Changes coming to Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act

Will get rid of a barrier that prevents new immigrants from obtaining jobs in their professional fields

By Lincoln DePredine

Debbie Douglas

The Ontario government has taken a first step to get rid of a barrier – the requirement for “Canadian work experience’’ – that prevents new immigrants, many from the Caribbean and Africa, from obtaining jobs in their professional fields of training on arrival in the country.

“These are folks who often have the training, experience, and qualifications to work in booming industries, where Ontario desperately needs help, but are being denied a chance to contribute,’’ said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development.

The minister has just introduced a bill in the Ontario legislature proposing changes to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act.

Three main aspects of the act are being targeted for change. “The Canadian work experience requirement, which is the big piece, we’re eliminating,’’ a ministry spokesperson told The Caribbean Camera.

The spokesperson said the proposed changes could be completed and passed into law before the next provincial election, which is due no later than June 2, 2022. But, he explained that “it will take time to be implemented. The legislation would give the Ontario fairness commissioner more powers, including powers to review and make recommendations to the minister’’.

Monte McNaughton

It’s believed that immigrants comprise about a third of Ontario’s labour force. However, data indicates that just 25 percent of internationally educated immigrants find employment in their profession once they arrive here.

Additionally, Ontario is home to more than 170,000 internationally trained immigrants that are working in jobs that do not match their level of qualification.

The government’s recommended changes will help the province, as well as Canadian newcomers including licence- and certificate-seeking professionals such as lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, electricians and plumbers, hairstylists, teachers and early childhood educators.

The ministry of labour, training and skills development (MLTSD) has promised that it will work with the ministry of health to assess if the proposed changes “can also be made for health professions in the future’’.

“Ontario is facing a generational labour shortage with hundreds of thousands of jobs going unfilled. However, all too often, newcomers in this province struggle to find jobs in their regulated profession for no other reason than bureaucracy and red tape,” said McNaughton.

“If these proposed changes are passed, Ontario would become the first province in Canada to help level the playing field in certain regulated professions so that workers coming here have the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones, and build stronger communities for us all.”

In unveiling its intent to eliminate the Canadian work experience prerequisite, McNaughton and the MLTSD said the requirement “is often cited as the number one barrier Canadian immigrants face in obtaining a job that matches their level of qualification’’.

Other reforms address “official language proficiency testing’’, making it unnecessary for people to have “to complete multiple tests for purposes of immigration and professional licencing’’.

Irwin Glasberg

As well, the government’s suggested amendments provide for “applicants to register faster in their regulated professions when there are emergencies (such as a pandemic) that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades’’; and also would “ensure the licensing process is completed in a timely manner to help internationally trained immigrants start working in careers that match their skillset’’. The current licensing time in some regulated professions takes up to 18 months or more.

Irwin Glasberg, Ontario’s fairness commissioner, says his office “looks forward to working with the government, professional regulators, and other parties to advance these initiatives and improve fair access to the regulated professions and compulsory trades.”

In the past several months, said Glasberg, “I had the pleasure of co-chairing numerous roundtables with minister McNaughton, as we heard from immigrants, industry leaders, settlement groups and faith communities, to understand the barriers internationally trained professionals often face. I am very pleased the government intends to propose several important amendments that would, if approved and passed, better the lives of new Canadians’’.

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants also is happy that changes will be made to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act.

“If passed, these reforms will address Canadian experience requirements, remove barriers for internationally trained professionals and allow immigrants and refugees to better express their dignity through work, for themselves and their families,’’ said executive director of the council,  Debbie Douglas.