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Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Is a former Canadian Minister of Immigration working with Indian immigration agents?

A former Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is fronting for an immigration agency in Punjab. Does that strike you as fair game?

The former Canadian Alliance, Reform, and Conservative party elected representative from southern Alberta (Medicine Hat), Mr. Monte Solberg’s presence in Punjab recently, was organized by the biggest immigration agency and resettlement company in the world for Canada. It was big news with photos and articles splashed across Indian newspapers and TV.

Solberg’s media blitzed skewed considerably to the attractions of Canada as a study destination. But is this the type of help the Canadian student recruitment arena can do without?

Canadian media is increasingly covering how corrupt is the field of immigration consulting in north India, and in particular the state of Punjab; this has for a terribly long time been well known to Canadian immigration officials. For a former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to sidle up to an immigration consultancy, is at best questionable and at worst, rather unseemly.

Moreover, for so many years, Canadian universities and colleges worked closely with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to create legal space for students to come with paramount study objectives while maintaining notions of permanent residency (“double intent”). It is precisely immigration agencies which nourish the blurring – and often abuse – by disingenuously steering those looking strictly to become permanent residents, to the study permit stream.

From the media coverage though, you can see why Solberg’s influence is such a winner for immigration consultants. “I talked to the former minister to know about the procedure,” Harminder Singh told the Ludhiana Tribune. “I will meet the consultants in the Chandigarh office to submit a fresh application.”

The delicious irony in all this is that Mr. Solberg and his wife Deb are constant and committed commentators for a conservative agenda. As the Globe and Mail penned, “the couple is seemingly ubiquitous these days, emerging as a force of punditry on the right in this country.” Conservative politics and immigration usually make very strange bedfellows. But, as one senior immigration officer in New Delhi once told me – “Mel, always follow the money trail.” The immigration business in Punjab is worth tens of millions of dollars and possibly hundreds of millions, if the gates open wider.

It’s Mr. Solberg’s right as a private citizen to join hands with Indian immigration agents. But should a former Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration be doing it?

(“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. Mel’s back in India from May 5-10, and again May 28-June 8)



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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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