On Recognizing Foreign Credentials

March 21st, 2007

News out today that the Conservative led minority government in Ottawa won’t be establishing a federal agency to review and recognize the work and educational credentials of newly-arriving immigrants, after all. Notwithstanding their pre-election promise to help newcomers become accredited in Canada, the party now in power has instead decided to refer immigrants to provincial bodies for the assessment of their credentials. Talk about passing the buck.

To be fair, the Conservative party has done no worse on this particular issue than any other political party that has formed a government, going back as far as I can remember. Come election time, politicians trip over themselves in their haste to make promises… but you’ve heard all this before.

In truth, the problem all along here has been the provinces and the professional orders that regulate many skilled occupations. With regard to the latter, it would be na├»ve to think that professional bodies care about anything other than the well-being of their existing members. As for the provinces, they are much better at erecting barriers than at removing them. Take, for example, the case of Ms. Tia Quance, a registered nurse in Ontario, who wanted to transfer her qualifications to Quebec. According to her letter to the editor in today’s Montreal Gazette, she faced nothing but “bureaucratic traps and obstacles” in her attempt to register with the Quebec Order of Nurses. She faces a two-year application process – and she is Canadian.

The average Canadian probably doesn’t give much thought to the difficulty faced by foreign-trained professionals in their efforts to have their credentials recognized in Canada. But we should. As Canadians, we all pay more for skilled and professional services and we all wait longer for medical and social services than we ought to. Once we’re fed up enough, we’ll insist that politicians deliver on their promises.

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