Doug Ford government scraps diversity hiring targets for transit projects

UPDATE: Reversed!

The Ontario government will no longer include hiring targets for disadvantaged groups in its agreements for provincial transit projects, a reversal of a groundbreaking policy intended to deliver jobs to marginalized communities where new lines are built.

Advocates warn the decision will undo years of progress toward bringing women, people of colour, and Indigenous and Black residents into the workforce, and raises questions about whether Premier Doug Ford’s subway program is eligible for federal funding.

The hiring targets were first included in a so-called community benefits agreement the previous Ontario Liberal government reached for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in 2016, which was hailed at the time as setting a precedent that would inject funding, training and employment into neighbourhoods in need.

But the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), a coalition of labour and community groups, says the targets are being left out of plans already underway for Ontario’s $28.5-billion subway program, which consists of the Ontario Line, Yonge North Subway Extension, Scarborough Subway Extension, and Eglinton West LRT.

Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for transit construction in the GTA, will be “on the wrong side of history” if it scraps the hiring thresholds and other key aspects of the benefits framework, said Rosemarie Powell, executive director of TCBN.

The group is expressing “deep concern” about the province’s change of heart, which it says will undermine a program that has helped ensure people who get opportunities through public infrastructure investment “come from and reflect the diversity of local communities.”

Metrolinx is overseen by Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney. Asked why the province is dropping the hiring targets, the minister’s spokesperson Dakota Brasier said the province “will continue to facilitate a pathway for local communities to develop the skills and qualifications needed to find good-paying jobs in the sector.”

She said Ontario’s “historic” transit plans are on course to “generate thousands of jobs, create more connections for people across the province and boost our economy.”

The community benefits agreement signed by the province, Metrolinx, TCBN and the company building the Crosstown LRT six years ago set a target that 10 per cent of work hours for the project go to local groups that have historically faced employment barriers, like racialized residents, women and newcomers.

The target wasn’t a legal obligation under the LRT contract and was described as “aspirational,” but the signatories pitched it as a meaningful way to give hundreds of people from groups traditionally shut out of the construction industry a path to a decent career.

The Ontario government of the day said the agreement would serve as a framework for future projects, and a similar deal was struck for the Finch West LRT.

In addition to not including the 10 per cent hiring target in agreements for the new provincial subways, TCBN says Metrolinx hasn’t committed to other measures around consultation, transparency and local procurement that represent “a minimum standard” for a community benefits agreements.

In a Feb. 11 letter to the group, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster confirmed the agency is taking a “different approach” to community benefits, but one that it believes will still deliver “the same objectives” and “meaningful change.”

Although it doesn’t include hiring targets, Verster wrote that Metrolinx’s strategy will provide local employment opportunities, require contractors to develop and report on apprenticeship and workforce development plans, and direct contractors to develop “shop local” campaigns and host trade shows to connect employers with job-seekers.

The agency is also committed to making public realm improvements and in some cases could provide amenities like community centres or affordable housing as part of transit projects.

Metrolinx spokesperson Fannie Sunshine said the “broader” approach will give the agency the “flexibility” required “to meaningfully engage” with communities, and allow it to “identify better opportunities.”

Powell acknowledged implementing the original agreement hasn’t been easy. Crosslinx, the private consortium building the Crosstown, hasn’t reached the 10 per cent hiring goal, and is instead hovering around five per cent, according to TCBN. A spokesperson for Crosslinx said she didn’t have up-to-date figures.

But Powell said Metrolinx has been a good partner on the benefits program to date, and she had expected the agency to address problems with the strategy, not weaken it.

“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” she said.

TCBN also points out that when the federal Liberal government announced more than $10 billion in financial support for Ford’s subway program in May 2021, it said the funding was dependent on the province satisfying a number of conditions, including community benefits agreements and “meeting employment thresholds for under-represented communities including Black, Indigenous, people of colour, and women.”

Sunshine said Metrolinx’s position is that the workforce development plans included in its new approach “will help to enable federal requirements.”

Zoltan Csepregi, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Canada, said community benefits agreements are still a condition of the funding, and the federal government will “work collaboratively with the government of Ontario to ensure that Metrolinx upholds these conditions.”

Source: Doug Ford government scraps diversity hiring targets for transit projects

Les établissements francophones ontariens eux aussi plus touchés par les rejets de permis d’études

Of note. Would really be helpful to have more in-depth analysis of the factors that underlie these differences, rather than just the differences:

Les établissements postsecondaires francophones et bilingues de l’Ontario peinent à recruter des étudiants étrangers. Leur taux de refus de permis d’études auprès d’Immigration Canada est de loin supérieur à ceux observés dans les collèges et universités anglophones, a constaté Le Devoir.

Des directions francophones disent devoir travailler beaucoup plus fort que leurs collègues anglophones pour pouvoir atteindre leur cible de recrutement. Les deux seuls collèges de langue française de l’Ontario ont vu respectivement 67 % et 73 % des demandes de permis d’études de leurs futurs étudiants être refusées en 2021, d’après des données fournies par Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC). Il s’agit d’une amélioration par rapport à 2020, où la moyenne pour les deux s’élevait à 79 %. Dans les 22 collèges anglophones répertoriés dans la base de données d’IRCC, ce sont en moyenne 40 % des demandes qui ont été refusées en 2021 et 50 % en 2020.

L’écart est similaire entre les universités francophones et bilingues d’un côté, et celles anglophones de l’autre. À l’Université de Hearst, au nord de la province, par exemple, 72 % des demandes de permis d’études pour étudiants étrangers ont été déclinées en 2021 et 86 % l’année précédente. Quelque 85 % des demandes l’ont été au cours des deux dernières années à l’Université Laurentienne. À Thunder Bay, à l’Université Lakehead, la plus grande du nord de l’Ontario, un établissement anglophone, la situation est tout autre : en 2021, seulement 28 % des demandes de permis d’études ont été refusées.

Bululu Kabatakaka, le directeur des programmes postsecondaires et de l’intégration au collège Boréal, ne comprend pas ce qui cause cet écart. « Est-ce qu’il y a un biais inconscient par rapport aux pays francophones ? » se demande-t-il. Le Devoir révélait en novembre qu’Ottawa refusait de plus en plus d’étudiants de l’Afrique francophone.

Le dirigeant estime qu’il doit travailler considérablement plus fort que ses collègues pour atteindre ses cibles. « Quand nos collègues [d’autres collèges] travaillent 35 heures, nous, on travaille 150 heures », dit-il.

Le même phénomène se produit au collège La Cité d’Ottawa et à l’Université de Hearst. Le recteur de l’université, Luc Bussières, critique le gaspillage associé aux taux de refus élevés : des ressources sont dépensées inutilement pour le recrutement, et des rêves d’étudiants sont gâchés, dit-il. « Ça rendrait notre travail plus efficace si on avait un meilleur taux, explique le recteur. Si on veut 100 personnes, il faut faire 500 offres. »

« Nous devons généralement faire de 15 à 20 offres aux candidats pour que 10 étudiants acceptent notre offre et que 3 de ces étudiants obtiennent un permis d’études », raconte pour sa part Pascale Montminy, directrice des communications de La Cité. En 2021, 67 % des demandes de permis d’études au collège ont été refusées. À quelques kilomètres à l’ouest du centre-ville d’Ottawa, au collège Algonquin, qui est anglophone, le taux tombe à 40 %.

Problème difficile à régler

Ce type de problème dure depuis environ quinze ans, estime Martin Normand, directeur de la recherche stratégique et des relations internationales à l’Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne (ACUFC). « Les établissements interpellent IRCC et ses prédécesseurs pour demander des explications et des modifications, ou à tout le moins plus de transparence », fait savoir le directeur.

Le gouvernement fédéral souhaite depuis 2003 que les immigrants francophones représentent 4,4 % des nouveaux arrivants à l’extérieur du Québec. L’échéancier pour atteindre la cible avait d’abord été fixé à 2008, mais il a ensuite été reporté de 15 ans. Pourtant, Martin Normand remarque que les agents du ministère « reprochent souvent aux étudiants leur intention de rester au Canada à la fin de leurs études », explique le directeur de l’association. L’intention de faire une demande de résidence permanente après les études constitue un motif de refus pour les permis d’études, soutient-il. Le directeur était du groupe de témoins qui ont récemment critiqué l’approche d’Ottawa, qu’ils estiment contradictoire, devant le Comité permanent de la citoyenneté et de l’immigration.

Selon IRCC, même s’il existe une possibilité pour un étudiant étranger d’éventuellement devenir un résident permanent, chaque demandeur de permis doit convaincre l’agent d’immigration qu’il a l’intention de respecter ses obligations à titre de résident temporaire. Ainsi, chaque demandeur « doit être capable et désireux de quitter le Canada à la fin de sa période de séjour autorisé », explique Julie Lafortune, porte-parole du ministère, par courriel.

L’exercice d’analyse des établissements en ce qui concerne les motifs de refus est encore plus compliqué du fait du manque d’accès aux données. Lorsque contactées par Le Devoir au sujet des taux de refus, des directions ont dit ne jamais les avoir vues. « C’est un peu une boîte noire », lance Luc Bussières, recteur de l’Université de Hearst, qui compte entre 250 et 300 étudiants.

De l’université au collège

Les étudiants détenant un diplôme universitaire dans leur pays natal seraient aussi désavantagés s’ils souhaitent retourner aux études dans un programme collégial en Ontario, estime Bululu Kabatakaka. Dans sa campagne de recrutement, le Collège Boréal évoque la pénurie de main-d’œuvre dans la province, qui touche certains secteurs couverts par ses programmes, mais si des candidats étudiants tentent de répondre à ce besoin, ils se voient bloquer par IRCC, affirme M. Kabatakaka.

Il s’agirait plutôt de juger de la « bonne foi » des demandeurs, fait valoir IRCC. La demande d’une personne détenant déjà un diplôme universitaire pour suivre des études dans un domaine non connexe « ne pourrait peut‑être pas convaincre l’agent qu’il est un étudiant de bonne foi », cite comme exemple la porte-parole Julie Lafortune.

« Il faut que les agents comprennent bien les besoins des communautés francophones en matière d’immigration et de main-d’œuvre », affirme de son côté Martin Normand, de l’ACUFC.

Source: Les établissements francophones ontariens eux aussi plus touchés par les rejets de permis d’études

Ontario to accept 100 immigrants after each invests $200,000 in local companies

Hard to see that this will work any better than other investor immigration programs in terms of contributing to the economy:

Ontario is planning to accept 100 immigrants in the next two years under a program allowing foreign entrepreneurs to apply for immigration to the province after they invest a minimum of $200,000 in its economy.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the government will focus on attracting international entrepreneurs to Ontario communities outside the Greater Toronto Area.

He says these entrepreneurs will be nominated for immigration under the province’s economic immigration program after they start a new business or purchase an existing one in Ontario.

McNaughton says the new initiative will cost the government $6 million, but it will be recovered through fees paid by immigrants who are coming to the province to start or buy businesses.

He says the province is expecting at a minimum $20 million in business investment generated through this immigration stream.

The previous Liberal government in Ontario had founded this stream in 2015 but only two immigrant investors have been nominated using it since then.

“I see immigration as one of the key economic drivers of Ontario’s growth,” McNaughton said. “There’s an opportunity to create new businesses outside of the GTA, to create more jobs for people across the province.”

McNaughton said the program will help with the recovery of the Ontario economy after COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to be aggressive as we build back better out of the pandemic to recruit entrepreneurs to Ontario,” he said.

Last month, Ontario called on the federal government to double the number of immigrants allowed under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program — from 9,000 to 18,000 a year — a program aimed at boosting the skilled workforce.

McNaughton said the province is facing a significant labour shortage that has been intensified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Ontario to accept 100 immigrants after each invests $200,000 in local companies

‘Half-baked’ Bill 27 won’t protect migrant workers from exploitative recruiters, say advocates

Valid criticism of low level fines and other issues related to recruiting agencies:

Ontario’s proposed changes to employment law would not protect vulnerable migrant workers from unscrupulous recruiters and employers, and need more teeth to work for the workers, say advocates.

Professional recruiters play a key role in the transnational recruitment of migrant workers for employment in Ontario’s agricultural sector, fisheries, food supply, transportation, tourism, as well as in-home personal care and support services.

Last month, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton introduced Bill 27. The omnibus legislation includes policy changes meant to remove barriers for immigrants to get licensed in a regulated profession; require temporary help agencies to be licensed; and compel businesses to let delivery drivers use their washrooms, among other things.

Dubbed the Working for Workers Act, the bill, currently under review by a provincial standing committee, would also require recruiters to be licensed in a public registry and be responsible for repaying workers any illegal fees charged here or abroad.

The consequence of non-compliance for the recruiter would be the revocation of their licence and a possible fine under $300 for a first offence, critics point out.

Although employers would be required to use licensed recruiters, they would only face a fine of $250 for using someone who’s not registered.

Advocates for migrants have been calling for the licensing of recruiters and recruitment agencies since 2008, but said the enforcement tools in the proposed legislation are inadequate because the fines for infractions are way too low to be deterrents.

Recruiters, agencies and consultants use the promise of jobs that don’t exist and work conditions that don’t exist to lure workers to come to Canada,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers’ Alliance for Change. “Once they’re here, they’re so indebted they’re unable to protect themselves and defend themselves.

“This has been a well-documented issue. Now, the rest of the country has moved forward. Ontario has frankly not created any effective legislation to protect migrant workers from exploitative recruiters. As the bill stands, this will simply be window dressing, half-baked.”

According to Hussan, six provinces — Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia — have already adopted mandatory licensing programs, requiring a security deposit between $5,000 and $25,000 from recruiters; most also have a registry for employers who hire migrant workers. Fines for employers for using an unlicensed recruiter can go up to $50,000 in Manitoba. A registry would enable proactive inspections.

Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre said Ontario must follow the other jurisdictions to hold employers equally responsible to make sure they use recruiters that do not charge illegal fees.

“This would not compel an employer to use a licensed recruiter if all you are required is a $250 fine,” she said. “It’s really the employers who use the recruitment agencies in the first place that drive this whole business model. It is their demand for migrant workers that creates a supply chain.

“We need to make sure employers are jointly and severally liable so they’re responsible when they use these recruitment agencies.”

Advocates are asking for a minimum fine of $15,000 against employers who fail to use a licensed agency, as well as a security bond of no less than $25,000 against licensed recruiters.

Ladd said a mandatory registry of employers who hire migrant workers is crucial.

“In our experience, we see employers who violate employment standards and continue to hire workers, only to repeat the violations, such as unpaid hours of work, overtime and illegal deductions,” said Ladd.

“Mandatory employer registration would enable the Ministry of Labour to conduct effective, targeted, proactive inspections as it will have all the information they need to do so.”

Also under this bill, Hussan said the onus is on the migrant workers to prove they have paid a recruitment fee or have been exploited. But recruiters have become so savvy that they now leave little paper trail.

“We need to reverse the onus so that workers don’t have to prove that they are being charged illegal fees, but employers and recruiters must prove that the charging doesn’t happen,” he said.

Source: ‘Half-baked’ Bill 27 won’t protect migrant workers from exploitative recruiters, say advocates

ICYMI: Ontario PCs want immigration deal with Ottawa changed

Of note:

Although a provincial election stands between now and when Ontario and Ottawa will decide the terms of a new immigration agreement, the Progressive Conservatives are keen to make changes to the pact that’s up for renegotiation in 2023.

The province’s existing immigration deal with Ottawa was agreed to in 2017, while Justin Trudeau was prime minister, but before Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs) were elected to govern Ontario.

Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Labour minister, says the PCs want more of a say in which immigrants are allowed to come to Ontario, so they can better leverage them to fill holes in the province’s job market.

“The Liberals have used immigration as as a social tool, and that’s an entirely valid purpose — and one, I want to be clear, that we support, like for family reunification, for example,” McNaughton told iPolitics in a brief interview on Thursday.

“But to me, immigration is one of the key economic drivers of Ontario’s growth, and one that can be used strategically to fill critical gaps in labour supply and to create more jobs.”

Ontario usually takes in more than 125,000 immigrants each year, but it’s allowed to nominate fewer than 9,000 potential immigrants each year through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), the main mechanism the province uses to attract the skilled workers it lacks domestically.

The federal government has to approve the province’s OINP nominees, because the former is responsible for Canada’s borders and for assigning citizenship and permanent residency.

The PCs have changed the OINP by improving its intake system and giving more priority to workers in health care and the skilled trades, but they want Ottawa to allow Ontario more autonomy in the system, and to double the number of nominees it’s allotted.

McNaughton has already spoken to Sean Fraser, Canada’s new minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, but the two haven’t had the chance to meet officially yet. McNaughton said their first formal tête-à-tête could happen as soon as next week, which is when he’d start appealing to Fraser with the PCs’ requests.

A year ago, the federal Liberals set higher immigration goals, including increasing the number of permanent residents from 351,000 to 401,000 this year, and from 361,000 to 411,000 in 2022.

The Liberals also promised in the recent election campaign to reform economic-immigration programs and to recognize more foreign job credentials.

On a similar front, McNaughton tabled a bill on Monday to recognize the licences of foreign workers in nearly two dozen trades in Ontario.

Source: Ontario PCs want immigration deal with Ottawa changed

Ontario to ask Ottawa to help more PSWs immigrate

Of note:

The Ford government will be closely watching the shakeup of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on Tuesday to see which Liberal MP takes over immigration.

That’s because whoever it is will largely determine the success of Ontario’s ambitious plan to fix its beleaguered system of long-term care.

The Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s plan is three-pronged: to pass legislation strengthening care standards in nursing homes; to spend $2.7 billion for 30,000 new beds; and to spend another $4.9 billion to hire 27,000 full-time workers.

But meeting the most expensive objective requires migrants, which in turn depends on Ottawa’s willingness to give Ontario the control it wants over jobs that tend to attract foreigners to the province.

“Ontario generally … is working with Ottawa for more flexibility (over) our immigration,” Ontario’s Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said at an event hosted by the Canadian Club of Toronto last week.

“If we’re going to get those 27,000 people … there’s no way we get there without providing pathways.”

Before the last Parliament dissolved in August, Phillips spoke to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about attracting more migrants to work as nurses and personal support workers (PSWs), he said.

The PCs plan to resume those discussions sometime after Tuesday, when the prime minister either renames Marco Mendicino as his minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, or appoints someone else.

The PCs want more autonomy in running the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), and for Ottawa to let it accept more immigrants through the program each year, said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, last week.

A source close to McNaughton told iPolitics the PCs want to double the 8,900 immigrants Ontario accepts each year through the OINP, which is open to foreign workers, international students, and other would-be migrants who work jobs the Ontario and federal governments categorize as in need.

A foreigner who applies to the OINP has to be nominated for permanent residence by the provincial government, and his or her application must be approved by Ottawa.

In 2018, there were 56,000 full-time-equivalent positions in Ontario’s long-term-care sector, and 58 per cent of them were PSWs.

The 27,000 full-time-equivalent positions the PCs want to add over the next four years include 17,000 PSWs, according to comments made by Phillips that were reported by the Ottawa Citizen.

Currently, the OINP doesn’t consider PSWs “skilled workers,” thereby disqualifying them from most of the program’s streams. They can only qualify through the OINP’s “in-demand skills” stream, which has other complicating requirements, including that the applicant already has a job lined up in Ontario that pays more than the provincial average for the position, and that the applicant recently had a job in the same field in Ontario.

Many sectors in Ontario are short workers; government officials say 290,000 jobs are unfilled.

To attempt to fill them, McNaughton announced last week that the Ontario government will introduce a bill making it easier for people trained in certain professions outside Canada to become licensed in Ontario. While the bill would cover jobs in law, accounting, architecture, engineering, and plumbing, it wouldn’t apply to licensed health-care workers, however.

The PCs are interested in exploring similar legislation for immigrant health-care workers, but the sector’s complexity precludes them from McNaughton’s bill, said a source close to the minister.

Trudeau’s government shares some of the PCs’ goals for immigration and long-term care. During the federal election campaign, the Liberals promised to train 50,000 PSWs in Canada and raise their wages to $25/hour. Their platform also included promises to reform economic-immigration programs and to recognize more foreign job credentials.

While she’s in favour of classifying PSWs in a way that makes it easier for them to immigrate, it’s just “one piece of the puzzle” of filling the sector’s staff shortage, Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, told iPolitics.

The group represents 70 per cent of the province’s nursing homes, including those which are private, not-for-profit, and municipally run.

Source: Ontario to ask Ottawa to help more PSWs immigrate

Canada has a big-time nursing shortage. So why can’t these two fully certified nurses get the OK to practise?

Of note, along with the backlog numbers for the various programs:

A former intensive-care nurse in the Philippines, Katrina Deauna has watched from the sidelines as Ontario — and all of Canada — struggles with chronic nursing shortages laid bare by the pandemic.

While the foreign caregiver enjoys looking after the 18-month-old baby girl and six-year-old son of her Canadian employer, she says, she would rather use her front-line nursing skills and experience to help those fighting for their lives against COVID-19.

Deauna has met all the licensing requirements of the Ontario College of Nursing. All she is missing is the authorization to work — either through a letter that confirms she’s eligible for permanent residence or a bridging open work permit.

“We are ready to practise in our profession. We are just waiting for our papers,” says the 28-year-old, who worked in the intensive-care unit of the Manila Doctors Hospital, one of the top hospitals in the Philippines, for three years until September 2019, when she was hired as a nanny in Toronto.

“They’re talking about the shortages of nurses in Ontario and Canada. And here we are. The only thing that’s keeping us from our practice is a piece of immigration paper.”

According to Ontario’s regulatory body of nurses, there are currently at least 41 applicants who meet all of its registration requirements but are waiting for the immigration authorization to work in Canada. It’s not sure what the numbers are for other provinces.

Statistics Canada reported that in the first three months of this year, the health-care and social-assistance sector had the largest year-over-year increase in job vacancies compared to other sectors, rising by 27,700 to 98,700 vacancies — an increase of 39 per cent. The positions with the largest vacancy increase were registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. Half of those positions had been vacant for 90 days or more, according to Statistics Canada.

Ontario has, so far, been hardest hit. With a ratio of 725 registered nurses per 100,000 people, it ranks as the lowest province in Canada and well below the national average of 811 nurses per 100,000 people, according to 2019 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Hospitals across the province currently have a vacancy rate of 18 to 22 per cent for nurses, the Ontario Nurses’ Association says.

“Some smaller hospitals closed their emergency departments after four o’clock because they don’t have enough staff,” says Vicki McKenna, head of the association, adding that some operating rooms are running at limited capacity for the same reason..

While complaints from internationally trained nurses have traditionally had to do with the lengthy registration and licensing process with regulators, McKenna said it’s deplorable that those who have met the licensing requirement are being held back due to an immigration backlog.

“We need these nurses, and we can’t afford to have them languish on that list, and we can’t afford to lose them to other provinces. The nursing shortages aren’t in Ontario alone. It’s across this country and it’s an international issue,” she said.

“The U.S. is recruiting hard. Our nurses are leaving, in some cases, to what is seen to be greener pastures there, and we can’t afford to sit and watch. We have to do something.”

Reduced processing capacity due to lockdowns here and abroad, as well as travel restrictions worldwide, have wreaked havoc in the immigration system during the pandemic.

As of July 31, more than 561,700 people were in the queue for permanent residence and 748,381 had a pending temporary residence application as students, workers or visitors, while the backlog for citizenship stood at 376,458 people.

Traditionally, many internationally educated nurses from the Philippines, the Caribbean and Africa arrive and work as foreign caregivers while trying to register and restart their licensing process in Canada once they’re here.

The permanent residence backlogs for foreign caregivers began long before the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. In April, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a move to prioritize the permanent residence applications of 6,000 caregivers by Dec. 31.

The immigration department said it had processed the applications for a total of 3,253 people under the initiative up to Oct. 17, but it’s not known how many of those were caregivers because the number included their family members. Officials were unable to say how much the caregiver backlogs have been reduced since the announcement.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has prioritized applications from workers in essential occupations in agriculture and health care, where labour is most needed to protect the health of Canadians and ensure a sufficient food supply,” said department spokesperson Rémi Larivière.

“Applicants who intended to work in agriculture or health care but who applied for an open work permit and didn’t have a valid job offer in advance would not be triaged for priority processing.”

Deauna said she was thrilled with the government announcement, but feels those with pending nursing licences should be fast-tracked if Canadian officials are serious about addressing the shortages of nurses in the country in the wake of the pandemic.

She applied for permanent residence and the bridging open work permit in August 2020 but only received an acknowledgment of receipt this past June. Her caregiver work permit has expired since June.

The Ontario licensing process requires of applicants practical nursing experience within the three years before a certificate of registration is issued.

Deauna fears she may have to go back to the Philippines to get back to practice and restart the licensing process if her immigration and nursing certificate don’t come through before June.

“I can’t afford more delay in my permanent residence or open work permit,” she noted.

Leslie Apurada arrived in 2018 under the home support worker program to look after an elderly man with dementia in Montreal and initiated her licensing process with the Ontario College of Nurses a year later.

The former Filipino registered nurse with a psychogeriatric background underwent Canada’s national nursing assessment, registered for prep courses and sat for — and passed — a couple of required nursing exams, all while working full time to look after her client.

Even though her employer was supportive and tried to spare her from overtime work while she was studying for exams and attending courses, Apurada said she was mentally and physically exhausted jumping through all the hoops to get past the final qualifying test in June. She’s since been waiting for her immigration authorization to work.

“During the height of the pandemic … Canada’s prime minister said we’re all in this together. But we, caregivers, feel we’re always pushed to the sideline. No one really answers to us why the backlog for the caregiver programs has been so extensive,” said the 31-year-old, who is now enrolled in an online course about nephrology at Humber College.

“It’s disheartening to see how strained the Canadian health system is while all along we are here. We’ve passed all the exams and we could’ve helped.”

Karla Ducusin, another former RN from the Philippines, came to Canada in late 2018 by way of Israel to look after an elderly couple with medical needs in Markham. She’s responsible for preparing them meals, administering their medications, escorting them to doctor’s appointments and helping with household chores.

The permanent residence application that she filed last October costs $1,050 and each time she extends her caregiver work permit, it’s another $155.

Given she’s now in Canada on the so-called implied status — in transition with a pending permanent residence application in the system, Ducusin said she has lost her OHIP, which requires a temporary foreign worker to have a valid work permit to be eligible. Her caregiver work permit expired last November.

“I want to be able to help my family more financially. My father is sick and my two younger brothers are not working. I could make a lot more money and pay more taxes as a nurse than as a caregiver,” said the 32-year-old, whose file will be closed by the College of Nurses of Ontario if there’s no update for two years.

“This is putting a heavy toll on our mental health. You wake up every day and there’s still no movement in your immigration application. It’s just so frustrating.”

Source: Canada has a big-time nursing shortage. So why can’t these two fully certified nurses get the OK to practise?

These ‘first of their kind’ Ontario changes could get more skilled immigrants working in their actual fields of expertise

Good initiative that may break some of the logjam. Will see over time the impact. More significant that Premier Ford’s unfortunate remarks on immigrants and the political and activist pile-on:

The Ontario government is unveiling a new plan to help get immigrants working in the fields where they have expertise.

Legislative changes to be introduced Thursday would force some professional regulators to drop Canadian work-experience requirements from their licensing criteria — and to speed up processing times.

If passed, the changes would address what newcomers often cite as two key barriers to acquiring their professional designations in Ontario.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, whose ministry also oversees training, skills development and immigration, called the changes “unprecedented and the first of their kind in Canada.”

“They’re just long overdue,” McNaughton said. “My goal is to ensure that we’re creating a clear path for new Canadians to fully apply their skills and remove barriers so immigrants can find meaningful work.”

The proposed amendments to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act would cover 37 non-health-related professions and trades.

The affected fields would range from architecture to teaching, social work, plumbing, electricians’ work, auto-body repair and hairstyling.

The changes, if passed, would give the minister and the fairness commissioner the powers to order financial penalties for regulators found to have breached the law. 

At present, licensing time in some professions takes as long as 18 months, and both the ministry and the fairness commissioner’s office will gather baseline data to inform and establish reasonable timelines in consultation with oversight ministries, regulators and communities.

For decades, many immigrants who were selected for their education achievements and work experience have complained about being unemployed or underemployed because their foreign credentials are devalued in Canada.

Those who have training and background in a regulated profession also complain they lack the coveted Canadian experience to meet licensing requirements and that the process is too lengthy and costly.

When asked about the timing of this announcement, following another earlier this week to regulate temporary worker agencies and recruiters, McNaughton denied it was part of a Conservative strategy to galvanize immigrant votes in next year’s provincial election.

“The pro-worker reforms we’re unveiling … it’s all about rebalancing the scales. Coming out of this pandemic, the scales were tilted toward a lot of big corporations that make billions of dollars run by billionaires,” he said.

“We are on the side of workers and just ensuring that they’re getting better paychecks and better protections.”

Premier Doug Ford has been at the centre of controversy since Monday, when he said Ontario is desperate for people to move here — as long as they want to work.

“You come here like every other new Canadian has come here, you work your tail off,” he said. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around? Not going to happen, go somewhere else.”

The comments have drawn fire from many who say the premier was playing to racist stereotypes about new Canadians.

According to McNaughton, currently only 25 per cent of all immigrants are actually employed in their field of study, while 293,000 jobs are waiting to be filled in the province, which could see its GDP increase by $20 billion, if the skill gap is addressed.

“That’s unacceptable,” he told the Star in an interview Wednesday. “It’s important that we ensure that everyone’s talent is being used and we unleash their talent to its full capacity.”

The proposed changes to eliminate the Canadian experience licensing requirement do have exemption provisions if regulators can demonstrate that it is necessary for public health and safety. The expectation, however, would be that they find alternative methods to minimize barriers. The Ontario fairness commissioner’s office would review exemption requests and make recommendations to the minister, who would have the final say.

The government also plans to align and streamline language-testing requirements for immigration and licensing purposes, for instance, by asking regulators to accept the same tests as proof of language proficiency or embed it as part of their respective technical exams.

“We’re eliminating the unfair Canadian work experience requirements, reducing burdens including duplicative language training and ensuring that licensing applications are processed faster,” McNaughton said.

“Last year alone, about 17,500 internationally trained individuals applied to receive their licence to practise from our regulator. We want to increase that number in a big, big way.”

The expectation is for the Canadian work experience requirement to be struck down within two years.

The changes could potentially extend to the regulated health sector in the future, which is far more complex due to health and safety concerns.

“We continue to work with health (authorities). That is a priority for me,” McNaughton noted. “But this is going to apply across the board apart from health, at least at this point.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/10/21/these-first-of-their-kind-ontario-changes-could-get-more-skilled-immigrants-working-in-their-actual-fields-of-expertise.html

Star Editorial: Those who care about math education for all should focus on results, not rhetoric about colonialism

Good editorial calling for focus on substance, not rhetoric:

Kids in Ontario ought to get the best possible education in mathematics. And that means all kids — including ones who have historically been left behind in this crucial area.

We should hold the government accountable on this, and demand it do everything possible on both counts — designing the best math education, and delivering an approach to teaching that ensures no groups are excluded from success.

What we shouldn’t be doing is getting hung up on rhetoric about “decolonizing” math education and worrying about the “historical roots and social constructions” of mathematics.

This is a giant distraction from those real issues — the quality of education and making sure the government gives teachers the resources they need to deliver it to all their students.

The issue arises because the Ford government has dropped language about racism and colonialism from the preamble to the province’s new math curriculum.

The paragraph that’s been edited out said this: “Mathematics has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges, and a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions.”

How does focusing on language of this sort help any students actually learn math, or help any teachers operate to their best ability in the classroom? 

And how does it help to get Ontarians behind the cause of making sure we have the best math education possible, and the government carries through on delivering it?

The answer is it doesn’t do any of those things. All it does it convince most parents — and most teachers, for that matter — that the people in charge of designing curriculums are more interested in pushing a political/social agenda than in delivering the best education.

It also distracts from the genuine issues buried beneath those layers of jargon. It’s undoubtedly true that many students — Black, Indigenous and other racialized students among them — have been disadvantaged by the way math and other subjects have been taught.

This is a real, documented problem and it’s in everyone’s interest that it be addressed without delay.

To the government’s credit, it took a big step in that direction vowing to end streaming in Grade 9 — making young teenagers choose between “academic” and “applied” tracks in high school. There are stacks of evidence that this has had a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous and poor students, limiting their opportunities for the future.

So any new curriculum, especially in core subjects like math, should take into account the fact that some groups have been left behind.

And, in fact, while the government chopped some words from the preamble to the new math curriculum, it added this new paragraph: “The curriculum emphasizes the need to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education.”

That gets to the heart of the matter, but of course words alone are not enough. The real test will be if the government follows through and makes sure the intent in that paragraph is translated into action and results.

We made that point last month when Education Minister Steven Lecce unveiled Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum.

It’s a single curriculum for all students — no more of that “streaming” — and it looks like a step forward toward making sure they’ll acquire math skills they can use in a wide range of science, technology and trade careers. It includes mandatory learning on coding, data literacy, mathematical modelling and financial literacy.

The government says it’s committed millions to make sure the new curriculum is properly delivered — and that students who find themselves in a more academic math class get all the supports they need to succeed.

But this government has a track record of cheaping out in areas like this, and those who care about math education need to keep up the pressure and make sure that doesn’t happen. In the end, that will count a lot more than all that grad-school rhetoric about “colonialism.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2021/07/19/those-who-care-about-math-education-for-all-should-focus-on-results-not-rhetoric-about-colonialism.html

Education minister under fire after introduction deleted from Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum

Appears that the substantive aspects related to systemic barriers and inclusion remain while the ideologic reference to “non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges” has been dropped. Much of math has non-European roots (numerals, algebra etc):

Premier Doug Ford’s government has deleted a preamble to Ontario’s new Grade 9 curriculum that said math “has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges.”

While the updated syllabus remains unchanged, introductory language for teachers was quietly edited earlier this week.

The modernized curriculum was introduced June 9 as the first step of ending the streaming of students so early in high school. That practice that has been tied to poor outcomes for Black and Indigenous youth.

As first reported by the Toronto Sun on Saturday, the Progressive Conservatives initially approved of a curriculum introduction that said “a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions.”

“Mathematics is often positioned as an objective and pure discipline,” said the preamble to the curriculum, which was made public last month.

“The Ontario Grade 9 mathematics curriculum emphasizes the need to recognize and challenge systems of power and privilege, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education.”

But within the past few days, that entire 124-word paragraph entitled “An equitable mathematics curriculum recognizes that mathematics can be subjective” was deleted.

Sources told the Star that “while the section referenced is not in the core curriculum taught to students, we revised it to ensure there is no confusion when it comes to making sure our students are being taught fundamental math concepts.”

“The curriculum did not change. It continues to educate on cultural understandings of math, of the history of these concepts, and attempts to advance that lens throughout the curriculum. What changed was language in the preamble only,” an official said.

In a statement Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office said the Tories “ended streaming in the Grade 9 math curriculum — a system that disproportionately affected Black, racialized and Indigenous students — along with launching new and specialized supports to ensure these students graduate, enter post-secondary education and get good-paying jobs.”

But the new president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which supports destreaming, said the education minister “needs to take responsibility” for the episode.

“It’s time for a mea culpa. If you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” said Karen Littlewood, who took over the union’s presidency on June 22.

Littlewood said “it seems to be very reactionary” for Lecce to amend the language in the wake of media coverage.

“The preamble really sets the stage for the changes to the curriculum and why it was necessary,” she said.

Despite the editing, the lesson plan still addresses inequities in society.

The revised curriculum emphasizes “there are groups of students (for example, Indigenous students, Black students, students experiencing homelessness, students living in poverty, students with LGBTQ+ identities, and students with special education needs and disabilities) who continue to experience systemic barriers to accessing high-level instruction in and support with learning mathematics.”

“Systemic barriers, such as racism, implicit bias and other forms of discrimination, can result in inequitable academic and life outcomes, such as low confidence in one’s ability to learn mathematics, reduced rates of credit completion, and leaving the secondary school system prior to earning a diploma,” it states.

“Achieving equitable outcomes in mathematics for all students requires educators to be aware of and identify these barriers, as well as the ways in which they can overlap and intersect, which can compound their effect on student well-being, student success, and students’ experiences in the classroom and in the school,” it continues.

“Educators must not only know about these barriers, they must work actively and with urgency to address and remove them.”

Still, the New Democrats expressed concern about the deletion.

“The Grade 9 math program was changed specifically because Ontario had to finally recognize that the existing system treated Black, Indigenous and racialized students inequitably,” NDP MPPs Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre) and Marit Stiles (Davenport) said in a joint statement.

“It’s pretty clear we need more of an equity and anti-racism lens in schools, not less.”

Source: Education minister under fire after introduction deleted from Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum