Employment in the regulated professions is more difficult for immigrants not only because the applicant has to meet the general requirements for the job, but they are also subject to the regulatory body that governs that profession. This regulatory body may be provincial or a professional association. Regulated professions include, but are not limited to, engineering, law, teaching, medicine, and nursing.
These regulatory bodies often have very stringent criteria that the applicant must meet in order to be allowed to practice the profession they are trying to enter. Most often these criteria prevent immigrants from entering these professions. This is most visible through data provided by Statistics Canada. Data from 2006 shows that those who studied outside of Canada in fields that allowed them to work in a regulated profession had a higher unemployment rate than those who were born and had studied in Canada.
Unfortunately these regulatory bodies are an unseen obstacle for professionally trained immigrant workers. More often than not those coming to Canada are unaware that these bodies exist. Because of this, the requirements of these associations and bodies are not always clear to those coming to Canada for work. The Ontario Fairness Commissioner has identified that the lack of information available to immigrants about provincial licensing requirements acts as a barrier to those entering Canada for work. They make two recommendations to the Canadian Government concerning this:
- To ensure transparency in the application process regarding issues like licensing requirements for regulated professions.
- Before immigrant professionals arrive give them up to-date-and clear information about destination province licensing requirements.
In 1995 Ontario established the Access to Professions and Trades initiative. This initiative was designed to help promote fair merit based registration procedures for professionals and tradespeople who were trained outside of Canada. Based on a follow up study, this initiative has seen limited progress. Outside applicants in the regulated professions and trades are under-represented. 22% of all applicants between 2005 and 2011 were from outside of Canada and the US, but only 17% were fully accepted as members in that same time period.
Despite its limited success the APT was heralded both nationally and internationally for it’s acknowledgement of immigrants as vital, contributing assets to our economy.
The Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act of 2006 aims for fairness and transparency in the regulated professions in Ontario. This act also established the Fairness Commissioner and the Office of the Fairness Commissioner in Ontario. The Act allows professions to continue to regulate themselves but gives the Commissioner the authority to make orders that require the profession to comply with the Fair Registration Practices Code.
This would allow direct intervention by an outside organization in instances where access to regulated professions was hindered by their policies and regulations.
Unfortunately both of the aforementioned acts have issues. The most obvious of this is the limited success of the APT. This Act does not have the structure to support access to bridging programs and to help further transparency and fairness of registration within the professions.
FARPA only covers professions and ignores trades altogether. As well as this FARPA is not powerful enough to impose any other enforcement of transparency and fairness beside administering fines.
Overall, transparency and communication is touted as the first step in solving the issue of regulatory bodies acting as a barrier to immigrant job seekers.
Office of the Fairness Commissioner. (2013). A Fair Way to Go: Access to Ontario’s Regulated Professions and the Need to Embrace Newcomers in the Global Economy. Retrieved from http://www.fairnesscommissioner.ca/files_docs/content/pdf/en/A%20Fair%20Way%20to%20Go%20Full%20Report%20ENG%20Jan%202013.pdf
Türegün, A. (2008). The Politics of Access to Professions: Making Ontario’s Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act, 2006. CERIS, 70. Retrieved from http://www.ceris.metropolis.net/Virtual%20Library/WKPP%20List/WKPP2008/CWP70.pdf