Canada’s foreign credentialing system is a barrier to employment for newcomers to Canada.

It’s an issue that has been a consistent for foreign trained professionals in regulated professions coming into Canada for a long time, with research and recommendations emerging in the last few decades about the barriers faced by newcomers to the Canadian workforce from abroad.

According to a 2009 report by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, “Fair recognition of education and job experience obtained in another country is important for a variety of reasons. Being unable to fully use prior learning and experience is frustrating for newcomers to Canada who find themselves underemployed in jobs far below their expectations. Failure to recognize credentials costs immigrants and taxpayers; on a macro scale, the cost of untapped potential is estimated to range between $2.4 and $5.9 billion annually.”

The 2009 report goes on to say, “the failure to recognize foreign credentials may become a competitive disadvantage, affecting Canada’s attractiveness as a destination to highly skilled and educated workers. For all of these reasons, ensuring credential recognition is fast, fair, effective, and accessible is of great concern to this Committee. It is a matter of national interest.

And yet, despite that grave warning from the committee back in 2009, things are slow to change within the actual systems themselves.  No matter where you are in Canada, it’s still not uncommon to hop in a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, talk to your driver, and learn they are a professionally trained healthcare provider, teacher, social worker in their home-country.

Government Investment

Throughout this year, more and more funding announcements emerged to improve foreign credential recognition programs.

In March, the federal government announced it is investing $26.5 million to improve 11 foreign credential recognition programs so that immigrants may be integrated faster into the Canadian economy, and in July, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, announced $1.5 million in funding to help newcomers work in the Canadian health sector, and even Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued “a directive to speed up the accreditation of international nurses as a way of addressing shortages of medical staff.”

How is this Possible?

How, then, is it possible that so many foreign trained professionals are still struggling with Canada’s credentialing system?

Randy Boldt, an immigration consultant with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy explains why so many foreign trained professionals end up working low-paying jobs outside their expertise in a recent article on the Frontier Centre for Public Policy website.

“Unlike many other countries, where professional regulations are a federal responsibility, in Canada the provinces create the regulations.  As such, Canada has over 400 Self-Regulated Professions, each with its own Provincial regulatory act.

These regulations … protect their own members’ interest in ensuring that access to the profession is highly restricted. As a consequence, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for most foreign-trained professionals to enter a Canadian profession.”

Members of VLIP’s Immigrant Advisory Table (newcomers with lived experiences) have felt the paradox of Canada’s credentialing system first-hand.
Ruchi, IAT member originally from India, explains her experience:

“Even though I was selected and accepted because of my professional qualifications, the first response I got was that I do not have sufficient experience in Canada that’s why I wouldn’t get a front-end social worker role at all…and my husband, who is also a qualified professional has also been facing similar challenges.

It is weird that our immigration applications are accepted for our qualifications to come to this new country, but then [once we are accepted], they say “you don’t have enough experience here so you won’t be getting front end-jobs.”

So, What Now?

It’s clear from the headlines that the government hears the request for support in the form of more funding, but what about change in the systems themselves? Experiences of immigrants, refugees, international students, temporary foreign workers, and newcomers alike tell us there’s a disconnect between what’s happening on the recruitment lines, and what’s happening on the frontlines of hiring. 

It should come as no surprise, as historically, there’s always been a big disconnect between what the people need and what the government is willing to fund. How do we keep momentum while holding funders accountable? While also adjusting the systems to support our current economy?

Exacerbating Circumstances Raise the Stakes

Currently, we are at an all-time low for skilled labour across most sectors. Construction is hit particularly hard, but so are the usual childcare and healthcare sectors, with higher than usual vacancy rates compared to last year and over 1 million job vacancies recorded earlier this summer.

The labour shortage is felt everywhere; restaurants, to hospitals, to construction sites, to daycare centres – all these industries have been hit hard in the post-pandemic era and have even had to lower their hiring expectations as they struggle to recruit the right candidates. 

And, according to a recent article by CIC News, ”the job vacancy rate in the health care and social services sectors has risen sharply to 143,000 vacancies, or 6.1%. This is a significant increase over the vacancy rate in April, which was 5.4% and 20% higher than it was in May 2021”.

And, with the health care job vacancy rate on the rise, people are continuing to die without adequate access to care. In B.C., 2 people died in August alone in Ashcroft this summer while waiting for healthcare.
Yes, the funding is coming, but where are the changes in the system to expedite the current circumstances?
What more can we be doing to support this process, and foreign-trained professionals, in a better way?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments ⬇️

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