Conservative Party can lead on anti-racism policy—a blueprint

Apart from some of the usual partisan sniping regarding other parties (undermines their arguments), some useful and practical policy suggestions:

It can be argued that two topics leading discussions in 2020 are COVID-19 and racism, particularly anti-Black racism. While these discussions around anti-Black racism have been loudest in the U.S, Canada has not escaped the calls to address the systemic issues that exist here.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, former prime minister Brian Mulroney discussed the need for Canadian political leaders to rethink current practices to address the economic damage of COVID-19 and the prevalence of systemic racism, especially Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people. His recommendations prioritize strong economic and social policies including a dramatic increase in immigration.

It is unfortunate conservative values do not first come to mind when reflecting upon best practices to address systemic racism.

The Association of Black Conservatives believe that a Conservative Party anti-racism framework which includes bold economic and social policies is achievable. In order to address systemic racism, we must discuss the Conservative Party’s policies on immigration, the economy, education, cultural outreach and data collection.

The Conservative Party can no longer afford to have its immigration policies defined by opponents who are able to paint an inaccurate picture of the party’s stance on immigration. While the Harper era increased the length of time required to become a Canadian citizen, Jason Kenney, Canada’s longest serving immigration minister, welcomed the highest number of permanent residents under any minister.

Increasingly, immigrants have come to Canada as skilled economic migrants. In developing an immigration policy, the Conservative Party should look at legislation which does away with employers’ ability to request “Canadian experience” as this discriminates against immigrants. We have heard first-hand stories from newcomers facing difficulties gaining professional employment due to the Canadian experience requirement, and would encourage collecting more formal data on this.

In addition, there must be a discussion on Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) for newcomers. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that $17 billion could be generated in the Canadian economy if newcomers could work in their respective fields of interest and/or study. Easing these systemic barriers will have positive results for Canada. Various provinces have taken steps to address this.

Most recently, Alberta passed Bill 11, the Fair Registration Practices Act, which will not only speed up the process for getting credentials recognized, but also ensure registration practices are transparent, objective and fair. Policies like this should be replicated at the national level.

Left-leaning parties respond to what they perceive as the core concerns(immigration and social issues) of visible minority communities with symbolism.

This is illustrated by Alberta NDP MLA David Shepherd when he was asked about what initiatives the Alberta NDP undertook to address police carding. He responded by acknowledging they did not take the necessary steps to address carding however, they “worked to empower these communities and to lift them up, to include them in the $25-a-day daycare, to make sure they had the opportunity to access grants, to make sure that they had the opportunity to sit with us and tell us what they needed”.

In response to the anti-racism protests of 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bowed a knee but offered no substantive actions to address the issues. This is in contrast to Alberta, where Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer committed to speed up the review and modernization of the Police Act and address the lingering issues of systemic racism, such as carding.

In reality, racialized communities are just as concerned with economic issues as other Canadians. The backbone of the Black and other visible minority communities in Canada is small business especially in industries like professional, retail and food services. As such, the Conservative Party needs to contemplate small business funding programs that target visible minority communities.

Education is an important topic for all Canadians. About one-third of the population lives with children at home, this is the same for minority groups. A 2016 Statistics Canada survey on education and labour market integration of Black youth in Canada found that among Black youth aged 15 to 25, 94 per cent of them wanted to achieve higher education, but their optimism about what they were expected to achieve dropped to 60 per cent. Contributing factors include socioeconomic status (21 per cent of Black adults are low-income compared to 12 per cent of the rest of the population), lack of representation of Black teachers, and negative attitudes and perceptions of Black students.

For example, in Ontario, this has led to students being discouraged and streamed into “applied” fields when they could easily excel in the “academic” streams. This practice of streaming has heavily disadvantaged Black students. The Conservative government of Ontario recently announced it would end this systemic discriminatory practice. Decisions of this nature will go a long way in opening opportunities for minority communities. In addition, we should look at developing matching grants and scholarships to further reduce barriers and provide greater access to continued education for racialized students.

Representation matters. We can no longer hide under the guise of “identity politics” or the idea that “targets are quotas” and hence, bad. The Conservative Party needs a meaningful and deliberate policy on multiculturalism. The Association of Black Conservatives is one such effort towards encouraging multiculturalism and ethnic outreach; this is a model that should be welcomed and replicated within other minority communities by the party.

The party needs to actively commit to targets to achieve equity, diversity and inclusion starting with party membership, party staff, candidates, political staff and board appointees. There is an argument that doing this means quotas, but this argument falsely assumes that qualified or competent visible minorities candidates do not exist. Not only is this false, but multiple studies, such as a 2020 study by Zuhra Abawi and Ardavan Eizadaridad of Niagara University and Wilfred Laurier University, respectively, have shown that there is a range of biases in hiring practices for racialized candidates, including being far less likely to be called for an interview, compared to their non-visible minority counterparts who have equivalent qualifications and experience. The party needs to adopt policies that are intentional about diversity.

Lastly, Conservatives value evidence-based decision making. Therefore, let’s advocate for better data to inform our policies. Data collection is an important step in being able to identify and address an issue.

Take COVID-19 for example. The Centers for Disease Control  noted “long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19“. Currently, Canada has not collected race-based data for COVID-19, regardless of repeated calls to do so. We’ve recently learned, thanks to the data from the City of Toronto, that 83 per cent of COVID cases in the city are racialized people.

Most Canadians may know that Canadian immigration laws prior to 1962 included racial and other discriminatory provisions. However, most may not know that  it was John Diefenbaker, a Conservative prime minister, who introduced the Bill of Rights in 1960 and thereafter Order-in-Council PC 1962-86, which eliminated all racial discrimination from Canadian immigration laws and instead replaced it with the skilled-based points system which continues until this day.

Conservatives can continue to lead on the issue of anti-racism over the symbolism of left-leaning parties by instituting meaningful policies that empower communities.

Akolisa Ufodike is the chair of the National Council of the Association of Black Conservatives, and Susanna Ally is a board member. Louis Butt is a recent University of Toronto graduate in history and political science. 

Source: Conservative Party can lead on anti-racism policy—a blueprint

Y a-t-il un bon génie pour ces immigrants? Foreign credential recognition for engineers

Progress in foreign credential recognition among Quebec engineers, but of course, challenges remain:

L’Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec s’apprête à faire adopter de nouvelles règles pour faciliter l’intégration des immigrants. Mais ces changements auront-ils vraiment un impact?

Dans son pays d’origine, Maya Khoury concevait des bâtiments, « du sous-sol jusqu’à la clé dans la porte » ! Ici, cette ingénieure civile d’origine syrienne cherche plutôt des clés pour ouvrir la porte du marché du travail. « Ce n’est pas facile. Je ne m’attends pas à être ingénieure et c’est correct, je l’ai été pendant 20 ans. Mais j’aimerais au moins travailler dans mon domaine, celui de la construction », raconte la dame, en marge d’ateliers d’aide à l’emploi organisés spécifiquement pour les ingénieurs et architectes par le Centre social d’aide aux immigrants (CSAI).

Arrivée au Québec avec toute sa famille il y a un an et demi, Maya Khoury a une bonne humeur contagieuse, quelques expériences de travail au Québec — réceptionniste à l’UQAM et caissière dans un Jean-Coutu — et parle un français excellent appris dans la petite enfance chez les soeurs Saint-Joseph à Alep. Mais la vérité est que les chances qu’elle puisse exercer comme ingénieure sont minces.

En effet, de moins en moins de permis sont octroyés à des professionnels formés à l’étranger. Selon les plus récentes données, en 2013-2014, 34 % des permis junior à l’Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) — permettant une pratique sous supervision avant d’avoir le vrai permis — leur étaient octroyés, contre 18 % en 2016-2017. Cependant, le pourcentage d’immigrants déposant une demande de permis junior est quant à lui demeuré stable, entre 20 % et 25 % au cours des quatre dernières années. Ils sont surtout originaires de la France ou du Maghreb, étant donné l’existence de nombreux accords interuniversitaires. « L’accès à la profession, ce n’est pas évident. On ne peut pas dire qu’on ne faisait rien, mais disons qu’il y avait place à l’amélioration », reconnaît Kathy Baig, présidente de l’OIQ. Mais tout va changer, promet-elle.

« Ça fait depuis 2013 que je m’implique à l’Ordre et que j’entends ces histoires de protectionnisme et de corporatisme. C’est un défi qui revient et, à un moment donné, on a décidé d’en faire une priorité », lance Kathy Baig. Elle admet que les longs délais pouvaient en rebuter plusieurs. Idem pour les coûts (entre 600 $ et 1200 $ pour une demande d’admission et 330 $ par examen prescrit), qui sont toutefois réduits de moitié pour les demandeurs d’asile. « On va changer complètement d’approche. »

Nouvelles règles à l’OIQ

Jeudi, le comité exécutif de l’OIQ a en effet entériné une série de nouvelles règles visant à mieux intégrer les immigrants à travers deux objectifs : augmenter le taux d’obtention du permis et réduire les délais. Dès mai 2018, chaque cas soumis sera étudié de manière personnalisée, scrutant le détail du parcours à l’étranger du candidat. L’objectif est de reconnaître son expérience de travail et d’en tenir compte afin de lui épargner certains examens et formations. « Avant, c’était beaucoup plus compartimenté. On se concentrait plus sur les diplômes, les études supérieures. On classait les gens dans des catégories et ça nous indiquait les formations et examens qu’ils devaient faire. Mais là, on va faire une entrevue personnalisée et, si on voit que [la personne] a la compétence requise, on va lui épargner certains examens », explique Mme Baig.

Aucun quota pour les candidats étrangers ne sera instauré, mais l’idée demeure de réduire le fardeau pour qu’ils puissent obtenir plus facilement un permis de pratique. « On sait que, pour des [immigrants] qui ont 9, 10, 11 examens à faire, c’est long, et ils abandonnent en cours de route, dit-elle. Quand on est retiré de notre domaine de pratique pendant plusieurs mois, voire des années, c’est difficile d’y retourner. »

Mme Baig dit être consciente que ce ne sont pas tous les immigrants ingénieurs qui tenteront d’obtenir leur permis de pratique. « Il y a beaucoup de gens qui se présentent aux séances d’information, mais très peu entament le processus, constate-t-elle. J’ai cru comprendre que, quand ils arrivent ici, ils ont plusieurs autres préoccupations à court terme que d’avoir leur permis. » Et pendant ce temps, le temps file…

Le deuil de la profession

Pour Lida Aghasi, directrice générale du Centre social d’aide aux immigrants, faciliter l’adhésion à l’OIQ est une première étape, mais cela ne garantit en rien l’obtention d’un emploi. « Accélérer l’accès à l’Ordre est une très bonne chose. Mais, selon moi, cela rend perplexes et démotive ceux qui obtiennent le membership et demeurent toujours sans emploi. Les employeurs ont aussi d’autres critères d’embauche [que le permis] », dit-elle, en insistant sur l’importance de les sensibiliser.

La présidente de l’OIQ abonde dans son sens. Le permis junior permet de pratiquer, mais encore faut-il que la personne se trouve un emploi dans une entreprise acceptant de la superviser. « On a un autre projet et on a demandé des subventions pour voir ce qu’il est possible de faire avec les employeurs, qui pourraient afficher leurs besoins et dire qu’ils cherchent des professionnels formés à l’étranger », dit-elle.

Pour Maya Khoury, l’obstacle à un emploi dans son domaine va bien au-delà du permis de l’OIQ, qu’elle se demande si elle tentera un jour d’obtenir. « Je suis rendue à l’équivalence du diplôme et on me demande des relevés de notes de mon université. Mais je viens d’Alep… » dit-elle, pour montrer la difficulté de récupérer ces documents à l’heure actuelle. « C’est très compliqué. Et on va encore me demander d’étudier plus », souligne cette mère de famille à l’aube de la cinquantaine, qui avoue avoir commencé à faire le deuil de sa profession durant son séjour au Liban, avant d’immigrer au Canada.

Même si elle obtenait un jour le permis de l’OIQ, Maya Khoury — qui écrit d’ailleurs « Marie-Claire Khoury » sur son CV — fait remarquer qu’il lui manque deux éléments cruciaux pour pouvoir exercer son métier d’ingénieur : la maîtrise de l’anglais et des contacts dans une entreprise. « Tous mes amis qui ont trouvé un travail, c’est parce qu’ils connaissaient des gens. »

Malgré tout, constatant que les ingénieurs et architectes représentent la majorité de sa clientèle et qu’ils sont « confrontés à un pourcentage élevé de difficulté à trouver un emploi connexe », la CSAI a décidé d’offrir des ateliers sur l’emploi, dont celui qui se termine samedi, avec une formation de l’OIQ sur le processus d’adhésion. « Ces réfugiés ont besoin d’être accompagnés. Ce n’est pas parce qu’ils sont diplômés qu’ils sont autonomes à 100 %, dit Lida Aghasi. On veut leur donner espoir, leur dire qu’il faut qu’ils restent actifs et que nous ne les avons pas oubliés. »

Du réconfort, c’est surtout ce que Maya Khoury est venue chercher. « J’aimerais beaucoup travailler en construction, estimer des matériaux, c’est ce que je faisais. Sinon, avec mes connaissances, je pourrais toujours travailler dans l’aide aux immigrants ! » lance-t-elle en riant.

Source: Y a-t-il un bon génie pour ces immigrants? | Le Devoir

Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? –

An overview of where the Conservative leadership candidates stand on foreign credential recognition – no much new for a perennial issue.

The evaluation of IRCC’s efforts under the Conservatives, which were largely information, path-finding and referral services, does not indicate a strong correlation with improved outcomes for foreign-trained professions (Evaluation of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO)):

A large part of Justin Trudeau’s campaign focused on reforming the Conservatives’ policies, but that’s not the case when it comes to skilled immigrants. Erin Tolley, a political science researcher at the University of Toronto who focuses on diversity in Canada, said the Liberals have been largely silent on the issue. Their platform didn’t include promises on immigrant skill utilization, and all they’ve done is tweak economic immigration policy. Tolley says it’s Conservative governments that are most active on skilled immigration reform because they see it as an economic issue.

That’s why when Conservative leadership hopefuls nearly unanimously said Canada needs more skilled immigrants, I had to know where they stood on reaccreditation. The campaigns of Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, and Lisa Raitt did not make their candidates available for an interview, but nine other candidates agree that the federal government has a role to play in tackling the problem.

Nearly every candidate I spoke with said Canada needs to sharpen its focus on economic immigration. Former immigration minister Chris Alexander wants 70 per cent of Canada’s immigrants to be selected on the basis of skills, education, and language, rather than family reunification. Under the Harper government, that number hovered in the mid-60 percentiles, while the Liberals lowered 2016 targets to the mid-50s. Alexander’s message is clear: whether they come in as a response to our needs or in a steady stream, skilled immigrants help prop up the economy.

…But during the first debate, none of the candidates addressed how we will make sure those skills are part of the job market. Alexander and Steven Blaney said they would build on Jason Kenney’s work as immigration minister if they came to power. That means providing incentives to businesses, including tax breaks and the ability to let them tell the government what kind of skills they’re looking for, and having discussions with professional associations that often help immigrants gain their credentials. The associations could play a role in both educating new immigrants about how to get accredited and loosening standards for newcomers.

….Finances are one of the barriers for new immigrants, according to the U of T study. Others are a lack of job experience, language barriers, and even “lack of knowledge of Canadian professional ‘lingo.’”

To fill many of the gaps, Erin O’Toole said, Canada relies on migrant workers. Part of the reason is immigrants can’t use their degrees. For O’Toole, there are two steps to a solution. The first is to start a process of recognizing credentials sooner, concurrent with the application, and the second is working with provinces to streamline cross-provincial recognition.

The majority of candidates who spoke to Maclean’sechoed O’Toole’s ideas. Michael Chong added that Canada needs to be “giving immigrants a clear-eyed view of what the credentials are worth in Canada so they know what they will need to transition.” Andrew Scheer said, “If the work was done on the front-end and we were able to bring provinces together, in a lot of cases you wouldn’t need to qualify and re-certify.”

It’s possible they are right, but policy takes a long time to implement—and it takes even longer to figure out whether or not it works. Tolley also says there are barriers governments can’t tackle outside of raising awareness. For example, research shows foreign-sounding names are discriminated against by employers, and there is no policy that helps immigrants retroactively.

Source: Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? –