The Canadian Government can take advantage of the Immigrant Communities Global Professional Skills

The Canadian Government can take advantage of the Immigrant Communities Global Professional Skills

“The numbers, however, don’t address what types of jobs the immigrants are holding. A foreign-trained doctor working at a fast-food restaurant is still considered employed.

Part of the problem, according to Andrew Ramlo of the think tank Urban Future, is that there aren’t any current measures outside of mass surveys to determine what types of jobs skilled immigrants are taking.

‘It’s a very challenging issue to try and address,’ he said. ‘Somebody coming to Canada with a degree … (might) be working somewhere in a different field, but they might be doing that by choice. Not by necessity.’”

  • Job gap exists in Canada between skilled immigrants and locals, By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver, January 30, 2014 6:32:48 PST PM

I am proud to say that I am the son of immigrants. My parents met in Toronto, while they were upgrading their skills. It is not to say that they did not complete high school in their respective countries. Both of them completed various diplomas and certificates before they came here. But like many immigrants, they had to go back to school to obtain “Canadian Experience”. They proceeded to get that experience by attending York University and Ryerson Polytechnic. However, they were lucky. In the 1960’s, Canada needed good workers. Since, they were not doctors or lawyers, they could just work in clerical or entry level jobs. Consequently, they could get their Canadian Education and/or “Canadian Experience”. The truth is that that Canada no longer exists. For, our highly qualified immigrants are not finding their way.

To explain what I mean, let me tell you a story. In about 2005, I meet a wonderful New Zealander. She said she was a “lawyer”. However, that was a simplification. In her case, she was a lawyer in New Zealand. Yet she was not allowed to practice law in Canada because she had not been called to a provincial bar. Instead, she had to work under a lawyer as a legal consultant. This person found this weird because she had worked in Australia and England before coming to Canada as a lawyer. Previously, all she needed to do was a course or two to catch up on the differences between the various common law jurisdictions.

This highly trained person was in Canada working for a start-up at a reduced rate because she could not call herself a “lawyer”. She proceeded to study at the University of Toronto and looked around for various options. After she obtained her Masters, instead of staying, she decided to move on to London and Europe. For there, she could practice law without having to spend years in the classroom. This story is just one of the problems created by our immigration system, because foreign professionals in Canada are rarely given credit for that foreign experience.

As noted, the issue is not just a problem for immigrants from India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe or Africa. Obtaining ones qualifications is a problem for those who have studied in Australia, the UK, Ireland and even the United States. In a recent trip to Toronto, I had a conversation with a mental health worker. She told me the story of one of her Canadian colleagues. This colleague studied in Boston and then went around the world dealing with PTSD and other mental illnesses and traumas created by genocides. Yet when this highly qualified mental health professional came back to Canada – her home country – many people would not recognize the work that she had done or the qualifications that she had, all because of one thing: they were not obtained in Canada.

Increasingly, I am of the opinion that “Canadian Experience” is more than just an inconvenience. It is a serious economic and political issue and it should be resolved. Since Confederation, we have said this is a division of powers issue. The Federal Government, largely, controls immigration; while the Provincial Government controls the post-secondary education, qualifications and licencing. Since Confederation, we have hoped that the Feds and the Premiers would just get together and solve the issue. The only problem is that, for the most part, they have not acted. When I pointed this out in a recent conversation, a Liberal challenged me to solve the problem. After some thought, I suggested that the Federal Government could help.

In our system, the Federal Government has the ability to hire people regardless of qualification in areas where the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction. For example, when dealing with Military Personnel, Aboriginal or Veteran Population’s, the Federal Government can hire people they determine are qualified. Or put differently, the Federal Government is generally not limited by the provincially based qualification system. So my question is simple: why doesn’t the federal government explore the various international qualifications of immigrants and hire them if they are qualified?

The federal government could set up a registry of international qualifications. This registry would have a secretariat which would explore the qualifications of other countries, foreign universities and international bodies. In their investigations, this secretariat could determine if those international qualifications meet Canadian Standards and maybe suggest courses to fill in any gaps.

Such a process would be constitutional because it would only apply to the Federal Government. As we learned from Canadian Western Bank v. Alberta (2007), the only time there would be an issue is where there is an operational conflict between federal and provincial law. Given that the Federal Government has paramount control over its own powers, I would argue that this is a legal approach.

If this approach were fully implemented, one can see that while immigrants were updating their provincial qualifications, they could feed themselves and their families. They could set up their lives rather than leaving the country or be hired as cooks, taxi cab drivers or cleaners. By taking care of communities under federal control – including Aboriginals, Military Personnel and Veterans – these people could help build our country. A country that they will be inclined to become a part of.

And for those who feel that this programme might be limited to doctors, I would point out that the federal government directly employs accountants, lawyers and other professionals. Furthermore, other institutions might use such a programme for their own benefit. Public and Crown Corporations might be able to use this programme to hire immigrants in areas where provincial licensing was not required.

In many ways, this approach would answer a policy problem with a Liberal answer. Our present system punishes individuals and society by not recognizing equal credentials. This simple solution could allow society to get the most from individuals; thereby providing society with the greatest possible benefit. It allows individuals to live fulfilling lives and provides the most individual benefit for most citizens. Therefore, like Grit George Brown, I am inclined to look for problems to fix. As a Liberal, like Mackenzie King, I want to implement pragmatic solutions. Given that this solution can be objectively measured and protects the Other, I implore my party to take it up.

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