Ontario’s political parties need to take a stand on foreign-trained professionals

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.

Toronto FC: MLS Heroes

It seemed like just yesterday when Toronto FC was facing Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS Cup Final. One full year later and the exact same Cup Final was just what the doctor ordered, but this time in the Canadian cold. The TFC boys, coming off a record breaking season, had a point to prove this time around and they did it in spectacular fashion. Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco were unplayable at times and kept Seattle chasing shadows for large parts of the game. Although the decisive goal didn’t come until the last minute of play, Toronto looked comfortable and out for revenge throughout.

Giovinco’s spot-on pass allowed Jozy Altidore to get the goal that would put Toronto one-step closer to lifting the MLS Cup. Even though the tide could have turned at any moment at 1-0, Toronto continued to hold control of the game and eventually scored their second in the dying stages of the match. The second goal-scorer, Victor Vazquez, coming back from a long spell on the sidelines with injury, sealed the victory by beating the Seattle defenders to a cheeky tap-in.

The MLS Cup Champions were crowned that cold night, and it was the cherry on top of a fantastic season from the boys. Toronto FC showed all other MLS teams that there is a new sheriff in town, and they are ready to take on anyone.

Their record-breaking MLS season and their heroics in the MLS Cup post-season playoffs has earned Toronto FC the chance to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League where they will be facing some of the finest teams in North and Central America. Now that they are the Kings of MLS, it’s certainly time to step up the competition and continue this never-before-seen run of dominance by an MLS side. TFC will be taking on the Colorado Rapids in the round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League. The opening game will be played in Colorado on February 20 and the second leg will be played on February 27 at BMO Field.

Community Benefits is coming to an infrastructure project near you

The greatest long-term benefit for equity seekers, racialized residents and historically disadvantaged groups is most often only realized in finding a sustainable long-term job. Infrastructure improvements often coincide with a temporary disruption to our lives. The community benefits movement, led by Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), aims to directly improve the lives of those impacted and reduce the negative impacts of large infrastructure projects in our communities.

We may be experiencing something of a renaissance in community engagement. Communities are finding their voices and we have the technology to both express and hear those voices. The status quo is no longer accepted without scrutiny. Eyes are being opened to blind-spots.

The community benefits movement has been in the vanguard of this sea change. Ten years ago, the movement was in its infancy, many still believing in the “trickle down” theory; it was believed that without any community participation, benefits would automatically be distributed meaningfully and fairly throughout communities impacted by large infrastructure projects. We now know better and communities are organizing themselves around Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s) that offer guarantees in terms of what was previously only promised.

The proposed redevelopment at Woodbine Racetrack is a massive project that the community has been engaged in for more than 10 years. Woodbine is an excellent example of how a community coming together around a single issue can engender real change. TCBN, standing in solidarity with Community Organizing for Responsible Development (CORD), is seeking to start negotiations with Great Canadian Gaming for a comprehensive agreement for community benefits from the huge expansion of this Toronto entertainment complex. Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director of TCBN says of the negotiations, “The decision to bring a casino into their neighbourhood was not made by the residents of Rexdale. Yet, they will forever be impacted by its legacy, whether it be positive or negative. The community simply wants to make sure they have some control over their shared destiny.”

TCBN learned a lot from the Eglinton Crosstown project; it showed that with a commitment from the three levels of government along with a string of vibrant communities, we can achieve a type of city building that not only improves our surroundings but also works to build the public trust. Improving on the Eglinton model in other projects with real targets for jobs, apprenticeships and social procurement is a step in the right direction.