This month the Ontario Human Rights Commission made a landmark move in declaring the requirement of Canadian experience for new immigrants a violation of human rights.
Many immigrants come to Canada only to face this familiar employment paradox – employers want to hire newcomers who have Canadian experience, but are not willing to be the first to provide the opportunity to gain that experience.
Though the OHRC is not the first association to publicly denounce this practice, it is the first human rights organization in Canada to do so. Other groups which have come out against the “Canadian experience roadblock” include the Human Resources Professionals Association as well as the Royal Bank of Canada – one of the nation’s largest private employers.
Additionally, immigrant advocates and special interest groups in Ontario have come together to form the “Beyond Canadian Experience Project” whose goal is to identify and confront barriers to employment in immigrant communities.
One of the goals of the Beyond Canadian Experience Project is to unpack the term “Canadian Experience,” for it usually means knowledge of Canadian culture or identity more than the specific occupation involved. In delineating between the two it becomes clear that the term is discriminatory and does therefore, as the OHRC suggest, violate human rights.
However, steps continue to be taken in the opposite direction, as more credential recognition agencies are requiring Canadian experience and the new Canadian Experience Class of immigration “institutionalizes” the discriminatory policy, according to University of Toronto professor in social work Izumi Sakamoto, who is lead investigator on the Beyond Canadian Experience Project.
Sakamoto argues that it is time to reconcile these discrepancies in favour of human rights. Putting newcomers’ skills to use – particularly when those newcomers are selected for immigration based upon the need for their skills in Canada – benefits not only the economy but also the wider perspectives and values upon which this multicultural society is based.
Source: Toronto Star