Nicholas Keung

The provincial government should offer financial aid to internationally trained professionals who must upgrade their education or training to practise in Canada, urges Ontario’s fairness commissioner.

It’s one of 17 recommendations put forward by Jean Augustine on Tuesday that would make it easier for underemployed and unemployed skilled immigrants to become licensed in one of Ontario’s 37 regulated professions.

“We are talking about human beings, whose lives and families are thrown into great upheaval. Some of the stories are truly heartbreaking,” Augustine told reporters.

“People even told us that if they had known about the obstacles they would face, they would never have come to Canada. This is an alarming message, and we must take steps to ensure it does not persist.”

The recommendations come on the heels of an in-depth study that showed only one in four immigrant professionals manages to obtain a licence in one of Ontario’s 37 regulated professions, compared with 60 per cent of Canadian grads.

“This is a disgrace,” said NDP MPP Michael Prue (Beaches-East York).

Premier Dalton McGuinty also expressed dismay at the fairness commissioner’s findings. “Clearly, more needs to be done,” he said. “We are still not where we need to be as a society – I’m not just talking about the role of government here, but our trades, our professions and our employers generally.”

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, welcomed the report.

But Doris Grinspun, of the 30,000-member Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario – while recognizing some of the systemic barriers faced by newcomers – said it’s equally important that professional standards are not compromised for the sake of opening doors to skilled immigrants.

One recommendation, that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario initiate “individualized assessment regimes” for qualified foreign medical graduates, should raise alarm bells, she said. Standardized evaluation exists in order to protect public safety, she noted.

Commissioner Augustine also recommended that:

Regulatory bodies clearly identify licensing steps, and provide alternatives to mandatory training or residency programs.

Skilled immigrants complete as much of the registration process as possible before coming to Canada.

Reference: Toronto Star