Recommendations for foreign professionals outlined

By RON FANFAIR

Internationally trained job applicants seem to be less prepared for examinations and they experience more difficulty in finding licensing requirements information than Canadian trained and educated applicants.

These were among the 17 conclusions drawn from an Office of the Ontario Fairness Commissioner (OFC) study.

The province’s Fairness Commissioner, Jean Augustine, released a report last week – Clearing the Path: Recommendations for Action in Ontario’s Professional Licensing System – which outlined 17 specific recommendations to ensure that prospective doctors, engineers and other professionals do not face unexpected or unreasonable barriers in acquiring certification in their respective fields.

“Three years ago, my office was established with a clear mandate to ensure that Ontario’s system for licensing professionals is transparent, objective, impartial and fair,” said Augustine. “In those three years, we have done extensive research throughout the professional licensing sector and have come to some conclusions about what needs to be done…The work of this office is unprecedented. While concerns about fairness in licensing are not new, they have never before been approached in this way.

“We have seen some good progress. But, in too many cases, the system is still needlessly complex, costly and time consuming, particularly for immigrants. This has a human toll in that it creates serious difficulties for the individuals involved and it affects all of us when talented and skilled people are unable to contribute to our economy. Licensing can be a very dry and process-driven exercise. But we must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with human beings whose lives and families are thrown into great upheaval. Some of the stories are truly heart-breaking.”

Nearly 4,000 current and former licensing applicants participated in the study over the past three years, enabling the OFC to document their experiences.

“In our research, we heard a number of concerns, but one message was particularly alarming,” said Augustine. “When speaking about the challenges they faced in getting licensed, several people told us they would never have come to Canada if they had known.

“We must not allow this to persist. I must, however, emphasize that the problems we found were not universal. For many applicants, the experience was positive. But we heard from enough people who encountered similar hurdles to conclude there are systemic concerns. It doesn’t have to be this way. We now have a much better understanding of the system. We have pinpointed flaws and we have developed recommendations for improvement.”

The OFC is recommending that regulatory bodies improve communication with applicants by posting information on their website about the amount of time registration normally takes and the cost of the process; qualifications assessment agencies publish details abut the documents they require and how they will assess applicants before they move to Canada; and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care convene the seven organizations involved in the complex process of licensing doctors to ensure transparency in their decisions and eliminate duplication across the licensing system.

In addition, the OFC is calling on the federal government to take action by ensuring professionals who apply to immigrate to Canada are informed that there is a provincial licensing process.

“And we have recommendations for applicants themselves,” Augustine said. “Do your homework, know the process and the costs and be prepared to support yourself and your family during the process. These recommendations are practical, realistic and would not require a lot of money. But they will make an enormous difference.”

 

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