.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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