February 26 2019

FAIRNESS FOR NEWCOMERS

Kenney promises real action on recognising foreign credentials, introduction of fairness legislation

EDMONTON, AB (February 26, 2019): Alberta has always been a magnet for immigration, and Albertans have benefitted enormously from the skills and entrepreneurial drive that newcomers have brought with them. 

But too many immigrants arrive with great hopes and skills that Canada needs, only to become trapped in survival jobs because it can take years for Canadian businesses and professional licensing bodies to recognize the credentials they earned elsewhere. 

“This ‘doctors-driving-taxis’ syndrome is an enormous waste of potential,” United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said today. “New immigrants with university degrees are four times more likely to be unemployed than university grads born in Canada, causing great stress for many immigrant families. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the underemployment of immigrants is costing the Canadian economy up to $12.7 billion annually, and billions of dollars in tax revenues for governments.”

Kenney announced that a United Conservative government will implement an ambitious action plan to knock down unfair barriers to the full economic inclusion of new Albertans, while maintaining Alberta’s high professional standards. 

“We will implement our Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan to work with trade and professional licensing bodies to streamline, simplify and accelerate foreign credential recognition. Our goal is that applicants for licensure will have a clear answer in six months or less.”

Kenney added that under the Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan, regulatory bodies that placed unreasonable barriers to credential recognition would be called out and held accountable.

“We will pass a Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Trades Act based on a similar Ontario law, to ensure that regulated professions assess credentials with transparency, objectivity, impartiality and fairness.”

“To show that fairness for newcomers is a serious priority, I will host a Premier’s Summit on Fairness for Newcomers,” Kenney said. “We will invite all of Alberta’s professional and trade regulators, together with immigrants, employers, and settlement agencies to develop a strategy for Alberta to have the fastest and fairest assessment of foreign credentials and education in Canada.”

“We’ll be putting foreign-credential recognition on the agenda of the First Ministers Meeting. We need faster action on the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, which is the national effort to get regulatory bodies across Canada to harmonize their credentialing procedures.”

The UCP Fairness for Newcomers Plan will have a budget of $2.5 million, a coordinating office, and oversight from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration. The office will also:

  • Create an Alberta Government Mentorship for Newcomers Program, modelled on a similar federal program, to match immigrant professionals with mentors in the public service who can help to guide them through the process of credential recognition and finding employment at their skill level. 
  • Support and expand the work of the International Qualifications Assessment Service (created by a previous Progressive Conservative government) that assesses foreign degrees against the Canadian post-secondary standard. 
  • Work with non-profit groups such as Windmill Microlending (formerly the Alberta Immigrant Access Fund) to expand access to low-interest loans to immigrant professionals who need bridge financing to upgrade their skills and pay for certification exams. 
  • Support the work of immigrant settlement agencies to offer skills upgrading to underemployed foreign professionals.
  • Work with the federal government to offer pre-arrival orientation to foreign nationals selected for permanent residency in Alberta to encourage them to apply for credential recognition and educational assessments before they arrive in Canada.

Kenney described large scale underemployment of immigrants as a moral issue.

“It simply isn’t right to invite people to leave the high paying professions in their countries of origin, only to end up working in survival jobs while their skills deteriorate,” Kenney said. “This is an immoral waste of human potential, and creates great heartache, shame, and stress for too many new Alberta families. They simply deserve a fair shot at contributing fully to our society.”

Said Kenney, “The Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan will be the most ambitious effort by any provincial government to remove unfair barriers to full integration into the labour market. Making the most of talented new Albertans will be a key part of our plan to renew the Alberta Advantage, and get our economy back to work.” 


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Backgrounder

Fairness for Newcomers

Foreign Credentials Recognition

Too many newcomers arrive with great hopes and skills, only to become trapped in survival jobs, underemployed because Canadian businesses and professional licensing bodies won’t recognize their degrees, credentials, or experience. In fact, new immigrants with university degrees are four times more likely to be unemployed than university grads born here.1 

This “doctors-driving-taxis” problem is an enormous waste of human capital. It causes great stress for immigrant families, whose education and skills are not being used. It also represents a significant loss of potential economic productivity for the Alberta economy.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s Brain Gain 2015 report, some 524,000 immigrants to Canada would earn as much as $12.7 billion more, and pay more taxes, if their learning credentials were fully recognized. The report estimates that:

  • 844,000 Canadian adults face challenges having their learning recognized, up from 540,000 in 2001. 
  • Immigrants are the largest group, with an estimated 524,000 international credential holders affected by a lack of learning recognition.
  • Almost 200,000 people with out-of-province credentials and 120,000 with hands-on, experiential learning not recognized in a credential also face education recognition challenges.2 

(Future UCP policy announcements will address the need for greater mutual recognition of credentials for Canadians migrating between provinces.)

It is important for Alberta’s occupational bodies to maintain high professional standards, protecting public safety and consumers in the assessment of skills and qualifications. It is true that some immigrant professionals do not have education or skills commensurate with Alberta standards. However, the experience of many highly trained immigrant professionals suggests that some professional and trade regulators have unnecessarily complex procedures for licensure, which can sometimes cause foreign trained professionals to spend years jumping through regulatory hoops while they are stuck in survival jobs, and their skills atrophy.3 

While many licensing bodies have made considerable progress in streamlining their credentialing procedures in recent years, there continue to be concerns that some regulators create unnecessary barriers to licensure as a form of labour market protectionism. In the words of the Conference Board of Canada: 

 “To some extent, occupational bodies are conflicted in that they have a joint mandate to both serve existing members and to ensure that new members are worthy of admission. Sometimes this joint mandate favours existing members over new members and occupational restrictions morph from public safety management to old-style protectionism. Protectionism can manifest itself in a lack of openness and unfairness to new members.”

Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan

If elected, a United Conservative government will immediately launch consultations to develop the Alberta Advantage Immigration Strategy, which will be completed by the end of 2019.  We will seek input from immigrants, employers, settlement organizations, municipalities, policy experts, and will study best practices in other provinces. The goal will be to end large backlogs, speed up processing times, proactively attract talented newcomers from overseas, welcome job-creating entrepreneurs, and encourage settlement in rural Alberta.

A key part of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Strategy will be an ambitious action plan to knock down unfair barriers to the full economic inclusion of new Albertans, while maintaining our high professional standards.

We will implement a Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan, which will include:

  • Introduction of a Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act modelled on similar legislation adopted by the Province of Ontario in 2006.4  This law will help ensure that regulated professions and individuals applying for registration by regulated professions are governed by registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.
  • Creation of a Fairness for Newcomers Office with a $2.5 million budget5, and oversight from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration. This Office will:
    • Work with trade and professional licensing bodies to streamline, simplify and accelerate foreign credential recognition, with a goal of giving applicants for licensure a clear answer within six months or less of their application.
    • Publicly identify and hold accountable those regulatory bodies that have unreasonable barriers to credential recognition.
  • Organize a Premier’s Summit on Fairness for Newcomers. The Premier will invite all of Alberta’s professional and trade regulators, together with immigrants, employers, and settlement agencies to develop a strategy for Alberta to have the fastest and fairest assessment of foreign credentials and education in Canada.
  • Put foreign credential recognition on the agenda of the First Ministers Meeting to push for faster action on the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications 6, which is an effort to get regulatory bodies across Canada to harmonize their credentialing procedures.
  • Create an Alberta Government Mentorship for Newcomers Program, modelled on a similar federal program7, to match immigrant professionals with mentors in the public service who can help to guide them through the process of credential recognition and finding employment at their skill level.
  • Support and expand the work of the International Qualifications Assessment Service 8 (created by a previous Progressive Conservative government,) that assesses foreign degrees against the Canadian post-secondary standard.
  • Work with non-profit groups like Windmill Microlending 9 (formerly the Alberta Immigrant Access Fund) to expand access to low-interest loans to immigrant professionals who need bridge financing to upgrade their skills and pay for certification exams. Windmill’s micro-loans are backstopped by philanthropists, have a 97 percent repayment rate, and on average help to triple income for program participants.
  • Support the work of immigrant settlement agencies to offer skills upgrading to underemployed foreign professionals.
  • Work with the federal government to offer pre-arrival orientation to foreign nationals selected for permanent residency in Alberta to encourage them to apply for credential recognition and educational assessments before they arrive in Canada.

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[1] https://canadaimmigrants.com/immigrants-and-employment-january-2018/

[2] https://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/2f7f3446-d513-4428-a94a-3f0fdbfe0f7e/7607_BrainGainII_RPT-E.pdf

[3] https://calgaryherald.com/news/national/skilled-immigrants-wasting-their-talents-in-canada

[4] https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/06f31

[5] Reprofiled from existing programs.

[6] https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/foreign-credential-recognition/funding-framework.html

[7] https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/new-immigrants/prepare-life-canada/prepare-work/federal-internship.html

[8] http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/AWonline/ETS/4342.html

[9] https://windmillmicrolending.org 


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