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Only in Canada? Looking at “Canadian experience” requirements

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We have long heard accounts from newcomers to Canada of how the requirement to have “Canadian experience” is a barrier to their entry into the workforce, and to receiving accreditation from professional regulatory bodies. In October 2012, we launched an online survey asking job seekers and employers to describe how “Canadian experience” requirements in the Ontario job market have affected them.

The survey targeted newcomers to Canada over the last 10 years who have looked for jobs in Ontario since their arrival, and employers or human resources representatives who use “Canadian experience” as a job requirement.

We sent the survey to over 260 community and professional organizations in Ontario that work with newcomers, and 276 organizations with access to networks of employers (such as chambers of commerce, business sector organizations, and small business and business development associations). We also used print, electronic and social media to spread the word.

We were surprised when almost 1,000 people, including more than 130 employers, shared their thoughts with us. No valid statistics can be gleaned from an open-ended, voluntary survey but we can assume that many people filling out the survey did so because they had faced the “Canadian experience” barrier. We can draw one important conclusion – the sheer volume of responses confirms that discrimination based on a lack of “Canadian experience” is a serious problem for many newcomers.

The stories we heard will be incorporated into a new Policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier, which will be released in July 2013.

So, wherever we went to look for work, we were asked for Canadian work experience and we were told, you know, “You can’t get a job because you have [no] Canadian work experience.” And then you say, well how can I get Canadian work experience so I can get a job, you know. It’s the proverbial chicken/egg story … In the beginning you think it’s just the way things are in Canada. And the message that you get from prospective employers sometimes is shaded and sometimes it’s very reasonably put forward. But over time, you begin to realize that … [it] has very little to do with the question of competence. It has everything to do with communications competencies … And it’s a very personal experience when someone tells you … you’re not qualified for a job. It’s a very personal rejection, especially when you know you can actually do the job.

- Ratna Omidvar, President, Maytree
Canadian experience – rejection is personal


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