We have all heard the stories – doctors working as taxi drivers, engineers working retail, lawyers working in call centers. If you live in Ontario, chances are you know someone who was admitted into the country on the basis of his/her academic and professional qualifications but who, in a cruel turn of irony, was denied the opportunity to practice in the very field for which he/she was admitted.
This is a problem all too common to Ontario’s newcomer communities who have personally lived these stories. In addition to facing racial discrimination and xenophobia in the job market, immigrants are also faced with formal systemic barriers to employment, barriers that are often legally backed by the provincial government.
The negative moral and social consequences of this state of affairs are clear. How can we as a country and as a province claim to be proud of our inclusivity and diversity when we do not even treat the qualifications of all of our members equally? How can we admit individuals on the basis of their education and devalue that same education as soon as they set foot in our country?
And, we should make no mistake, immigrants not working in their fields is bad for all of us. Denying the immense degree of skills and expertise that these individuals possess is extremely harmful for our competitiveness in a rapidly changing global economy. As entire industries are destroyed and created in increasingly short order, Ontario needs to be a dynamic and inclusive economy that leads the world through innovation rather than a crumbling old boys club too concerned with protecting its privileges against newcomers to recognize how they can cooperate for mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, Ontario’s professional organizations have shown that they are unwilling to do anything about this issue. This is where the provincial government needs to step in and correct what is, in all respects, a catastrophic market failure. And, we should make no mistake, Ontario voters demand this.
If any party wants to win in June, especially in the GTA’s crucial ridings, they will need to appeal to immigrant communities and their allies on the issue of foreign-trained professionals. If any party decides to continue to ignore this issue, they risk sinking into irrelevance among the province’s largest and fastest-growing communities.
Pouyan Tabasinejad is the Policy Chair of the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC), a grassroots, non-partisan, and non-profit community organization that seeks to safeguard the interests of Iranian-Canadians. One of ICC’s policy priorities is to press Ontario’s major political parties to take a stand on foreign-trained professionals.