On June 2nd, 2006, the Ontario Provincial government announced a new bill they plan to introduce to the Ontario Legislature that hopes to help internationally trained professionals gain access to work in their fields of expertise.
Entitled the “Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act 2006”, the bill hopes to effectively change and standardize the hiring rules in 34 regulated professions in Ontario, including physicians, accountants, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and social workers. These professions are all regulated independently of the government, and it is still unclear how the program would work in conjunction with the regulatory bodies to speed up the process.
According to Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle, “While maintaining the independence of regulatory bodies, we are going to ensure there is a clear, fair process that has common benchmarks right across the board”. Mr. Colle indicated that the program would make the difference between the current long, slow process and one that is focused and expeditious.
This piece of legislation is part of a larger plan by the Ontario government towards success for newcomers to the province. Other aspects include creating internship positions in ministries and Crown agencies to help professionals gain work experience in their field, investing money in training projects for immigrants, and increasing the training and assessment positions for internationally trained medical graduates.
Opposition critics reserved judgment until more details about the bill were released, but sentiment was generally positive and barriers to the bill should be limited. It remains to be seen just how comprehensive and effective the bill will be.
The Ontario announcement comes on the heels of a Quebec announcement in early May when it tabled Bill 14 – legislation that would shorten the process for foreign trained professionals, immigrating to Quebec, allowing them easier access to obtain work permits in their fields. The Quebec legislation, if passed, would affect 44 professional licensing bodies.
Critics of the Quebec legislation believe that the Quebec legislation, although a step in the right direction, will only help an infinitesimal number of immigrants. As well, nothing in the Quebec Bill compels the co-operation of the affected professional bodies. “Without their involvement, nothing will change”, says a critic.
With the recent developments in both Quebec and Ontario it seems that Canada’s two largest destinations for immigrants are finally taking the long-overdue initiatives to recognize the importance of the skills and training of foreign trained professionals. To do otherwise sells its current immigration programs well short of its stated objectives.