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Saturday, February 24, 2007

The NDP has a plan - 7 cheers for Olivia Chow

First off, I'm not particularly a fan of any of the four primary Canadian political parties. I am a fan of those who take a chance and propose action. So currently, I'm a fan of the NDP, who last week made a solid proposal to address some of the issues faced by skilled workers who come to Canada, only to find they are unable to work intheir chosen profession - the profession that Canada told them was so valuable in the first place. Here is the introduction to the paper published by Olivia Chow (Ontario NDP Minister for Trinity-Spadina), followed by my summary of each of the seven points. I tried copying the whole PDF here, but it had technical issues...

Creating Fair Opportunities
A proposal for the recognition of foreign credentials

Olivia Chow, MP Trinity-Spadina NDP
Deputy Immigration Critic

Canada’s failure to recognize the credentials of qualified, skilled and professional foreign-trained immigrants in the workforce is harming the economy and immigrants alike – exacerbating labour shortages, limiting the contribution and earning potential of immigrants, contributing to unacceptable levels of child poverty and putting a strain on social services.

The 2006 federal Budget allocated $18 million to consult on the creation of a Foreign Credentials Recognition Agency. Instead of more talk and empty election promises, it is time for concrete action. It is grossly unfair for skilled immigrants to continue to waste their talents. The NDP proposes to allocate the earmarked consultation funds towards the creation of the agency immediately. We have consulted extensively with immigrant serving agencies and service providers over the years. This proposal for the creation of an agency for the recognition of foreign credentials is based on sound input and best practices.

1. Create a clear, accessible Internet and toll-free phone portal for information on: assessment criterea and processes; educational institutions where those who need to upgrade their skills can apply; licensing bodies and how to get a license to practice in a regualted profession; how to get "Canadian experience" through mentorship, bridge programs and training.
2. Publicize detailed information on the process surrounding recognition of foreign credentials and offer seminars on a regular basis at offshore visa offices in order to make "early recognition" part of the application review process. In essence, pre-approving new immigrants to work in their field BEFORE they arrive in Canada.
3. Establish permanent training, mentorship and bridging programs.
4. Establish a database from which organizations can verify information from the Federal Government.
5. Coordinate with CIC to facilitate timely and fair accreditation.
6. Create a uniform assessment and recognition process.
7. Create special programs for those sectors that face heightened labour shortages.

In general, this is a pretty good start. The only problem I have with these proposals is that the NDP is clearly working "inside the box". Instead of actually proposing legislation that would make a difference, they are proposing "programs" for the use of Federal funds. Typically, this simply creates new bureaucracies.

Still and all, seven cheers for Olivia and Jack. At least skilled workers have an advocate in Canada.

Download the PDF here

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