When foreign-trained doctors apply for accreditation to work in Ontario, they generally wait four to six weeks to get an answer. Pharmacists wait about two weeks and engineers six weeks for decisions from their professional regulatory bodies on whether their foreign credentials will be recognized here.
So how, then, will a requirement to give applicants an answer within one year “speed up foreign credential recognition for newcomers to Canada,” as Ottawa claimed this week under a much-ballyhooed framework agreement with provinces.
In Ontario, at least, it won’t speed up the process. Even nurses and chartered accountants – who wait the longest of the 14 identified professions – average half the time allowed under the framework announced this week.
The real problem is not how fast the paperwork is processed. Rather, it is lack of access to the necessary training and skills upgrading programs, as well as unreasonable requirements imposed by professional bodies, which have little incentive to let in newcomers.
All this is in the hands of the provinces, which oversee self-regulated professions and allocate funding for most training programs. Even so, it is encouraging that our federal government is beginning to pay attention to what happens to immigrants after they arrive in Canada.
Our immigration system – controlled by Ottawa – is skewed to benefit skilled professionals. Foreign-trained professionals, including doctors, dentists, engineers and accountants, are all told that Canada needs them. Yet when they arrive, many discover a wall of bureaucracy, with years-long wait lists for necessary training programs or no job vacancies in their fields.
So while much of the framework announced this week is more spin than substance, it may still prove beneficial if it signals that the federal government is finally concerning itself with the outcomes of its immigration policies.
As well, the broad national vision outlined in the framework agreement is a strong one. It states that Canada values skilled immigrants; will quickly recognize their qualifications where appropriate; provide access to required training where necessary; and strive for accreditation rules that are fair, transparent and consistent.
Whatever specific improvements are made to accreditation requirements and training programs will ultimately determine whether this framework produces concrete results. Without those changes, it amounts to little more than a Conservative government trying to score cheap “we care about immigrants” points.
Reference: Toronto Star