Purge of ‘Canadian experience’ barrier brings hope to skilled immigrants Canadian University Press September 11, 2013 12:00 am News DANILO BARBA — The Dialog (George Brown College) Githin Mathew said Canadian work experience has been the biggest barrier for him finding a job. TORONTO (CUP) — Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971. But more than 40 years later, international students and immigrants still turn to unpaid work such as volunteering, internships or low-skilled ‘survival jobs’ because they don’t meet the requirements for Canadian experience. “Ontario attracts highly-skilled immigrants from all over the world,” said the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s chief commissioner Barbara Hall. “But if they have to meet a requirement for Canadian experience, 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.” After consulting with newcomers to Canada in the last 10 years, the OHRC found that many of them end up in jobs that do not correspond to their education, skills or experience. OHRC launched a new policy on July 15, stating that employers need to ask about a job applicant’s previous work. However, which country they got their experience in should not matter. Githin Mathew, a postgraduate student in international business management at George Brown College, has been facing this situation since he arrived from India in January. “The biggest barrier I have faced is companies’ requirement for Canadian experience,” Mathew said. “We as students hope to get experience by working with a Canadian company, and the companies intend to employ students only if they have Canadian experience.” Harmeet Singh Kohli, a professor at the GBC Centre for Business, said “if the experience acquired abroad is relevant to [the] domestic, political, economic and cultural environment, then there is no reason for the employer not to take it into account; but that it is still an employer’s decision.” With the new policy, employers are advised to be more specific with their ads and job postings than just requiring Canadian experience. Examples include education, independent study, on-the-job training and volunteering. Meanwhile, there are positions where international experience on the resume can be looked upon favorably. “It seems like discrimination to me,” said Geoff David Barr Watson, owner of creative agency The New Beat. “My line of work comprises international standard codes, procedures and software, so I would consider hiring skilled professionals independently of their country of origin in a selection. “My opinion is that foreigners may actually aggregate fresh knowledge to the company, and I believe that a new policy can definitely address the Canadian experience issue,” he said. Bob Eichvald, manager of the career services centre, said that a lack of work experience can be a barrier for students when they are job searching. “We encourage both domestic and international students to acquire work experience while completing their study programs,” said Eichvald. Sask Langer I’m a Canadian Expat and have always thought this policy is extremely closed-minded and narrow thinking. Especially when dealing with skilled professionals, most countries actually want international experience and I’ve seen this on more than a few postings listed as an asset and even a requirement (International experience necessary). Canada, on the other hand, seems to view international experience as a hindrance to employment (and believe me I want to get political here but I won’t). Oh, I know a few reasons why you’d want to make sure someone has such experience, partly from first-hand experience myself with people who certainly have a different work style than you’d “typically” find in Canada, but this is a product of our own making by ensuring that there is a disincentive to getting the kind of experience that would make this less of an issue. Seriously, Canada. This “Canada First” mentality is a huge problem. Oh, sure, there’s lots to love about the country, but that doesn’t translate into “we’re great so everything we do is great and we want to make sure that everyone who comes here does things our way”. That might work for a few jobs where procedure is important (looking at the trades here) but if Canada really wants to be taken seriously in the Global marketplace and in research this has got to stop. Good on Ontario for finally making a move. H.R. It’s about time!! xDD!!