Barriers Affecting the Integration of Non-Regulated Occupation Immigrants into the Canadian Labour Market

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Org: Canadian Coalition of Community-Based Employability Training
Date: 2005

This report provides a summary of the Pan-Canadian Sector Council and Immigrant Dialogue, an initiative of the Canadian Coalition of Community-Based Employability Training (CCCBET). The Dialogue Initiative was supported by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and the British Columbia Ministry of Economic Development.

The Dialogue initiative consisted of three components:

  • Background research
  • A Dialogue event held on September 8 – 9, 2005 at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario
  • Dialogue follow-up interviews

Background Research

The main objective of the background research was to support the design of the Dialogue event by identifying and measuring specific issues and barriers preventing the integration of non-regulated occupation immigrants and refugees into the Canadian workforce. A literature review of past and current publications was conducted to identify broadly defined issues regarding lack of integration. Based on these issues, a research questionnaire was designed, and telephone interviews were conducted with nine Sector Councils (of an estimated total of 35) and ten Immigrant Serving Agencies (of an estimated total of 30).

The top three barriers affecting the hiring in Canada of non-regulated occupation immigrants reported by survey respondents were: language skills, recognition of foreign work experience and credentials, and Canadian work experience. Additional barriers mentioned included cultural issues, discrimination issues, and issues related to access to employers/jobs. There was consensus between the Sector Councils and Immigrant Serving Agencies that were surveyed that language skills, foreign experience, and foreign credentials were the most significant limitations affecting the integration of immigrants into the Canadian labour market. However, there was a “disconnect” between the two respondent groups on the issues of limited or no Canadian work experience, and discrimination causing barriers.

A wide variety of solutions for addressing gaps in information and services were identified, and are detailed in the complete report.

Dialogue Event

The Dialogue took place on September 8 – 9, 2005 at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. The purpose of the event was to promote networking, sharing of information, and partnerships among participants. Approximately 90 people participated in the Dialogue, with representatives from 19 Sector Councils, 40 Immigrant Serving Agencies from nine provinces, along with representatives from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and the provincial governments of British Columbia and Quebec.

During the Dialogue, participants heard presentations from Sector Councils, Immigrant Serving Agencies, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), and watched a video on Sector Councils provided by HRSDC. During the evening networking event, Dr. David Foot, Professor of Economics, University of Toronto, gave a presentation on a demographic perspective on immigrants and business.

Small group discussions during the Dialogue focused on identifying issues and solutions affecting the employment of immigrants in the Canadian workforce. The key issues raised by participants were:

  • Language challenges
  • Canadian work experience

One of the Dialogue groups expressed views with regard to “Canadian Work Experience” and “Lack of Canadian Work Experience” as follows: In the term "Canadian work experience”, the word “Canadian” may be an inappropriate qualifier. No matter where work experience is gained it has to be weighed on its own merits.

It also has a human rights dimension in the sense that we can no more speak of or ask as a job requirement that a person have "Canadian work experience” than we can of "male" work experience, or "older" work experience or "able bodied" work experience or "English" work experience ... since all of these qualifiers go counter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and would promote discrimination. To speak of "Canadian work experience” is to give it an ethnic and national origin thus clearly against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

In other words, work experience has to be evaluated by measurable and reasonable criteria, i.e. number of years, related to a specific field or a specific job and it cannot be defined on the basis of where (the country) it was acquired.

The dilemma for an employer is how to properly evaluate work experience gained by an immigrant outside of Canada. The challenge is to demonstrate how their work experience is directly transferable to the employers’ situation in Canada.

The lack of "Canadian work experience” should not invalidate any candidate and the term should be avoided completely. The more accurate term should be "relevant” work experience.

  • Verification and/or validation of foreign work experience
  • Pre-entry issues
  • Personal biases
Complete Report
This guide is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (2.76MB, 85 pages).