New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 28 November 2017 20:41

My Life in a Suitcase

Commentary by: Mona Mashhadi Rajabi in Tehran, Iran

I was standing in front of my suitcase and thought about what I had packed into it. I had one suitcase for my documents and their certified translations, as well as one suitcase for my clothes and other personal belongings.

Two suitcases for a person who wanted to move to another country and pursue Ph.D. studies. A person who had lived 32 years in her home country and had a history in that place. 

I assumed that the most important things that I could carry with me were the documents that spoke to my education and work history.  

All the important documents that I gathered in my life were in a suitcase. They included my certificates, recommendation letters, writing samples, medical documents, especially those of my daughter, and the identity documents of my three-member-family: my husband, my daughter, and I. 

I also had to pack up the university documents as I wanted to pursue my study and they were required in order to register in the program. So I put my Master's and Bachelor's degrees as well as my transcripts in the suitcase. 

I prepared all the documents and certified translations of my bank accounts, even going as far as including the deed to my apartment in Tehran. 

With all of my documents piled into in one suitcase, the thought struck me: “Is this really all I have gained in my life?”

How could I prove myself to the people who neither know me nor my country? 

Would Canada recognize my documents?

So I packed everything and moved to Canada.

Foreign credentials

Following registration, the start of the program revealed that most of the newly admitted Ph.D. students would be required to enroll in some of the foundational courses from the Master's program due to their foreign credentials. The move signified that their foreign Master's degrees were not fully recognized.

The documents that illustrated what I had been doing professionally were not useful at all either. After surfing the Internet and talking to many people who had been living in Canada for many years, I learned that without “Canadian work experience” it would be difficult to find a good job. 

So none of my documents were really useful. No one knew me, the universities that I got my degrees from, and the companies that I had worked for. So what was the point of carrying all these documents? 

It was a heart-breaking moment. I moved to Canada in the hopes of being able to do what I was good at, could do well and was the dream of all my life, but Canada did not recognize my credentials. 

The surprising part of the story was that the government had assessed and accepted me based on these same documents. The university had accepted that I studied for at least 17 years – but still did not give me full credit for Master"s degree. The job market discounted my credentials even further.

The Canadian job market cared not about what I had done but what I was going to do in Canada. It seemed to me that Canada needed talented and hardworking people and granted them admission to Canada under different visa programs based on their achievements in their home country. But after moving in, Canada wanted to educate them based on the skills that were needed in the country, and making them ready for their own job market. 

Starting afresh

It was at this moment that I realized that all I had to bring to Canada was a prepared me: A person who knew what was waiting for her in this moving process, a person who was ready to embrace the new situation and ready to learn new things, a person who wished to start afresh as she contemplated that a brighter future would eventually come, and a person who did not become disappointed from the hardships along the way. 

After I moved to Canada and witnessed the reality, I decided not to rely too much on my achievements and experiences in Iran. I decided to be eager to learn new things and routines in the hope that hard work will eventually pay off.

I was ready to make a new beginning without my documents and titles, so I could write a new life story.

This piece is part of a mini-series within New Canadian Media’s Mentorship Program. The writer was mentored by Alireza Ahmadian.

Mona Mashhadi Rajabi holds a Master’s degree in economics. As a business journalist living in Tehran, she has written for publications such as Donyay-e-eghtesad, Tejarat-e-farda, Jahan-e-sanat and Ireconomy.

Published in Commentary

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

New online programs are looking at how work is done in other parts of the world in order to more easily transfer newcomers’ skills to the Canadian job market. 

Abigail Fulton presented the British Columbia Construction Association's (BCCA) Integrating Newcomers program on Mar. 4 at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto. 

The program was one of two B.C.-based collaborative business plans showcased in the panel discussion “Facilitating Labour Market Integration to Skilled Trades”. The programs cater specifically to the construction market and offer an innovative way to reach immigrants who practise labour work in their home countries. 

“Many construction companies tend to look within their circles for hiring,” explained Fulton. “They employ their friends and family. Because of this, those who don’t fit into that category have a harder time finding work.” 

She explained that the integration program helps fill a gap, as 85 per cent of construction companies in B.C. have less than 10 employees.

... [U]nderstanding how construction is done in other countries [is] research Fulton calls “invaluable.”

An important aspect of the program is understanding how construction is done in other countries – research Fulton calls “invaluable.” 

Addressing competency gaps 

The BCCA Integrating Newcomers program focuses on assessing the skills of potential immigrants overseas as well as providing information about working and living in B.C., and later, employment leads. 

It is an example of several pre-arrival tactics that use online programs to properly survey, assess, mentor and inform newcomers about Canada’s workforce and labour market. 

Alongside this research is preparation for newcomers who want to settle in Canada and partake in the labour workforce. This is where the second business module called Facilitating Access to Skill Trades (FAST) comes into play. 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know.”

Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC of BC) and Lawrence Parisotto of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) presented FAST as a competency assessment and gap training tool for skill trades individuals. 

Parisotto says the program is “explicit and direct.” 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know,” said Parisotto. “The way to do that is being contextual and dependent between our content so that it provides and addresses outcomes.”  

Getting credentials recognized in advance 

FAST’s online application is collaborated with Shift IQ, a cloud-based learning management company. 

Shift IQ provides detailed diagnostics, validation, gap identification, post assessments and contributes to the e-mentoring program that guides and coaches a person through understanding the trades and services. 

The research BCCA Integrating Newcomers and FAST partake in both concluded that one of the main things immigrants should complete pre-arrival is getting their credentials recognized. 

Similar advice was mentioned in the “Seamless Service from Pre- to Post-Arrival in Canada” workshop.  

Maha Surani, a senior program officer and stakeholder at the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) said that research done by Planning for Canada to align newcomers with sector specific jobs showed that 63 per cent of employers encouraged pre-arrival immigrants to have their credentials assessed. 

Surani spoke on Planning for Canada’s collaboration with Acces Employment, a company connecting employers with qualified employees from diverse backgrounds. 

“There’s nothing generic about our work, which enhances the program altogether,” said Sue Sadler, a senior director of services and program development at Acces. 

“We have sector-specific training, and then follow through with a job search,” explained Sadler. “We then have business communications with our clients, the employers. All of this is done to connect our pre-arrival candidates to employers.” 

[I]t is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity.

Connecting with employers 

Acces Employment’s continuum module is enabled by online technology to enhance the job search of immigrants early on. The eight-week program caters to six sector-specific markets – engineering, human resources, finance, sales and marketing, supply chain and information technology. 

Markus Van Aardt, the business communications consultant behind the program, said that “folks are hungry for this information.” 

He explained the learning principle of the program: Immigrants usually start off being non-conscious and non-competent of the skills required for each of their desired job sectors. 

“I’ve walked in these folks’ shoes, it’s important to make sure they are in good hands,” said Van Aardt adamantly. 

“Newcomers want this information. They will drive you, and you don’t have to drive them. They will move quickly in the learning process, from being non-conscious, non-competence to conscious, [competence],” he said, using a diagram outlining the process of adult learning to illustrate his point. 

Enid Pico, senior vice-president and head of operations and share services at Scotiabank, spoke from an employer’s perspective. 

As the first female president of Scotiabank Puerto Rico and once a newcomer to Canada, she shared her encounters as a newcomer to the country and stated that while a pre-arrival program that prepares immigrants for job specific sectors is important, it is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity. 

“These cross-competency relationships are important. [Scotiabank] believes in diversity. It’s the right and smart thing to do,” said Pico. “Because of this, it’s important for us to find units and partners [like Planning for Canada and Acces] so that we can work with them to give us what we need.” 

Acces Employment and FAST’s pre-arrival modules will launch later on this year and the BCCA’s Integrating Newcomers program is now accepting applications.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Economy

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Like many immigrants, Sadia Sohail was looking forward to starting a new life in Canada when she moved here with her young family in 2000.

“Pakistan was a troubled country. I didn’t want to raise my children in that political environment,” Sohail says. “Safety was a huge thing for us, and we felt it was important to raise our children in an atmosphere where we could be ourselves, really.”

The family settled in Mississauga, and Sohail planned to continue working as a pediatrician. “I came with an open mind. I’m such a go-getter. I thought I’d get back into medicine as soon as possible,” she says. 

Instead, Sohail received a rude awakening within months of arriving. She was told her medical qualifications were the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree here. Sohail knew the road to practising as a doctor in Canada would be a long one, but she didn’t expect it to have as many bumps as it did.

She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.

Since she needed to provide a secondary income for her household, Sohail enrolled in an ultrasound program at a technical institute and began work as an ultrasound technician. She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.

Now, one final step was needed to complete her equivalency process: residency.

It has proven to be the most challenging aspect. Sohail has been seeking residency since 2013 through the Canadian Resident Matching Service, which opens residency to international doctors twice a year.

“I’ve applied four times and haven’t gotten a single response for an interview. It’s disheartening. You wonder: why is this?” Sohail questions. 

Bridging the Gap

The answer that her mentors told her was that she was missing clinical research, and some experience in this would increase her chances of obtaining residency. To familiarize herself with research, Sohail enrolled in the International Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which launched last December and began earlier this year.

Through the program, Sohail learned the fundamentals of research methodology and familiarized herself with clinical research in Canada. She also participated in a clinical placement at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which helped her begin volunteering on a research project with Toronto Public Health.

She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal ... Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.

“I feel like I’m making a huge difference with the projects I’m working on,” Sohail says. “I’m doing a project now on homeless mothers and their babies, so it’s bringing me back to what I love most.” 

She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal. It’s also made her consider a possible career in clinical research. Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.

Participants from the first cohort of The Chang School’s ITMD bridging program graduated earlier this month. The 14 participants are from 10 countries and have varied backgrounds in the medical profession, as the program targeted internationally trained physicians, dental surgeons and clinical public health professionals.

A Starting Point

The success rate of international medical doctors who wish to pursue a career in medicine is six per cent, according to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“This represents a lost opportunity for our province to benefit from the advanced academic and professional credentials of these highly skilled professionals,” explains Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

“Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” - Shafi Bhuiyan, The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services

The program was founded to help internationally trained professionals find non-licensed health-care jobs in Ontario. Shafi Bhuiyan, an internationally trained doctor who is a distinguished visiting professor with The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services, initiated the program. According to his research, Toronto has 6,000 internationally trained doctors who are working survival jobs.

“I’m also a newcomer to this country. I don’t have anybody,” says Bhuiyan, who knows the difficulties of navigating professional systems as a newcomer. “Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” 

Bhuiyan says licensing for international doctors is an expensive and lengthy process, with no guarantee of obtaining a residency. Because the medical system is not absorbing these professionals, the ITMD bridging program’s goal is to lead these professionals to non-licensed careers, which are in demand, such as project managers, research managers and analysts in the health-care industry.

“If we can involve [internationally trained doctors] in a non-licensed area of the medical field, they will be happy,” Bhuiyan says. “A bridging program is not the solution. It’s a starting point.”

At The Chang School, a recruitment committee scored applications out of 100 based on the applicant’s letter of intent, health and research experience, academic degrees and qualifications and English communication scores.

“Our plan was to start with 10 people and nearly 180 people applied for the program. We found 36 very strong people who scored well and were interviewed, and from that we offered 14 students to join the program and all of them accepted,” Bhuiyan says.

“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.” - Sadia Sohail

The 11-week program, which took place daily in the evenings, included a four-week volunteer clinical placement. Topics covered in the curriculum include: health research, project management, data management in health care, professional communication and workplace culture.

By the completion of the program, three graduates received job offers and six received an extension to their volunteer clinical placements.

Bountrogianni says the next cohort of the ITMD bridging program will begin in fall 2015 and that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for the program’s 15 spots.

Knocking Down Doors

The 15-year journey in pursuing a medical career in Canada has taken a toll on Sohail and her family – and it isn’t over yet.

When Sohail moved to Canada with her young family, she was pregnant and had a two-year-old toddler. Now, her children are teenagers. 

“My children – all they’ve seen growing up is their mother studying,” she says. “My routine has been very hectic and because I work, my evenings are dedicated to studying. My family is extremely supportive, but it seems like there has to be an end to this.” 

Despite being open to relocating and applying for residency positions across the country, Sohail is yet to hear a response, but she maintains her optimism.

“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to


Published in Education

by Daniel Munro

In general, holding a PhD in Canada is associated with good employment outcomes. But while aggregate outcomes are good, immigrants with PhDs do not fare nearly as well as non-immigrants. In many cases, immigrants with PhDs have weaker labour market outcomes than Canadians with no post-secondary education credentials at all. Immigrants with PhDs have important contributions to make to Canada’s economic and social well-being, but a number of barriers limit their ability to effectively use and benefit from their education and skills.

Who holds PhDs and where were they earned? 

As Table 1 shows, the proportion of PhDs held by immigrants and non-immigrants in Canada is roughly equal—50.4 per cent and 49.6 per cent, respectively. Just over three in five (62.2 per cent) were earned at Canadian institutions and nearly two in five (37.8 per cent) were earned from institutions outside Canada. Of the PhDs earned at Canadian institutions, nearly two-thirds were earned by non-immigrants (accounting for 40.4 per cent of all PhDs held in Canada) and the other third by immigrants (accounting for 21.8 per cent of all PhDs). By contrast, three-quarters of doctorates earned abroad were earned by immigrants, while one-quarter were earned by non-immigrants (accounting for 28.6 and 9.2 per cent of all PhDs, respectively).

Immigrants who earned their doctorates abroad were most likely to have done so in the United States (23 per cent), United Kingdom (12 per cent), France (9 per cent), China (8 per cent), India (6 per cent), or Germany (3.5 per cent). The remaining 39 per cent were earned from institutions in a wide diversity of countries. Nearly all of the non-immigrants who earned doctorates abroad did so in one of only three countries—the United States (67 per cent), United Kingdom (18 per cent), and France (6 per cent).

Location of study natters more for immigrants than non-immigrants

Employment outcomes are significantly weaker for immigrant PhDs than they are for non-immigrant PhDs. Non-immigrants, whether they earned their doctorates in Canada or abroad, have a labour force participation rate over 90 per cent, an employment rate of 88 per cent, and very low unemployment at 2.9 per cent. Immigrants who earned their doctorates in Canada have similar participation and employment rates, but their unemployment rate is noticeably higher at 4.3 per cent.

For immigrants who earned doctorates from institutions outside Canada, the situation is troubling. This cohort has lower labour force participation and employment rates, and an unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent—more than twice the rate of non-immigrants with PhDs (see Table 2) and equal to the unemployment rate for all education levels in Canada. Collectively, the nearly 50,000 immigrants in Canada who earned their doctorates abroad enjoy virtually no employment advantage when compared with Canada’s population regardless of educational attainment. That said, immigrant PhDs fare better than immigrants without PhDs in the Canadian labour market.

What explains the difference in outcomes?

Immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to have studied in a country whose credentials are easily recognized and trusted by Canadian employers. While immigrants who earned their doctorates in the United States had an unemployment rate of only 3 per cent—in line with the unemployment rate of non-immigrants with doctorates—less than a quarter earned their doctorates from the United States. Immigrants who earned their doctorates in countries other than the U.S. or U.K. experience much higher rates of unemployment.

But location of study explains only part of the difference. Regardless of where they earn their PhDs, immigrants face a range of employment barriers, including less-developed employment networks, language barriers, and racism. Immigrants with PhDs fare much better than immigrants without PhDs, but they face difficult transitions, achieve only a slim advantage over non-immigrants with lower education, and continue to lag well behind their non-immigrant peers with PhDs.

Understanding and addressing the many barriers to immigrant PhDs is critical to ensuring that both they and Canada’s economy and society as a whole can benefit from the advanced education and skills they have obtained. The ongoing work of The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education and National Immigration Centre explores various dimensions of the challenges facing immigrants—those with and without PhDs. It will shed light on changes that might be required as to how immigrant PhDs are educated and trained in Canada, as well as how immigrants are selected and integrated into the Canadian economy and society more generally. Watch for future commentaries and reports from both centres in 2015.

Daniel Munro has over ten years of experience in research and policy analysis on education, skills, innovation, and science and technology issues. He is is a Principal Research Associate in Public Policy at The Conference Board of Canada, and Lecturer in Ethics in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. 

Re-published with permission.

Published in Education

by Our Special Correspondent (@NewCdnMedia)

Canada’s most seasoned academic on immigration, Prof. Jeffrey Reitz, suggests that the decision of the government to postpone and reduce reliance on employer participation in the Express Entry system that takes effect Jan. 1 is simply a recognition of reality. Maintaining a leading role for government selection is the only way to ensure that Canada continues to receive an average of 250,000 new immigrants every year, he said in comments over the weekend.

In his view, short-term employer needs are not a good enough or efficient substitute for a system that has so far largely relied on the general employability of newcomers – also called the “human capital” model. Faced with mounting evidence that successive waves of immigrants are faring badly, the Conservative government has put in place a series of moves designed to increase employer participation to determine who gets in.

The eventual goal of this approach is to grant permanent residence under the “economic class” only to those who have a pre-arranged job offer in Canada. Reitz, affiliated to the University of Toronto’s prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs, though, has his doubts about relying on employers as a proxy for government or a neutral points system to fulfill the bulk (60 per cent) of Canada’s immigration needs.

[Broadly speaking, Canada’s quarter-million newcomers fall into one of three classes – economic, family unification and refugees, split traditionally at 60:30:10 per cent, respectively.]

The U.S, he said, attracts from 150,000 to 175,000 a year under a ‘pre-arranged job’ category, while Canada can expect 15,000 to 17,000 annually – almost certainly causing a huge gap in Canada’s annual target of attracting 250,000 new immigrants every year. Of the 250,000 new arrivals, 60 per cent fall under the economic class (including immediate family members), with roughly 65,000 being “principal applicants” who qualify based on their work experience, language skills and general employability criteria.

Interestingly, Reitz points out, a number of changes introduced in recent years have been modelled on Australian reforms introduced by the then John Howard government a decade ago, in the hope that more new immigrants will be employed from the day they land in Canada. “[T]he evidence for the success of the Australian initiatives was based primarily on short-term outcomes, and analysis of the overall performance of immigrants in Australia does not suggest that the new policies produced any overall improvement.”

Global experience

New Canadian Media interviewed Reitz in the context of the 2014 edition of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford University Press), an academic publication that is now in its third edition and includes policy reviews on every major immigrant-receiving nation.

“Nobody has had success” with this sort of employer-driven immigration system to produce large-scale immigration, the academic who has been tracking immigration trends in Canada and globally for four decades, said. The book has a chapter devoted to Canada, and in this Reitz writes: “Indeed, the Australian government has greatly reduced visa opportunities for international students and is reviewing its selection policy more generally.”

Overall, he writes in the book, “... it is far from clear that the new policy directions [in Canada] will actually improve the prospects for and impact of immigration.”

The UofT professor points out that while the jury is still out on the key question of net economic gain, Canadian newcomers can be expected to reduce income inequality mainly because they tend to be employed in high-skills jobs rather than at the lower end. “Immigrants compete for more highly skilled work in Canada, so the labour market impact is at levels of employment higher than the impact of relatively less-skilled immigrants in the United States.”

Income inequality has been a hot topic of political debate in both the U.S. and Canada in recent months. 

Immigrant credentials

Reitz also attempts to mathematically calculate the extent to which immigrant credentials are discounted in Canada: “[I]mmigrant skills in terms of both education and work experience have only about two-thirds of the value of corresponding skills held by native-born Canadians, and occupational under-employment is a significant reason for this imbalance.” This is based on a statistical calculation made by labour market analysts on the return on investment (ROI) that Canadians gain from every additional year of education.

Studies have shown that while mainstream Canadians gain five per cent in added earnings for every year of education, newcomers boost their average pay by just 3.5 per cent. “Some analysts have noted a decline in return for foreign experience as well, although no explanation for this trend has been found.”

The book chapter on Canada notes that the issue of immigrant credentials is today no closer to resolution: “There is as yet no overall plan to address the problem, which is certain to remain significant for many years.” Acknowledging that the availability of credential assessment services and bridging programs may be making a difference, Reitz, however, points that there has been “no effort to evaluate the overall impact of all these programs in relation to the problem of immigrant skill under-utilization.”

Further, Canada’s been receiving even more qualified immigrants in recent years. “If anything, the problem of immigrant employment in Canada has become more difficult over time, and it is more serious today than it was when it was first identified in the 1990s.”

Support for immigration

The 10-year retrospective in the book also has a section devoted to public opinion on immigration and politics. It points to the creation of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform and the presence in Canada of a “distinct minority” that opposes the current level of immigration. Reitz takes issue with those who claim that majority support for immigration levels is a “myth”. Further, he adds, “Those who want to reduce immigration levels in Canada are very clearly the minority and have been for some time.”

In separate comments, the academic believes Canada has built up a “resilient base of support” for immigration and he does not foresee a shift in attitudes happening any time soon.

Here are some more nuggets from the book chapter entitled “Canada: New Initiatives and Approaches to Immigration and Nation Building”:

  • On immigrant settlement: Government statistics indicate that each immigrant receives about $3,000 worth of settlement services
  • On the politics of immigration: The Focus Canada survey showed that Conservative party supporters are significantly less likely to support immigration, based on their socially conservative values.
  • Ethnic vote: “The Conservatives have sought support among immigrants based on [socially conservative] values and, despite some success, have experienced difficulty because some of their related policies on multiculturalism and citizenship portray immigrants as a threat to traditional Canadian values.”
  • Immigrant integration: most analysts attribute successful integration to the fact that newcomers tend to be highly educated and skilled, and not necessarily to multiculturalism. Conversely, a decline in skill and education levels can be expected to have the opposite effect.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Policy
Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

NCM NewsBriefs: launch edition

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto

Punjab teachers graduate from training program

Fifty teachers from the Indian state of Punjab who came to Canada for a teaching development program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) picked up their diplomas today and are getting ready to return to India.

The teachers, who were carefully selected from public schools, spent four weeks in Toronto taking courses at OISE designed to give them tools to improve the educational system back home.

For many of these teachers, the experience was unique in their lives. 

“This is the first overseas program we are coming to,” says Nutan Sharma, an English teacher of grades 11 and 12 in India. “We like Canada very much. We have learned so many new strategies to teach. Critical thinking and community learning. And the people were very nice, very nice and cooperative to us. We liked it,” she says.

The program also promoted collaboration in teaching methods between India and Canada, offering lessons for each side to make teaching more effective.

“It was really four weeks of sharing our knowledge on how we do things,” says Elizabeth Coulson, program organizer and internship coordinator at OISE. “Just as businesses are globalizing, education is also globalizing in many ways,” she says.

While Canada provided training in classroom technologies and critical thinking exercises for students, Indian teachers shared their expertise in language and grammar teaching, says Coulson.

“The kind of technology these Canadian schools and universities use are really state of the art and these were something novel for us,” says Rajiv Kumar Makkar, a political science teacher from India.

One of the main problems Indian education is facing is not having enough funding from the government to be able to use technologies such as projectors in every classroom, says Makkar.

He adds that one of the main differences between the Canadian and the Indian system of teaching is the number of students per classroom and the degree of teacher participation. In a lot of public schools in India, classes can have 100 students, while in Canada, the average class size is 35 students. 

Doctor doesn’t lose hope

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor in Toronto who is trying to bring 100 children from Gaza to be treated at Ontario hospitals, is heading to Gaza tonight, while he still waits for the government to respond to petitions to reconsider refusing his initiative.

“I feel these children are my children. I feel sad, I feel outraged. I want everyone to look in the eyes of these children and to see them as if they are theirs. If you have a child suffering, would you like others to help? We need to think of these children as ours.”

He and his supporters have sent letters to members of the Canadian government including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, petitioning for bringing these children. He has also met with the leaders of other parties including Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, as well as with representatives from the Green Party.  But, so far, he has received no reply at all from the federal government.

“People are waiting just to act. The public, the community, the people from everywhere, throughout all of Canada, who were writing me hundreds of emails asking me what can we do, we are ready to open our houses and to host these children when they come. We want to cure them, to help them and [for them] to leave Canada with a smile on their face. We are not planning for these children to stay here. They have their country, they have to go there. But we want them to leave functioning well, happily and healthy,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

 “Where is our humanity? We need to save lives and these are children I am talking about. Children.  Children who are the life, who are the future, who are the hope. These children will be disabled and most of them, they lost their loved ones. We need them to be independent, to run a normal life. We can make a difference,” he says.

But without the government’s approval, these children will not get the help they need. “At the end of the day, these children they need visas,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

If his initiative fails, he says, “I will feel sad, I will feel in pain. I will feel angry about it. But I tried, I tried my best.”

Dr. Abuelaish saw three of his daughters getting killed by an Israeli shell that fell on his home. He is a promoter of peaceful discourse and has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Writing to inspire

Nick Noorani, managing partner of “Prepare for Canada” is embarking on yet another community enterpise. His “What’s Your Secret” contest is awarding $1000 every month from March to November 2014 to an immigrant who shares their success story.

The best stories and those with the most votes will win the cash prize.

“All they have to do is write a story and get their friends on Facebook to vote for them. Now it’s not necessarily that the person with the most votes will win, but the quality of the story is very important,” says Noorani. 

He is also the author of a seminar titled 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants. “This year, what we decided was to turn the focus and talk to immigrants and ask: what is it that helped them? They can write their own stories, they can use the points of 7 Success Secrets or they can come up with their own points. I want to hear from immigrants,” he says. 

The founding publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine thinks there needs to be more success immigrant stories in the media. “I need to know that there is hope. You know it’s so hard when you come to Canada as an immigrant.”

There have been two winners so far, the first one was Nonita Mole (pictured), originally from the Philippines and now living in Winnipeg. 

He also talks about the challenges immigrant professionals face when trying to make it in their field in Canada. “The number one problem, of course, we all know is the problem of credential recognition. But it’s beyond that,” he says. “There’s a work culture, you know. In Canada, you’re expected to work independently. In a lot of other countries, including India, I know for a fact, you are working very closely with a boss who monitors your movement from one place to the other.”

Other problems, he says, includes a lack of “soft skills” that immigrants from some countries face. “In Canada, doing presentations in public, making presentations is very important,” says Noorani.

“Immigrants are coming from parts of the world where technical skills are being taught rather than soft skills. So these are challenges. This is part of this journey.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in News

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto

Only eight per cent of the jobs in Canada are advertised. An astounding 76 per cent of the jobs are hidden or created. New Canadians packed into a Metro Toronto Convention Centre conference room to gain this type of insight about the Canadian job market from human resources professional, Sujay Vardhmane

Vardhmane’s presentation, Winning Ways – The Formula to Your Job Search Success, is just one of nine interactive speaker sessions part of a free, day-long Career, Education & Settlement Fair presented by Canadian Immigrant Magazine in partnership with Scotiabank and Centennial College. The annual fair, which also includes a trade show, resume clinic and speed mentoring sessions, is in its fourth year. Gautam Sharma, Publisher of Canadian Immigrant, says its goal is to provide real advice to newcomers. “The idea was to have a very sort of holistic opportunity for everyone to listen to,” he says.

Vardhmane’s main message during an hour-long presentation is that sitting behind a computer sending resumes all day long will rarely lead to securing a job. He gives newcomers a challenge: for six months, give yourselves points for every job-related action they take – 500 for an interview, 250 for an information meeting, 100 for making a phone call and 50 for applying for a job via the internet. If someone achieves 3,000 or more points weekly for six months he is confident they will land their ideal job.

  • Ozzie Saunds, of, was on hand at the 4th Annual Career, Education & Settlement Fair held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on July 8. A graduate of the University of Toronto in Employment Relations, Saunds is a nationally recognized resume expert. Here are some of his key pieces of advice to new Canadians when writing their resume and preparing for an interview.

    Quantify Your Accomplishments: “The name of the company and who you worked for is not that important, what is important is that whoever you worked for, you’re describing your accomplishments, and any time you can quantify your accomplishments, that’s what’s going to dramatically win you interviews.”

    Understand the Job Market Demands: “Unfortunately the realistic situation is you’re coming to Canada, it’s going to be tough for you to get a job at the senior management or the same level that you got back home. You may have a title back home such as senior executive, such as CEO, such as CFO and then someone’s going to look at that resume and say you’re over-qualified for this job in Canada. So one of the things that you want to do is use those job titles that describe you as entry to mid-level unless you know you have a skill that’s in high demand – find out what those high in demand skills are in Canada.”

    Know the Canadian Way: “I see a lot of stuff like pictures from newcomers, date of birth, marital status, a lot of that stuff is required information for example in the Middle East, but that same information in Canada some human resources managers won’t even look at it because they’re afraid of discrimination laws and they can’t look at it even if they wanted to.”

    Continuously Improve: “The best advice I can give you is, you do need to make an effort to improve [your English], whether it’s having more English-speaking friends, watching TV in English, reading … the number one question that a lot of recruiters ask when looking at job candidates or when checking references is communication skills. And, if their communication skills are not good, they won’t get the job.”

    Relationships Lead To Referrals: “It’s okay to talk about non-Canadian experience [on a resume]. At the same time, while they have that non-Canadian work experience they should be on LinkedIn building relationships … they have to work on networking, knowing more people, making sure they participate in any type of free new Canadian employment service. Because, of one of the easiest ways to get a job is by getting referred.”

But many of the attendees, who face barriers such as not knowing the language, not knowing anyone in Canada, and not having any Canadian work experience, may find his challenge daunting. Having immigrated to Canada in 2002 from India himself, Vardhmane can empathize with these struggles.

“[New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly,” he explains. “What you may find surprising is this, every person at every stage in life has challenges in a job search, I could be a white male who is 45, I will have some challenges in my job search, I could be a 60-year-old, I could be a 20-year-old I could be having challenges, whether I’m born here or not born here. But what tends to happen is we tend to look at it this way, I’m new in this country and I’m being penalized because of that.”

[New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly.”

During his workshop, Vardhmane shares that he has never been hired in Canada for a job that he has applied to in the traditional way of e-mailing a resume and cover letter. Rather, the opportunities that have come his way (he is also a part-time professor at Centennial, Seneca and George Brown colleges and the University of Toronto), have been because of relationships he’s built over time and networking.

“I think listening to people and positioning myself professionally with people [is why] people were willing to help me,” he shares, reminiscing about his early days in Canada. “Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”

  • In May 2002, when Sujay Vardhmane arrived in Canada from India, he had a burning desire within him to achieve success as he defined it. And he wasn’t settling for any less. Twelve years later, Vardhmane is working as the Senior Manager of Global Employment Strategies at Scotiabank. He employed key strategic principles in his job search, which he candidly shared with New Canadian Media.

    Adapt to Survive – “[Some newcomers take] the approach they would in their country of origin when job searching and the approach in Canada is very different so those who understand it and make that transition quickly are the ones that see success come in quicker.”

    Brand Yourself – “Most newcomers tend to believe that their resume tells the whole story of who they are and what they’ve done. The resume is only the tip of the iceberg … For example, a simple question, tell me what your strengths are, very often a newcomer would say, “Well I’m educated, I’ve worked, I’ve done these type of things,” which focuses on the very hard skills. Where very often we’re expecting, “I’m personable, I’m good with people,” all of that. We don’t use that vocabulary at all, nor do we position that as a strength, so that’s again something they’re challenged with.”

    Learn How Things Work – “If you don’t invest your time to understand how it works, then you will not know how to get ahead. You do that by talking to people, listening to people, it could be anyone, it could be someone who’s new to the country or someone who’s been here for a long time, you meet them at a store, talk and get to know them.”

    Go Beyond Your Own People – “We tend to gravitate towards our comfort zone, whether it’s our own ethnic group or various other groups and we think it’s only people of those groups that will help us. We’ve chosen to come to a country that’s multicultural and diverse, and if we limit ourselves to our own pockets and silos then we’re limiting our own potential and opportunities.”

    Be Flexible – “We are limiting ourselves. What we don’t understand is it’s not what we’ve done, but what competencies are needed for us to be successful … It’s like I’m an HR (Human Resources) professional, I only want an HR job, and well the first job I got was teaching in HR, what’s wrong with that? Take it. Rather than have a closed mind to that.”

Networking was stressed throughout the day as the number one most important thing newcomers must do to achieve whatever success they are pursuing. Corporate trainer, career specialist and workplace coach, Colleen Clarke, emphasizes this in her workshop, Networking How To Build Relationships That Count. She says newcomers should start the process even before they set foot on Canadian soil.

“I had a client a few years ago, he’s become a huge success here. Before he came to Canada – he knew he was immigrating here – we worked together long distance,” she shares. “He came here with the names of 20 people to contact of people back in Mumbai who knew people in Toronto. So when he came to Toronto he already had 20 phone numbers from the people in Mumbai who had family or relatives here.”

“Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”

Upon arriving in Canada, continue connecting with the people who you know from your day-to-day life, she adds. “Try to start with people that you know. Your bank teller, your hair dresser, the people within your own ethnic community, your children go to school, you must know some of the parents of the children.”

She closes by reminding attendees that it isn’t the first person they network with that will give them a job, but by building strong, positive relationships with several people, through the ideology of “six degrees of separation” where someone knows someone who knows someone, job referrals can and will happen. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Top Stories
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 11:10

Leaders Debate Fails Immigrants in Ontario

by Maryann D’Souza in Toronto

Am I the only one in Ontario who feels as if immigrant issues have been cast aside in favour of the same old rhetoric? Before the Toronto debate, polls indicated that 38 per cent of voters were still undecided and I suspect that many newcomers figure among them. Why am I not surprised?

Although a flash poll conducted by Ipsos after Tuesday’s debate indicated that only 10 per cent of viewers doubted who the winner was, in my opinion, the three-way encounter brought little clarity on any of the issues, let alone addressing the concerns of new Canadians. Presented with the dark reality of no-confidence in any of the parties and their leaders, I am almost tempted to decline my ballot (as suggested by host Steve Paikin in the dying moments of the debate).

While the parties fall over themselves to court the various ethnic communities at any opportunity they get, the debate between the three premier hopefuls in Toronto was loudly silent on immigrant issues. It almost seems like we can expect more of the same no matter who occupies the premier’s chair: a continuing struggle to find the right jobs among the many opportunities the candidates were promising to create.  One immigrant I met at the gym yesterday perhaps echoed what many feel, “What’s the point of voting?”  

A matter of trust

At the heart of the race is trust. I was delighted to see a visible-minority voter by the name of "Suresh Naik" speak up so eloquently and almost frame the debate with the first question thrown at the three contenders. He cut to the chase when he asked, 'How can I trust the Liberals with my retirement money in light of the gas plants scandal?' (see video below). To that I might add, or ‘any other government?’ Immigrants have often been accused of not being involved. Apathy, though, may not be the only reason. Perhaps it is the continual neglect of issues that are of critical importance to them.

Apathy, though, may not be the only reason. Perhaps it is the continual neglect of issues that are of critical importance to them.

It is critical to engage immigrants given their low turnout rate at elections. And, this is done not just by fielding ethnic candidates to get their votes but by building trust, which comes from making them feel “heard” and listened to. Education, healthcare and energy bills are high priorities for all Ontarians, especially struggling immigrants, but what is hurting immigrants most right now is jobs: the lack of opportunity to use their skills and experience in the right way; to be able to earn enough money to afford higher education for their kids and pay those energy bills. Not surprisingly, none of the job creation plans had a concrete strategy to resolve this problem.

The Liberals may claim to have created jobs, but unfortunately more and more of these employment opportunities are turning out to be part-time. As a result, many newcomers are working two and three jobs just to be able to survive. With their previous credentials not recognized and the lack of “Canadian experience” they are often forced into low-paying jobs and find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who are ever willing to exploit the situation.

Promises galore

Less than three weeks ago, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak was courting new immigrants by promising to create jobs in Ontario and make it their No. 1 destination (something that the NDP touted way back in 2012). “I want to cut the red tape holding back new Canadians from putting their professional experience to work," he said. That gave me some “hope”. I thought that perhaps he had a real plan to have their job skills and credentials recognized. But just like his million jobs promise, Hudak failed to back it up with any concrete roadmap of how he would go about doing this. I’m inclined to agree with Horwath, who said during the debate that Hudak has little to show from his leadership over the last three years.

Kathleen Wynne was not to be left behind, and fought back with her “One Ontario,” plan which would include a “number of initiatives” to attract skilled immigrants to the province, provide more culturally appropriate health care, invest in bridge training programs that help integrate new Canadians into the workforce. A glimmer of hope once again and new Canadians were waiting to hear more on how she was going to integrate them into the fold. Unfortunately, just like Hudak, that was all she was willing (or had) to say.

Perhaps, I thought, NDP leader Andrea Horwath was the most honest in her lack of promises to new immigrants. Or, is this a preview of what is to come if she becomes Ontario’s premier? Can we look forward to the day when parties formulate policies based on the needs of the people and their demands, rather than undoing what has been done by the previous government.

Survival jobs

Politicians ought to realize that few immigrants have the stomach for local politics or community issues mainly because many of them are struggling to keep their heads above water. Fielding ethnic candidates who do no more than mouths the lines already overused by their leaders certainly strikes a chord, but perhaps not the way they are intended. They encourage divisive, personality-based politics that cement newcomer bonds to the "home country," instead of helping them assimilate and truly accept Canada as their country. Without 100 per cent buy-in from immigrants, Ontario can hardly hope to move ahead or thrive.

Without 100 per cent buy-in from immigrants, Ontario can hardly hope to move ahead or thrive.

The talk of increasing immigration and attracting newcomers to Ontario might seem attractive, but only to Hudak and Wynne. The results from CBC's Vote Compass two weeks ago indicated just 16 per cent of respondents support increased immigration to the province. Even newcomers would have trouble wrapping their heads around letting in more immigrants in a shrinking job market.

Let’s be realistic. Can any of these politicians really create jobs? Can they stop companies from outsourcing to be more competitive, even viable?

Tim Hudak says “hope is on the way.” Andrea Horwath promises to “invest tax dollars in your priorities.” And Premier Wynne claims she will “invest in people and skills” to move Ontario forward. They sound to me like empty promises to win power. Immigrants tend to be a lot more cynical. Their vote might cost two of these politicians the election.

Maryann D’Souza is a Toronto-based journalist who has been in Canada for 10 years.

You can watch the full televized debate here.

Published in Commentary

 China and other Asian countries are being warned of gangs specializing in providing fake degrees

Asian Pacific Post

Read Full Article

Published in Economy

by Daniela Tuchel in Vancouver

Despite the latest changes in Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) selection criteria, some Chinese immigrants choose to return to school and obtain a Canadian degree in the hopes of making them more attractive employees rather than have their foreign credentials recognized.

Finding suitable employment is a challenge many Chinese immigrants face when coming to Canada, including Victor, who has bachelor's and master's degrees from China and is now working towards a doctoral degree in engineering at the University of British Columbia. I met him one rainy afternoon in Vancouver and, over a cup of tea, we spoke about job prospects after graduation and his dream of becoming a Canadian citizen.

“I chose to pursue a Ph.D. in Canada for two reasons: I got a job through the university as a research assistant and it was easier to make friends in school and adapt to the new culture that way,” he said. “When you are in school, you are accepted by Canadians. However, I am aware that a doctoral degree is not going to help me find a job faster when I graduate.”

Then why go back to school and not have his foreign credentials recognized, I asked.  Because, Victor said, it was easier and faster to obtain a student visa and move to Canada as an international student than apply to become a permanent resident through the FSWP. Laura, a Chinese immigrant who recently finished a Master of Arts in Victoria, B.C., agreed.

“I came to Canada as an international student but I wasn’t really interested in getting a Canadian degree. I just saw it as a way to transition to permanent residency,” she said.

Under the FSWP, Canada selects its immigrants based on a point system that came into effect in 2002 and was changed in May 2013. Prospective applicants must submit an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), a process that determines if the foreign educational credential is authentic and equivalent to a completed credential in Canada. The point system places a strong emphasis on human capital, language skills, and educational credentials. Even before the immigration regulations of 2002 were adopted, there had been a strong emphasis on increasing the proportion of economic immigrants admitted annually. For example, throughout the late 1990s, economic class immigrants made up over half of all immigrants admitted, whereas in the mid-1980s they accounted for only 36 per cent  of the total annual immigration.

Reasons for post-migration education

Human capital theory is built on the assumption that investment in education leads to individual success in the labour market, an assumption that often fails in the case of recent immigrants who come to Canada with foreign credentials and find that their qualifications are not enough to find full time employment in their field. As Victor pointed out, “the learning and work experience acquired abroad are often treated with suspicion and as inferior. So what’s the point of wasting time and money to have your credentials recognized?”

Formal education courses also provide new immigrants with locally relevant skills, introduces them to important social networks, and, eventually, helps them obtain better jobs: “You may have your credentials officially recognized in Canada but that doesn’t mean that private employers recognize foreign education and are willing to offer you a job. So recent immigrants are forced to either take work for which they feel overqualified or return to school,” he said.

There are also Chinese immigrants who pursue post-secondary education in Canada because Canadian credentials are recognized in China. “If I ever decide to return to China, a degree from a Canadian school is considered more valuable by Chinese employers than a degree obtained from Australia or the U.K.,” Laura said. “Competition is tough in China, there are so many fresh university graduates every year ... 90 per cent of young people have an undergraduate degree and 80 per cent have a graduate degree. Canadian education is seen favourably by Chinese employers and it makes you stand out when you are looking for a job in China.”

Disparities between Chinese and Canadian systems

Differences in teaching and learning styles contribute to new immigrants’ difficulties with schooling, ultimately leading to adaptation-related problems..

“In China, it’s hard to get accepted into a university but it’s easy to finish. It’s different from here. In Canada, you can easily get accepted into a program, but it’s very difficult to pass the exams and graduate,” said a new immigrant who chose to remain anonymous.

Others remarked that in China, the teaching content is theoretically emphasized, while in Canada, teaching is more flexible and focuses on the students’ practical abilities, “A good education is a must. Unlike Canada, education in China is all about getting a degree, the knowledge is not important,” said another interviewee. According to some recent immigrants, the Chinese classroom atmosphere is rigid and passive compared to the Canadian classroom environment that is more relaxed and active. “Students here can joke with their teachers and they can eat and drink in class. That is not possible in China,” said one immigrant while another Chinese immigrant added that “the relationship between students and teachers in Canada is more equal, students can say or ask anything they want to. In China, it is like between the superior and the inferior, you can’t ask questions or give feedback.”

While Canada has an immigration policy that attracts well-educated immigrants, there’s no comprehensive plan in place to help these recent immigrants overcome the barriers they face finding employment. Governmental and educational institutions need to understand recent immigrants’ perceptions, interpretations, and educational experiences in order to improve their policies and help immigrants become successful Canadian citizens.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Education
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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

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