I am Vladimir Reznik, and I am running for paralegal Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario in the 2023 election. Running on a platform of being a Candidate who makes sense.
This is one in the series of videos that I continue to make where I reach out to you, introduce myself, and reflect with you on matters that are important in this election.
In the previous videos on the topic of scope, I discussed my platform views that access to justice and public interest is best served when expansion of paralegal scope is approached holistically, by strengthening foundational competencies at the pre-licensing level.
I have expressed my position that neither access to justice and public interest, nor the objectives of responsible and efficient governance can be served by adding a multi-tier licensing scheme for paralegals, such as the FLSP. It only adds additional costs and barriers for the licensees and for the regulator alike, and only frustrates and impedes access to justice.
In this video, I share my views on paralegals providing services in the much-debated area of Immigration Law.
I started 30 years ago myself as an immigration paralegal. I was self-taught on Immigration Law being myself a new immigrant and with much less advanced English language skills than what I have today 30 years later.
I was able to fairly quickly on-the-job become a very capable immigration paralegal. And that characterization of me was not my own opinion, but the opinion of several senior immigration lawyers whom I had assisted on a range of different matters, which are currently out of scope for us, including both refugee and residency applications and even immigration judicial review applications before the Federal Court.
It is my position based upon my own firsthand experience, which is also an experience shared by many of us, that filling out an application form and preparing written submissions on selection criteria requires a lower level of skill and competence than advocating before the Immigration and Refugee Board, a tribunal which is included in our scope.
It is my position that we already possess core competencies for immigration application proceedings, just like we already possess core competencies for client representation in many other proceedings, the substantive part of which is never taught in the vast majority of paralegal college programs.
I’ll give you one example. As someone who is also a real estate broker, I have worked on land assembly acquisitions and land repurposing. I made myself familiar with various types of matters before the Ontario Municipal Board, and then the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, including environmental, heritage, and planning matters. Those are matters potentially dealing with multimillion-dollar master-planned high-rise developments. Litigating these types of matters before what is now the Ontario Land Tribunal, is included in our scope.
It then falls upon those of us who choose to provide services in those areas to self-educate and to remain current on the substantive parts, for which we already have core competencies in advocacy and tribunal procedures that we can build upon.
However, unlike many specialized tribunals, a comprehensive immigration curriculum has been in the past and is in fact still offered today by a number of paralegal college programs.
It is also my understanding that there are clear, unambiguous legislative provisions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allowing for licensed paralegals to provide legal services in the immigration scope.
It is my understanding that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has explicitly expressed their position to allow for it.
It is my understanding that there is a genuine demand across many communities including communities of New Canadians for competent and affordable immigration and refugee services, which paralegals are capable of providing. Services, which they are authorized to provide under the Federal legislation.
Nevertheless, the Law Society has restricted paralegals from providing those services.
It is also my position that section 4.2 of the Law Society Act, requires the Law Society to have regard to Principle number 5 in that section, which states that “restrictions on who may provide particular legal services should be proportionate to the significance of the regulatory objectives sought to be realized”.
It is my position that the effect of the restriction on providing immigration services, which the Law Society has placed on paralegals, is that this restriction shields the Immigration Bar from competition at the expense of the public. It is my position that the restriction is disproportionate and unjustified in the context of its regulatory objective.
For these reasons, it is my position that it remains not only incompatible with the legislation and the Government’s views on the matter, it remains contrary to common sense, and it remains an affront to public interest and an inexplicable impediment to access to justice for the Law Society to be actively blocking paralegals from providing immigration services.
When elected a bencher, I will continue to raise evidence-based awareness of the competence paralegals already possess to be able to perform excellent immigration work, and I will stand for explicitly and unconditionally including immigration scope into the By-law 4.
And that is my platform on this very contentious matter of Immigration scope. Thank you for getting to know it.