Brijesh Mishra, who reentered Canada on an unconfirmed date in the week beginning June 19, was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency – authorities laid five charges against him on June 23.
The charges, which all come under the Immigration Refugees Protection Act, include one count of “Unauthorised Representation or Advice for Consideration” – under Section 91, which directly deals with licensing of immigration consultants; one count of “Counselling Misrepresentation”; one count of “Misrepresentation (Direct or Indirect)”; one count of “Misrepresentation (Communicating False Information)”; and one count of “Non-Compliance with the Act”.
The regional director general for the pacific region of the CBSA, Nina Patel, said in a statement that officers “worked diligently to investigate these offences” and will continue to do so.
“The charges announced today by the CBSA’s Pacific Region Criminal Investigations Section reflect our commitment to maintaining the integrity of Canada’s immigration system,” Patel said on June 23.
The move to charge Mishra comes after his business partner, Rahul Bhargava, was arrested in April and it was announced they were also searching for Mishra and another individual, Gurnam Singh.
No update has been provided on the whereabouts or possible apprehension of Singh.
“Is [the minister] doing this because he’s being forced to make an example?”
As a result of the alleged actions of Singh, Mishra and Bhargava, students were extremely close to being deported from Canada after it was discovered that their acceptance letters had been forged. Initial reports suggested that up to 700 individuals were at risk of being deported, but the government said a total of 82 had been referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada by June 15.
It was only spotted when the students were attempting to apply for permanent residency, having been in Canada since 2017 and 2018.
Colleges and Institutes Canada told The PIE that while it “fully acknowledges the potential vulnerabilities” students face with some unethical recruitment practices, they “don’t represent the entire agent community”.
“Our members take great care to ensure that agents accurately represent their institutions and the Canadian college system. They are committed to promoting ethical recruitment practices and safeguarding the interest of international students,” a representative said.
“CICan is pleased to be working with IRCC and Global Affairs Canada to identify the root causes of these vulnerabilities and explore how colleges can strengthen recruitment practices while also enhancing the integrity and clarity of Canada’s immigration processes through better sharing of information and more targeted promotional efforts in new markets,” it added.
CBIE also said it intends to work with its global counterpart associations to “get clearer insight into how international education consultants operate and how to tackle emerging issues of common interest or concern”.
“CBIE has long advocated for a whole-of-government and sector-wide approach to ensure Canada is delivering the true value of what is promised to international students,” a spokesperson from the Canadian Bureau of International Education told The PIE.
“Canada is not alone in having to deal with the consequences of unscrupulous education consultants,” the spokesperson pointed out. Australia has been dealing with issues surrounding agent legitimacy in the first six months of 2023, while the UK’s home secretary has said there will be a clampdown on “unscrupulous education agents” who are selling “immigration not education”.
The Canadian minister of public safety and former minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, said that the government is “taking action against those who are responsible for fraud, while protecting those who’ve come here to pursue their studies”.
“Canada is not alone in having to deal with the consequences of unscrupulous education consultants”
“I want to thank CBSA’s criminal investigators for their hard work protecting Canadians and those who hope to come here,” Mendicino added.
Earl Blaney, who runs The Canada Network, and has long advocated for more stringent regulation of both agents and uncapped international student admissions, spoke with The PIE News amid the report of the arrest and charges.
“To be clear, there have been charges under Section 91 before, but I don’t think anyone has been convicted – a couple of cases fell apart due to poor documentation for evidence. I’m interested to know what the precedent is in terms of a judge actually finding guilt. This case, as it stands, is a really rare occurrence,” Blaney explained.
“My concern is how often they’re actually looking at people like this – which, clearly, is not often. Is this a one off? Because the minister does not look good for allowing this to go on and not catching it until now.
“Is he doing this because he’s being forced to make an example, or is this a legitimate sense of some kind of credible enforcement going forward?” Blaney posited.
The case has caused some disquiet in the Canadian parliament. In mid-June, a debate saw some Conservative parliament members essentially weaponise the situation, saying the developments were the direct result of “incompetence of the Liberal party”.