by Themrise Khan and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa
The federal government is calling on its provincial counterparts to develop a national standard for registered professionals to ensure foreign credentials are recognized, Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said.
Right now, Poilievre said, there are 13 different regulators and standards, a bureaucratic immigration process that can be very difficult to navigate.
Canada, he said, needs a “one stop shop” for registered professionals looking to immigrate.
A single national standard, with only one point of contact, would make the immigration system more efficient, the minister said. A single standard already exists for 10 professions, like registered nurses, he noted – a system the minister said should be extended to the remaining 14 registered professions.
When asked why the federal government was not taking the lead on creating the national standard, Poilievre said it’s a provincial responsibility.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]The employment minister also announced funding to two professional organizations to help improve the recognition of foreign credentials for medical professionals and engineers.[/quote]
“We have BNA [British North America] Act that gives provinces exclusive, legal and constitutional authority over these areas. That’s why we’re cooperating with the provinces,” Poilievre told reporters on the sidelines of the Conference Board of Canada’s two-day Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa.
The minister did commit to meetings with his provincial counterparts to address the issue of foreign credential recognition in the coming months.
The employment minister also announced funding to two professional organizations to help improve the recognition of foreign credentials for medical professionals and engineers.
The Medical Council of Canada will receive $6.7 million in matched funding from the federal government to streamline its exam process for foreign trained physicians.
As for Engineers Canada, the federal government will contribute $779,000 in matched funding to develop an online competency assessment system that will make the profession’s accreditation system available worldwide.
Some 95,000 professional engineers are expected to retire by 2020. Current graduation rates are not expected to fill the gap.
Balancing social and economic
Speakers at the conference looked at immigration from a variety of perspectives. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Quebec, for instance, both represented by their provincial Ministers of Immigration, emphasized the need and importance of immigration at the regional level. Nova Scotia faces a fast aging population. Programs in the province therefore, are focused clearly on attracting younger immigrants by way of international students and retaining them in the workforce.
The province was one of the first to launch the Express Entry System and is now looking to launch a business immigration stream.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″][T]he new Express Entry System is seen as a gamechanger in the overall scenario of immigrant selection and retention.[/quote]
In Quebec, on the other hand, 70 per cent of the 50,000 new French-speaking immigrants who entered in 2015 thus far, are economic class immigrants, highlighting the need for skills and economic integration in the province.
From a federal government perspective, the new Express Entry System is seen as a gamechanger in the overall scenario of immigrant selection and retention. However, some commentators at the conference expressed caution, stating that huge shifts in programming can be problematic if the social and human aspects are not balanced with the economic.
Questions from the audience also highlighted the fact that there was a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding around the Express Entry System, and whether international students and temporary foreign workers can be part of the applicant pool.
Other speakers emphasized the need to recognize the new mobility among immigrants globally. Trans-nationalism has seen many temporary workers not wanting to settle in Canada. This new trend must be recognized by the business sector in Canada if it wants to attract the best talent and retain it. Migration is no longer a one-way flow.
The first day of the summit concluded with a discussion on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), a topic of recent controversy and government reform. This was perhaps the most complex discussion of the day. Canada needs to fill in labour shortages in many sectors, but cannot have every TFW stay in the country beyond his/her contract.
According to Diana MacKay, Chair of the Summit, the Conference Board’s National Immigration Centre intends to create a strong knowledge base on immigration through research, leading to a Canadian Immigration Observatory that will regularly monitor the performance of Canada’s immigration system.
With additional reporting from iPolitics.ca