Thank you, Mr. Chair, and honourable members, for having Ontario here today.
Thank you for the opportunity to present an overview of Ontario's bridge training programs. Immigration is fundamental to Ontario's economic future, and Ontario recognizes the increasingly important role that immigrants will play in the province's economic growth as our labour force continues to age and retire. That's why Ontario invests in a variety of programs that help immigrants gain the skills and tools they need to enter the labour market.
Prior to the Ontario bridge training program in pharmacy, as offered by the University of Toronto, the pass rate on the pharmacy exam was 20% for those who took the exam. Thanks to the Ontario bridge training program in pharmacy, Ontario has raised that pass rate to 90% by funding the start-up of the pharmacy bridge training program. That program offers intensive short-term training. For those who pass the exam, the employment rate is close to 100%.
This is the kind of outcome we're looking for in our bridge training programs and what I want to share with you here today.
The main objective of these programs is to achieve exactly these kinds of results through short-term, intensive, specialized, and sector-specific training and employment services. These programs help internationally trained individuals meet the requirements for licensure and employment in their field without duplicating what they already know. The programs complement Ontario's employment services and our province's post-secondary education system.
Since 2003, Ontario has invested over $183 million in more than 240 bridge training programs. These programs have helped over 42,000 internationally trained individuals find work that is in line with their education and experience.
We're looking for two key results with this type of programming.
The first result is for those seeking employment in a regulated profession. We're tracking licensure outcomes and employment outcomes.
The second result is for those seeking work in highly skilled professions that are non-regulated. We want to see employment outcomes and employment at a level commensurate with their skills and education. Getting just any job isn't what we're interested in; it's commensurate employment.
Today I want to talk more about how these programs achieve this type of success. Therefore, it is the who, what, and why of bridge training that I'm going to give you--as fast as I can--and include some recommendations on how we can work on this and move this area forward together.
Let me begin with whom these programs are for. The programs are targeted at a very specialized client group. Participants must have a very high level of English or French language already. To achieve the strongest outcomes in the shortest period of time, participants must have a minimum Canadian level benchmark of seven. In fact, many of our programs are now setting that higher, at Canadian level benchmark eight, which is in line with university requirements for language proficiency.
Participants all have post-secondary education and work experience. These are not international students. Participants must be eligible to work in Ontario. In order to meet the needs of Ontario's labour market and of the participants, citizenship status and employment insurance status are not barriers to participation in Ontario bridge training programs.
What outcomes can we achieve with these programs? Over the years, and in partnership with our service providers, we have defined three categories of bridge training programs that are capable of generating strong licensure and employment results.
The first category--the titles are not very creative, I might add--is called “Getting a License”. Those bridge training programs help skilled internationally trained individuals in regulated professions become registered to practice and get employed in that profession. Here we're tracking licensure and employment rates.
Then there's “Getting a Job”--which also not a very creative title, but it does speak to the purpose. These bridge training programs help highly skilled, internationally trained individuals with international backgrounds in non-regulated but high-skilled occupations, such as finance, IT, or human resources, find commensurate employment. Again, with these programs we're tracking employment and commensurate employment.
Finally, our third category is “Changing Systems” projects. These projects support both licensure and employment outcomes by working with regulatory bodies and with employers, for example, to build a more receptive Ontario labour market, one in which our skilled, professional newcomers can compete effectively for work. Under this category, we have pioneered tools that help employers recruit skilled immigrant professionals and integrate them effectively into their places of work.
Why do these programs get results?
We require our programs to offer a continuum of services from assessment to work force integration strategies. These specialized services are delivered directly or through partnerships with other expert service providers. I have a handout that was shared with the committee. It's a colour handout, and it lists the range of services we ask bridge training program providers to offer, depending on the category of program they are targeting.
What I want to focus on are some of the key findings we have learned about what makes for a successful program. I've offered more of those key findings in a binder that is available and will be distributed to the committee, either electronically or in hard copy if you'd like.
Successful programs target one specific occupation. They offer technical language training and communication training, as well as workplace culture orientation. They consult with employers as well as educators and regulators on the technical curriculum and specialized services in employment. They offer participants direct contact with employers, which is key. The stronger that contact is, the better the employment outcomes are likely to be. From a networking event, to a mentorship, to a paid internship, all these activities increase employment outcomes. Successful programs understand that employment services for highly skilled individuals need to be sector-specific. Results are best when service providers have industry-specific expertise. Finally, they engage a wide range of partners, including credential and language assessors, academic institutions, regulators, and employer champions.
Before I move on to my concluding remarks and recommendations, I want to take a brief moment to talk about financial access to these programs. In cases where a bridging program charges a fee or tuition, we are working closely with our service providers and the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to ensure that participants in bridge training programs offered at post-secondary institutions are eligible for financial assistance, either through the Ontario student assistance program—that's the OSAP loan—or through a new initiative the province has started called the Ontario bridging participant assistance program. The acronym for that is OBPAP. It's a bursary that provides up to $5,000 to cover the tuition, book, and equipment costs of participating in one of our bridge training programs.
Finally, I'd like to offer four key recommendations on how we can move forward together in this area.
We recommend, first, that a national strategy supports provinces, which have responsibility for post-secondary education and employment services such as these bridge training programs. Federal funding for provincial bridge training programs should be allocated on a three-year cycle to better reflect the multi-year structure of the programs that are being offered. I should note that both orders of government and internationally trained individuals already benefit from a contribution agreement negotiated successfully between the federal government and Ontario to support these programs. We look forward to renewing this agreement, this time on a three-year cycle.
Second, we welcome federal support for the national dissemination of strong bridge training programs and tools.
Third, we recommend federal-provincial collaboration on improving access to financial aid for bridge training program participants. The federal government might like to consider a federal bursary that would also cover child care and transportation and/or expand the federal part-time student loan criteria to cover bridging costs for participants in financial need.
Finally, we welcome an opportunity to work collaboratively with the federal government to augment pre-arrival information services and resources, so that our skilled newcomers can really understand how to get started when they arrive here and what resources are available to them to help re-establish their careers here in Canada.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, it's a privilege to appear before you today.
I'm here on behalf of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta, which is the regulatory body and professional organization for Alberta's 33,000 registered nurses, the largest health profession in our province. Since 1916 we've been established under legislation and responsible for setting requirements to enter the profession, as well as establishing monitoring and enforcement standards of nursing practice.
My comments are framed primarily within the context of the assessment and recognition of internationally educated nurses, or IENs, and are based on our cumulative experience and expertise gained from reviewing and processing more than 9,000 applications from IENs over the last six-plus years.
Between 2007 and early 2009, there was a very proactive recruitment of internationally educated nurses in Alberta. Our regulatory body went from receiving an average of 40 applications per month to receiving more than 450 per month during the peak period. Much of the expertise and experience we've gained, however, is common to other regulated professions and regulatory agencies in Canada.
I'd like to describe a little bit about the steps in the assessment and recognition of IENs, as well as mention a couple of current activities that my organization is involved with. I'll describe some lessons learned, and then offer some recommendations to the committee.
The intent of IEN assessment at our regulatory organization is primarily to determine if an applicant has a combination of education, experience, practice, or other qualifications that demonstrate the competence required for registration in Alberta. Application can and should start when the applicant is still offshore. A number of documents are collected. Probably the most important piece of information we look for very early in the application process is the demonstration of language proficiency, and in Alberta that's English.
Last week you heard from Dr. Pam Nordstrom from Mount Royal University about the substantially equivalent competency assessment process. If we are unable to determine on the basis of paper alone that an individual has the required qualifications and competencies for practice in Alberta, we require a SEC assessment. This uses a combination of written, oral, and clinical skills exam techniques to determine the extent to which a person has the required skills and knowledge. Very often, following an SEC assessment, we will make a determination on the need for additional bridging education. Mount Royal University has been a partner with us in this endeavour since 2005.
Following the successful completion of bridging education, a person becomes eligible for provisional registration and can write the national entry-to-practice exam toward finalization of registration. Work experience in Alberta, with the submission of a satisfactory employer reference, is also required at this point and can be completed as the person is finishing the entry-to-practice exam.
There are a number of activities currently under way in which CARNA is involved, as well as some across jurisdictions and nationally. However, I'd like to highlight two of these initiatives in a little more detail.
This year CARNA learned that we had been successful in obtaining a grant from the federal government through the internationally educated health professions initiative to make a retrospective study of the characteristics and profile of applicants to us over the past five years, and correlate this with their registration outcomes. We are just getting under way with this piece of research, and we hope to have some recommendations for policy change, particularly with a view toward shortening the process that is experienced by our applicants.
The other initiative that I'd like to draw your attention to is the national nursing assessment service project. This was initiated following recommendations arising from the 2005 report called Navigating To Become A Nurse In Canada. The national nursing assessment service project is seeking to establish a single point of contact for internationally educated nurses seeking registration anywhere in Canada. At this point in time, the assessment service is incorporating itself as an entity in Canada and has selected a vendor to provide these assessment services. A funding proposal to support the development of the next phases and to get this assessment service up and running is now before the federal government. The project is a success story considering the level of consensus and support that has been built among 23 regulatory bodies from across Canada, which are involved in the regulation of not only of registered nurses but also registered psychiatric nurses and practical nurses, or auxiliary nurses as they're known in Quebec.
With regard to the lessons learned or experiences acquired in the assessment and recognition of internationally educated nurses, over the past four years we have tracked the numbers of people who have applied to us and the length of time it has taken them to go through the registration and application process. One of the first measures showed us that it takes between 77 and 252 days for an individual to assemble a complete portfolio of documentation from which we, as a regulatory organization, can make an assessment. Following that assessment, it may take between 540 and 768 days from the time someone applies to us until they achieve registration as an RN in Alberta. There are a lot of reasons it can take that much time, and not all of these are within the control of the regulator.
The challenges experienced by individuals very often have to do with obtaining an exit or entry visa to come to the country to undergo assessment or to sit the exam. Sometimes they must enter the country with a student visa to undertake studies but are then required to have a work visa to complete the work experience that's required at the end of the registration process. Very often an individual comes from a country where the system of professional regulation is very different from what they've experienced here in Canada, and gaining an understanding of the processes involved in that system is quite a challenge. In Alberta we also experience issues getting access to both the competency assessment and bridging education.
Regulators experience challenges in sharing information about individuals. Often such sharing is limited by legislation as well, because of differences in our regulations from province to province. Time and volume also impact on our ability to receive and assess applications from internationally trained nurses.
Finally, managing expectations and communications with the wide variety of stakeholders, such as you and other interested parties in this process, is oftentimes quite a challenge for us.
Before I tell you about our recommendations, I would like to say that another very important lesson that has been learned is that a nurse is not a nurse is not a nurse. The health care systems in countries around the world vary a great deal, a fact that is sometimes particularly difficult to overcome for an individual wishing to integrate themselves into our workplace.
I'd like to recommend that the government consider clarifying in policy the difference between newcomers who enter the country under a temporary foreign worker program and those who are seeking to come in with landed status or permanent residence. In Alberta, for instance, many nurses arrive under the TFW program and clearly intend to stay permanently. Doing so becomes a challenge once they've obtained their first visa, and oftentimes they have to change their status at some point along the way.
I think that coordinated and flexible support is needed to increase access to assessment services, language training, and bridging education. Programs are also needed to address the need for workplace integration. We haven't yet experienced anything coordinated going on in this particular area in Alberta.
Finally, I'd like to say that we should not lose sight of the need to ensure quality and safety in the regulation of professionals and to support our regulatory mandate to protect the interests and well-being of the Canadian public.
Thank you very much for your attention today.
Thank you, Ms. Gordon, and Ms. Giblin, for being here. I'm particularly happy that we finally got to the stage where we have some of our friends in the provinces come to see us today.
I have some concerns about what roles the federal government's two ministries, Human Resources and Skills Development and Citizenship and Immigration—and of course the Foreign Credentials Referral Office—and the provinces should be playing in this.
I represent a riding in Mississauga and have tens of thousands of new Canadians living there. All they want to be able to do is to work in whatever profession they know from their country of origin. They don't really want a bureaucratic shuffle regarding who is responsible, where they should go, and why they can't practise being a doctor here but they can somewhere else.
You've given some helpful recommendations today. I wonder if you could expand on where you see our role as the federal government in this, where you see the role of the provinces, and where you see the role of the regulatory bodies. We know that half the challenge is getting the regulatory bodies to recognize a lot of the foreign credentials. You talked about it, Ms. Giblin, from a nurse's perspective and I appreciate that. We want highly trained people practising in Canada and want to know that their standards are appropriate to practise the profession of nursing and many other professions.
Does either one of you want to take a bit more time on how you see the role of those three organizations, so that we're not duplicating what each of us is doing but making the best use of taxpayers' money to help integrate these new Canadians as workers in their professional expertise?
Do you want to start, Ms. Giblin?
In terms of professions, Ontario has funded bridge programs for training in more than 100 professions. We have a program in every regulated profession that has major immigrant landings, and by that, I mean immigrant landings of more 10.
We have nursing, medical lab technologists, pharmacists, agrologists—I never knew what agrologists were before I started this job—veterinarians, and optometrists. There's a big range of programs, and I'd be happy to share a list with this committee. Equally we have programs in the high-skilled, non-regulated occupations: human resources, IT, financial services, supply chain management, and those kinds of things. We have a very wide range of programs and professions that we've served.
How do we determine what professions we're going to serve, and is that decision linked to shortages in the labour market? In our applications process we're looking at employment outcomes but also at increased access to regulated professions.
In the regulated professions, one of our concerns is whether there is any program available to someone in that occupation that would help them prepare their dossier, which for the nurses, for example, takes 200-plus days to prepare. If the answer is no, even if the labour market demand is weak, we will fund or consider funding an initiative that at least increases someone's access to that regulatory process and his or her opportunity to compete.
When it comes to funding professions where there are no regulations—so it's a high-skilled occupation—the key criteria is evidence of employer demand. That's how we get strong employment outcomes. We insist that there be labour market research given to us.
I will say, though, that at the end of the day, we can all quote government studies and C.D. Howe Institute reports, but the best indication of employer demand is a strong set of letters from employers who say they will mentor five people, or they have six internships, or they need to hire this many people and they will agree to meet them for coffee to network and to shake their hands. That is the best indication of employer need and hunger for these programs.
Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity.
Practical recommendations to further shorten FQR processes are really important to me. A shortened process certainly is important.
I am Ximena Munoz, and I am the Manitoba Fairness Commissioner. That's a very new position. I've been in that job for only two years. There are only three commissioners in the country--one in Ontario, one in Quebec, and one in Manitoba. My job is to implement the new act, which came into effect in 2009.
Today, I would like to talk to you about the work of the self-regulated bodies.
Immigration is key for Manitoba. We need the people. We are working very hard to attract people. We need them to come in and be able to integrate into the labour market in their professions, and it's taking too long. I was at a focus group the other day where immigrants were congratulating each other because for somebody it had taken only four years to get recognized as accountant. Four years is a long time.
Manitoba has been very committed to this issue since 2003. The approach we took in Manitoba was to look at the need for systemic change. So it wasn't just preparing immigrants; it was looking at what we're doing and how we're doing it and asking ourselves if that was the right way and the best way to do it. The process was led by the provincial government, and one of the main things that came out of it was the recognition and acceptance that this issue was not any one body's responsibility. Really, there are many stakeholders involved in this, and it really will take all of us to find a solution.
In 2009 the Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act was proclaimed. The act requires that regulatory bodies--and Manitoba has 31 of them--have assessment and registration processes that are fair, transparent, objective, and impartial, and that they appoint a commissioner--and that's me--and also commit to supporting immigrants and to supporting regulators to come up with better practices.
It also requires that the regulators report to me on applicants and their numbers, which is something they haven't had to do to date. So I get to review the assessment processes. I get to sit down with them and go over what they do, what they ask people to have, how they assess them, and what exam or practicum and so on is used. We start in many cases from what the regulator is doing, even pre-migration, in terms of giving people information. We see our process ending when people get to work in their profession. So it isn't just about getting the recognition but actually getting a recognized licence and practising in their profession.
The focus of our work is not the professional standards of each profession but rather how regulators assess people against those standards. That's where we think a lot of the issues are, and I think we've been proven pretty right. They're not being asked to lower their standards and let immigrants in through the back door. They're being asked to make sure that the way in which they assess them is fair.
We take a very collaborative approach to that work. We were second in the country; Ontario was ahead of us, and is always a year or so ahead of us. Actually, the woman sitting next to me was the key drafter of that initial law in Ontario, and we benefited a lot from that, so she deserves a lot of credit.
The bridge that we decided to use in Manitoba was collaborative, collegial, and supportive. I started from the premise that there are no bad guys, there are just people trying to do a job and there may be things they don't know how to do very well. You may be a very good architect, but that doesn't mean you're a good assessor or a good evaluator. So we started from that perspective.
We've also been able to provide some financial support. It isn't only about looking at what they're doing, how they're doing it, and how they could do it better, but what is it they have to do, how do they are going about doing it, and who is helping them with the funding.
My office has taken that on, and as a result I think we have some really good things. We have much better information for immigrants, so people can access information even before they come here. There are better websites. We've done a lot of work in terms of plain language and things like that. We've done a lot of capacity development activities. We've done training on appeals, which is required by the law. They must have appeal processes and, believe me, many of them don't. We've done managing cultural diversity, and we've done written reasons.
We've also engaged regulators from outside of Manitoba to share what they do. We just had a fantastic presentation by the med labs, the medical laboratory society nationally. Different bodies have come in to share with us. The lawyers did a session on written reasons, and the engineers did a session on reconsideration of decisions, etc.
They are required, for the first time, to provide us with information on how many people are applying, and how many are successful and how many are not. We are also tracking all the steps in the process, for each of them. We don't just want to find out that ten applied and only one got recognized, but where the nine who didn't get recognized failed and where the problems are.
We think that is really going to help us—
So we are very happy about that. Regulators started collecting the data in January of 2011, and they're going to provide us with the first set of data in March 2012.
In order for them to do that, we did a lot of work with them. We also provided financial support to make sure they had the databases and systems that allow them to actually gather this information. In Manitoba, by the way, over 60% of the regulatory bodies have a staff of three people or fewer, so they are small.
The other thing we have done with them is something that we're calling professional practice seminars. One of the challenges that immigrants are facing—and I'm sure you've heard a lot about that by now—is knowing and understanding the culture of the profession in Canada and finding places where they can go to find that out, particularly in the health professions where you cannot set foot in a practice until you are recognized.
Where do people learn that? They are assessed on that, so my call was why don't we teach people this? When you're teaching them, they'll know it, rather than just testing them.
Professional practice seminars are something we have worked on with them. Immigrants will have access to them. There are seven workshops dealing with the culture in the workplace where you work, how much you get paid, management styles, co-workers, jurisprudence, safety, etc.
Well, my perspective is this: why is it that we haven't solved this? People have been working at this for years and years. We're not stupid people. Why is it that we still have a problem?
I think initially it had a lot to do with pointing fingers, i.e., whose responsibility was this? Some people said it was the federal government; they bring the people in. Some people said it was the provinces; they were responsible for the education. Other people, that is, the provinces, said no, no, it was really the regulators who determined that. But the regulators said they worked with the post-secondary institutions. It was nobody's problem.
I think we've solved that now. I think generally in Canada people are working together to try to solve this. I think we've tried to fix the immigrant part and we're now trying to fix the regulators.
In a way, I think we're just tinkering around the edges. I'm not sure we're really dealing with what is at the bottom of the issue. I want to put forward the notion that perhaps it's time to look at the regulatory model we have in Canada. My experience with regulators is that many of them are caught in this dual role that many of them play. One is responsible for regulating and deciding the standards for entry and the standards for conduct. On the other side is the profession, promoting the profession, advocating for the profession, etc.
Those two roles are not compatible. I think we have wanted people to really be able to work like that, and I think many of them try very hard, but because of the need for more work, need for more resources, etc., that's becoming more and more of an issue.
I have executive directors and registrars saying to me, you know, my board is really unhappy that I'm doing all of this work for international professionals; they want me to do work for the existing members.
My position is that I think the oversight of regulatory activity is not a bad thing. Fairness acts I think can be very helpful, but I don't think they are the solution, either. I can see how far we can go with that and I can see that we're not going to solve the problem.
I want to tell you that I think this may be a time that warrants looking at a model that was set up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I think it's old for the times. We're in a different world; things are different right now. I think we need a better system.
You can call me Ximena; it's easier.
Well, Ontario's situation is very different from the rest of the country's. As Suzanne was saying, they're all really important and interesting, but it's not the reality across the country. In Manitoba there are very few programs where people can actually get work experience and get paid; those are almost non-existent.
I'm sorry, I forgot the last question you had. Is it difficult to set up programs? Was that the question?
It is difficult because you need a group of stakeholders together, and you need the employers at the table. That's been a big challenge—to get the employers to the table. What employers keep saying to me is that they want one source, a trusted source, who can tell them, “Yes, take this person because, although they haven't been recognized yet, I know they have this and this and that, and it's going to be helpful for you.” That doesn't really exist.
So it is difficult. If the programs are just being run by immigrant agencies, they have very little credibility when it comes to the regulated professions. Those employers want to talk to somebody who knows about the profession, who can tell them about an immigrant in that profession.
I think the notion of laddering is one that would be very useful. It's not happening.
For example, dentistry, which I'm familiar with, has four different occupations within it. It would be possible to assess people. Maybe a person meets a certain basic requirement and can be an assistant, which is the first level. If the person wants to continue to move up, he or she may take a course or may take more gap training and maybe become a dental hygienist. After another year or two years, maybe the person can move from dental hygienist to dentist. I think that is a good model. I know that's working in other countries in the world. It's not being followed.
There is also a challenge for employers. When employers know that there's a good program, and the people are coming out of the program and have all the competencies they need, they're very happy to support it. Manitoba Hydro supports an engineers program, because they know that they need engineers and that if those people come through the program, they're going to be very good employees.
On another issue, the challenge for employers in non-health occupations is that they can get immigrants to come and do the work. These immigrants can't call themselves by the title of the profession, but they do the same work. There isn't a lot of incentive for employers, particularly in the trades, to really go out of their way to tell people to get their trade qualifications, because they can get the same kind of work done by somebody and pay a lower rate. That's a reality for their businesses. If that's working for them, they're quite happy.
It is difficult. I think the trades and the professions for which you don't need a title to practice are difficult areas.
Listen, I wouldn't dare take on the duties of the analysts here, because they do such a great job, but I think we can sum up what we've learned to date. If we can get people to get involved in the process before they get to the country, that's a benefit. If we can get a true assessment as to what their skill levels are, what their language skills are, that's of benefit. If we can get them access to language training, especially in their particular discipline, that's of benefit. Mentorship is a benefit. Bridging is a benefit. Internship is a benefit.
So we see the path to success, but from witness after witness we continually hear about the frustration. I am working on a file, and everybody around the table probably has similar experiences, as Mr. Butt indicated. I have 500 feet of water frontage on Gabarus Lake, and I have three provincial departments and two federal departments and nobody wants to own it. If we could figure out who owns it, then we can go about straightening out or addressing the problem.
I can't imagine someone coming in from Manila and trying to navigate these waters. It is certainly quite a chore and a task. We know from the vast majority of people who come before a parliamentary committee, when the ask goes out, the answer is usually more money. Whether you are talking health care, transportation, security, or science, it's always more money. Let's take the money out of it and find the way through here.
No, let's throw the money back in. If the federal government were able to say, “Okay, we're going to give you guys this, if your association can get its stuff together and can pull these two or three things in line”, what makes it easier to get through the system? If you're looking for money from the federal government, what are the two things you guys can do? I like the idea of the success story of bringing 23 regulators together and coming up with some kind of cohesive assessment tool. That's what we want to find out.
So what are the two or three things you can do to make it easier on everybody, so we can understand the system more thoroughly and advance through the system more readily?
Take it away, girls.
More money helps, but I would advise the federal government to be very clear about the outcomes that you want. If you want tools for assessment in the regulatory bodies, then I'd be specific that you want all of them to participate and you want them to agree on one tool and implement it. If you're not specific, you will get 23 bodies together and they will have 23 different tools.
I would say, on the money part again, that one of the reasons bridge training programs exist.... And in our programs in Ontario, mentorship and internship can be part of that program, that whole continuum of service. They exist because short-term, flexible, intensive training of adults is not what post-secondary education was designed to do. That's why some of the programs aren't eligible for the loans either. So you could have an adaptation of the part-time Canada student loan to make it apply to short-term, intensive, flexible, adult, work-oriented training. And you might help more than just internationally trained individuals: you might help some other people who are facing career shifts.
I thought the idea of a graduated internship was interesting, and the challenge that poses is language. The message to our skilled newcomers has to be that language and communication are so fundamental. So let's encourage people to take the language courses, and let's come up with some innovations for a slightly lower level language qualification like level 5 and 6, and bring those together with our employment services and some work orientation and with meeting employers. That might lead to your graduated internship, which could be an initiative that you could encourage and which could provide other opportunities for the alternative careers we talked about for those who need that option. That's really what we're talking about—language.
The federal government could fund the tools overseas to do a little web test: where is my language if I want to be a nurse? The language might be fine for meeting your neighbours, but it might not be fine in the operating room. So that specialized language and assessment overseas is an information component that I think will be very helpful and might be a role for the federal government to take.
For me, the issue is determining what we need to know from these people to be able to feel comfortable that they have the competencies we require to do the job.
I think we're spending a lot of time asking for things that may not be necessary. When I meet with immigrants, they want to show me what they can do. They want to show you what they know. I asked a group of immigrants what they would do if they were the fairness commissioner. Every single group I met with said that they would create a way for someone to show people what they could do. Immigrants say, “Can you look at what I have and tell me what I don't have? I have to meet 10 things and maybe I have only eight. Tell me what I don't have, and tell me what to do to get it”.
Right now we spend a lot of time on things such as good character, including on criminal records checks, for example. Everybody who goes through immigration has to go through a criminal record check. If people are here as landed immigrants, they have already done that, yet many regulators ask people to do that—not in Canada but back in their home country. That costs some people $800 and takes about eight months. So if you are a nurse and you do that, it takes you eight months of time that you have to be recognized.
Then you write the English exam and you meet the requirement, but guess what? The English exam is valid for only two years, and if the results are already two years old, you go back. By then you have all the other papers they have asked you for and now they say, “Sorry, that exam is already two years old. You have to go back and take that test again”.