A standard definition of Canadian experience does not exist. This is a major issue as Canadian experience is something that has often been required for many immigrants to work in skilled trades and regulated professions in Canada. Because Canadian experience is such a subjective term and takes on many meanings it is viewed as a requirement that could easily allow someone to discriminate against a job applicant. This is a major problem.
Most research labels Canadian experience as tacit knowledge. This knowledge encompasses a wide range of skills from workplace behaviors to social etiquette. Workshops and programs are available to help immigrants gain specific Canadian experience related to workplace terminology and the improvement of their English skills.
Despite evidence that ties the use of the Canadian experience requirement to employment discrimination, new immigration policies are now using CE as criteria for permanent residence.
The lack of Canadian experience is one of the largest barriers that immigrants face when seeking employment, and the requirement of it leads to severe underemployment of immigrant workers
The requirement of Canadian experience has been described as systemic discrimination. Requiring Canadian experience allows employers to favour those who have been trained in Canada. This favouritism may be unintentional, but it is still a form of discrimination that often leaves immigrants working in lower paying entry-level jobs.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has said “Employers and regulatory bodies need to ask about all of a job applicant’s previous work – where they got their experience does not matter. The policy also tells employers and regulatory bodies how to develop practices, policies and programs that do not result in discrimination.”
While this statement may seem like it could ease the requirement of Canadian experience, it is only a guideline. The OHRC cannot change or enforce policies, but they can influence policy change.
Recent changes to Federal immigration policies has seemingly legitimized the requirement for Canadian experience. Words like “adaptability” have been replaced with Canadian experience in the Foreign Skilled Workers Program.
While it seems that the requirement of Canadian experience has become institutionalized, the Supreme Court of Canada has taken steps to help address the issue of whether or not Canadian experience can be required through a three part test. This test examines whether the requirement:
- has a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed
- is necessary for fulfilling the purpose or goal
- is reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, in the sense that it is impossible to accommodate the applicant without undue hardship for the regulator.
This examination of Canadian experience by the Supreme Court is a step in the right direction to make the requirement of Canadian experience something that can be viewed as a fair practice for employers who are hiring immigrants.
Canada.metropolis.net, (2014). Metropolis Web Site. [online] Available at: http://canada.metropolis.net/research-policy/conversation/MATAPAPER.html [Accessed 4 Dec. 2014].