Asking for Canadian experience is discrimination, says Human Rights body


By Gerald V. Paul

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) new policy on removing the “Canadian experience “ barrier was launched on Monday by Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall in partnership with KPMG.

“Ontario attracts highly-skilled immigrants from all over the world, but if they have to meet a requirement for Canadian experience, they are in a very difficult position- they can’t get a job without Canadian experience and they can’t get experience without a job. In most cases, that is discrimination under Ontario’s Human Rights Code,” a concerned Hall told The Camera on Tuesday.

Hall noted that the OHRC found that many newcomers turn to unpaid work such as volunteering, internships or low-skilled “survival jobs” to meet the requirement for Canadian experience. They also faced obstacles when trying to get professional accreditation since some regulatory bodies will not admit new members without prior work experience in Canada. As a result, they end up in jobs that do not correspond to their education, skills and experience.

According to Hall, the new policy sets out the OHRC’s position that a strict requirement for “Canadian experience” is discriminatory, and can only be used in rare circumstances. Employers and regulatory bodies need to ask about all of a job applicant’s previous work –where they got their experience does not matter. The policy also tells employers and regulatory bodies how to develop practices, policies and programmes that do not result in discrimination.

And Bill Thomas, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Partner, KPMG, welcomed this new policy adding that businesses that invest in newcomers benefit from the skills and rich experience they have to offer and in return, become more competitive in today’s global economy.

Last fall, the OHRC consulted newcomers to Canada in the past 10 years about their experiences looking for jobs in Ontario since their arrival, and employers or human resources representatives who use “Canadian experience” as a job requirement. The OHRC also spoke with a number of organizations and individuals, including agencies serving newcomers, employers, government and regulatory bodies.