Immigration changes will hurt fair access

By Jasminee Sahoye

Jean Augustine

The Fairness Commission of Ontario strongly believes that proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations being put forward by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) could hurt fair access for new skilled immigrants.

Fairness Commissioner, Grenada-born Jean Augustine, while speaking last Monday at the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Harney Lecture Series on International Credentials: Asset or Liability? says the proposed changes could “fly in the face of fair access.”

She adds that her office has brought to the CIC attention, three specific concerns. The first has to do with the disparity of points given for Canadian work experience as against foreign work experience. The Fairness Commission recommended that equal number of points should be given to applicants for work experience in a declared profession, regardless of where that experience was obtained.

“If this regulation proceeds, the CIC would, in essence, promote the continued marginalization and exclusion of internationally educated professionals from the marketplace. It would effectively validate the discriminatory practice of devaluing work experience obtained outside Canada,” Augustine says.

The other concern raised by the commission is a requirement for mandatory assessment of foreign education credentials. This could have implications for many immigrants who intend to work in regulated professions and would be subjected to duplicate assessments and costs.

“And most importantly, we expressed concerns about CIC’s criteria to determine ‘equivalency’ to Canadian education credentials. Frankly, we were not confident about the transparency of these criteria, given that methodologies for assessment of academic credentials differ from organization to organization. There is great potential for inconsistent assessment outcomes unless clear criteria are established and made publicly available,” the Fairness Commissioner states.

The third major concern conveyed to the CIC by the Fairness Commission is about the proposed requirement for a minimum level of language proficiency.

“Ontario’s regulated professions receive internationally trained applicants from a number of source countries. English or French may not be the official language of instruction in these countries. The unintended impact of the CIC’s proposed language tests may be to exclude a large number of individuals who would otherwise be successful in their professions,” says Augustine, who served as a federal minister for a number of years.

The Fairness Commission is recommending that the CIC align the language tests and benchmarks with those used by regulatory bodies for immigrants who would like to work in a regulated profession.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has previously acknowledged that there are still much work to be done to improve the process for assessing and recognizing the qualifications of immigrants, especially those that need licensing.

Augustine says her office has been monitoring the way credentials are assessed by the various regulated bodies, adding the need for continued vigilance in the use of third-parties to assess credentials.

“…We have encountered inherent unfairness in the licensing process that is less tangible – but no less real. They demonstrate the need for ongoing vigilance. …these outside agencies are not as accountable as they should be. Recent analysis shows that 35 of 38 professions in Ontario require some form of credentials assessment, with 26 of those professions using third parties. Of those that conduct in-house assessments, 44 per cent do not have clear criteria for deciding how credentials are assessed. A similar number do not provide in-depth training on how to conduct assessments.”

Since the Fairness Commission was established five years ago, the first-ever assessments of all of Ontario’s regulatory bodies was done and the report is expected to be released in January.

“We have compiled a comprehensive report, reflecting what we have seen and learned in our first five years, what we have gleaned from the assessments, and our recommendations for the future,” Augustine notes.