Accreditation: due diligence or straitjacket?

On a regular basis, various magazines, newspapers and online media report on the challenges that New Canadians face upon arrival. An example was ‘Immigration: The New Normal’ in HR Professional Magazine of October 2011, advocating the need for Canadian credentialing of foreign workers as baby-boomers retire (assuming they do), taking their skills and experience with them into retirement.

Having immigrated to Canada in 1999, I have first- and second-hand experience with the difficulties that immigrants run into once they have landed. I came here with a Dutch law degree and never practiced law in Holland, plus Holland has the Napoleonic system rather than Common Law, so I was fully prepared for the fact that my degree would not be of much help in Ontario. Yes, it showed a certain capacity for learning, but the practical use was limited. I had a number of temp jobs, drove a forklift for six months, worked for a publisher for a year and then spent ten years in banking and HR. I never regretted moving to Canada, although it took me five years to reach the income level I had enjoyed in Holland. I’m not complaining – I loved the adventure. Actually, I was once refused entry to a job fair in Mississauga, because ‘it was only for people with English as a second language’. I guess I didn’t sound the part.

In 2012, I was a speaker at the Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) Conference in Toronto and quoted from a newspaper clipping from the Toronto Star of October 27, 2011. It featured Balvinder Singh Ahuja, who delivered a baby on an Air India flight to Toronto. From the article: “For 25 years in his native India, Balvinder Singh Ahuja worked as a pediatrician, treating thousands of children, saving many lives. For the past six months in Toronto, Ahuja has been learning to drive a truck, convinced it was too difficult a process to practice as a foreign-trained doctor in Canada. Like most foreign-trained doctors, Ahuja must be recertified before he can practice. But with thousands of foreign-trained doctors in the country and few opportunities for residency, Ahuja says he knows it will be almost impossible. Ahuja said he immigrated to give his three children a better future. “I don’t want to get frustrated,” he said. “I’m not closing that door completely but as of now I’m focusing on trucking because I have a family and I need money.” There are at least 7,500 internationally trained doctors in Ontario but fewer than 200 can get residency spots”. Meanwhile, millions of Ontarians don’t have a family doctor and rely on walk-in clinics or emergency rooms of hospitals, where line-ups are legendary.

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by Evert Akkerman CHRL, LL.M.

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