Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Immigrant Story: Land of Opportunity or Limit?

I'll get right to the point. We have a problem, friends. A certain problem exists in our province (and nation) that will be difficult to fix, but it affects thousands upon thousands of people each year. This sizable conundrum produces unimaginable stress for people who have worked hard to climb the education system so they would never have to be in this position. And yet here they are.

As a result of my summer job, I've witnessed firsthand the stunning trend of limits on immigrant employment. Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of people flood employment agencies everyday, across the province, desperately seeking jobs. They are doctors, lawyers, clinical researchers, physiotherapists, teachers, accountants, managers, I could go on. They've climbed the ladder of education in their home countries so they would never have to worry about paying for their mortgage, about saving tuition for their children's education. They've achieved certain careers so they would never have to live from paycheque to paycheque. They came to Canada for opportunity, for better jobs, to earn a livelihood. Yet their university degrees aren't credited when they arrive.

Instead, they are sitting in employment agencies, filling out questionnaires regarding their unemployment. I don't know if this issue breaks your heart, but it certainly breaks mine (and quite certainly touches on my own personal moral intuitions). CTV broadcasted today that people searching for doctors in neighbourhood hospitals and clinics are turned away because of the shortage of medical practitioners. Would this problem exist if the policies of foreign accreditation were better formulated?

Knowing that there is a perfectly capable doctor (with 20 years of experience and who speaks perfectly solid English) manning the escalator at Walmart actually brings tears to my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing the opportunities Canada offers. On the contrary, I'm probably as close to a nationalist as you can get. There are ample benefits to settling in this awesome country of ours. What I am bashing are the policies for foreign accreditation, particularly in light of judicial interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Rights consciousness in so present in today's culture, particularly since Courts have continued to interpret the Constitution in favour of protecting certain rights. Since the 1960's, Supreme Court (both Canadian and American) jurisprudence regarding constitutional protection of rights has escalated for a number of groups and individuals.

But what about perfectly educated immigrants? Who will protect them?

"My dreams were all my own. I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed - my dearest pleasure when free."
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


  1. You should watch the M Word documentary. I think you'll find it interesting!

  2. Thanks, Hannah! I'll definitely check it out.

  3. I've noticed this downward trend as well, especially in regards to underemployment in unregulated professions and inadequate credential recognition. Having seen recent statistics in these areas and first hand account while at my present employment, its shocking to see the ongoing struggles that some newcomers continue to face. Particularly within a large metropolitan area of Peel/GTA.

    I'm encouraged by your devotion and passion to this area. I believe that ongoing discussions at all levels need to be brokered if public policy regarding credential recognition is to be changed.

  4. Hey Imanzi, thanks for your insight. I've definitely noticed this trend within the Peel region (and the GTA in general). New immigrants flock towards urban areas in search of opportunity. Yet opportunities are so very limited if one's education levels aren't recognized.

    Theoretically, I think the Court could have a tremendous impact on public policy of credential recognition (if it ever comes to that). Unfortunately, the public vs. private realm debate (which does hold value) plays largely in the entire process of constitutional interpretation ("rights" talk), particularly since the bodies that regulate various professions are often private regulatory bodies vs. provincially-run entities.

  5. I somewhat agree with u, but to be fair the infrastructure and standards put in place in our country are different from other places. Try should still get credit for their education no doubt, but I think they'd still have to go through an accelerated course to get up to speed.

  6. Hey Anonymous! Thanks for your comment. I guess to clarify, I was referring most to those immigrants who are more than capable of practicing their professions in Canada, having quality education that would allow them to do so in accordance to our standards (along with years of experience, solid English skills, etc. to boot).

    A factor I did not mention in my blog post, but one I think matters the most with this issue, are the METHODS of accreditation and assessment. HOW immigrant education is assessed leaves much to be desired in this system. I agree with you that those who lack in quality education (and possibly even experience) should definitely go ahead with continued education. However, I really believe those who are more than capable of practicing in Canada (with the attributes I just mentioned above) should most certainly practice their professions here. The problem lies with the methods used to assess them.

    I think we should also keep in mind, however, that many of these immigrants may not have the time to go through continued education. While many depend on their savings, they'll soon find that the demands of bill payments will dwindle that source of income within months. They'll have bills to pay, families to support, children to feed. Immigrants with potential quality education therefore have no choice but to find any type of job (i.e. general labour, customer service, etc), unrelated to their own field.

    Thanks for your insight. I appreciate it!