The Edmonton Journal
November 08, 2008

Jamie Hall

EDMONTON – Trying to talk frustrated foreign-educated professionals out of returning to their respective homelands is part of Jim Gurnett’s daily routine.

Gurnett is director of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.

On Friday, he spoke with an immigrant doctor from Germany, demoralized after three years of fighting to have his credentials recognized here so he can work in his chosen field.

An announcement by the provincial government Friday to establish a $1-million fund to streamline the process to get such credentials recognized may not have come in time to change the doctor’s mind, but it’s a good step forward, he said.

“This issue overall has probably been the most significant challenge to immigrants coming to Canada and to Alberta, so this is welcome news,” Gurnett said.

“The economic underachievement of immigrants is the root of almost all the other challenges they experience here. They’re immensely well-qualified, hopeful and determined people who come here and then get trapped for long periods of time in poverty,” Gurnett said.

“It’s soul-destroying, and it comes at an immense economic cost to them and their families, and to the rest of us,” Gurnett said.

As it stands, recognition of foreign qualifications is not in the provincial government’s hands.

In Alberta, there are more than 50 professional regulatory organizations, another 25 educational institutions, numerous employers as well as myriad industry councils or non-government organizations involved in recognizing foreign qualifications.

The result is a complex, confusing maze that’s practically impossible for immigrants to navigate.

The new announcement essentially means the government will act to bring all the interested parties together aimed at developing a streamlined, less-complicated process.

Alberta Employment and Immigration Minister Hector Goudreau said it’s a challenge to compare the skills of immigrants to enable them to navigate the accreditation process.

“Through this plan, government and stakeholders are working together to clarify and shorten the plan skilled immigrants take to join our workforce,” Goudreau said.

Minister of Advanced Education Doug Horner said the plan will help expand the labour market, strengthen the economy and provide opportunities for immigrants so they can make the most of the skills.

Earlier this year, the government established a health-career centre to help foreign health-care professionals with accreditation and licensing. It also provided small loans through an access fund to help provide immigrants with training and upgrading.

An interim report on the plan is expected by next May.

“As long as I’ve been working in his sector, this is a single issue with both the federal and provincial governments we’ve continually raised,” Gurnett said.
© The Edmonton Journal 2008

Reference: Edmonton Journal