Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ)

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Submission to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills Regarding Bill 124

Posted by casjcanada on November 22, 2006

Submission to the The Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills,
Regarding Bill 124: An Act to provide for fair registration practices
in Ontario ‘s regulated professions
by Community Alliance for Social Justice

The recognition of internationally-educated professionals is a vital and important issue to the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), a coalition of more than 27 Filipino community and other social organizations in Toronto.  The Philippines represents one of Canada’s most important source for immigrations – ranking third in 1990s, after China and India. In 2001 census just over 223,000 immigrants in Canada identified themselves as Filipinos and around 10,000 new arrivals have been added to this number every year since then.

As a group, Filipinos are highly educated. In 2001 almost 57 per cent of Filipino immigrants in Toronto had some university-level education. This compared with 33 per cent for all immigrant groups, and just under 35 per cent for residents. Moreover, most Filipinos arrive with a strong command of English and a familiarity with North American institutions.

Despite these high levels of human capital, average wage levels for Filipino men and women are substantially below a variety of comparison groups. Statistical analyses have shown that Filipinos have among the highest levels of occupational segmentation of any immigrant groups (Hiebert, 1999; Kelly, 2005). The non-recognition of their foreign- earned credentials, institutionalized de-skilling, de-professionalization and institutional obstacles to practicing their licensed professions in Canada have caused economic marginalization to Filipino-Canadians, specially, to new arrivals.

The access to trades and professions is one of the major issues the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) is very much concerned and organizationally involved in.

Why is it that despite having high levels of education among Filipino immigrants, a vast majority of them end up in  lower paying jobs, resulting in an average income lower than those of most immigrants?

A recent survey conducted by the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) in collaboration with Dr. Philip Kelly of York University, explains the deprofessionalization, deskilling and occupational segmentation experienced by many Filipino immigrants  in Canada, which to a large part explains this high education-low income discrepancy.

Government 2001 statistics indicate that 57 percent of Filipino immigrants in Toronto had some university-level education, compared with 35 percent for all Candians, the study notes.

Yet, Filipinos are concentrated in a few sectors and in lower occupational niches, where on average, Filipinos earn less than what visible minority immigrants earn as a whole.
The study, titled “The Deprofessionalized Filipino: Explaining Subordinate Labour Market Roles in Toronto,” co-authored by Mila Astorga-Garcia and Dr. Philip Kelly explores the causes of such deprofessionalization in the Filipino community, using the survey and focus group methods.  (Garcia is research advisor of the CASJ, and research analyst with the City of Toronto’s Social Development Division.  Kelly is a professor at the Department of Geography, York University.)

The main cause identified in the survey and focus groups was the systemic non-recognition of Philippine-earned education and experience.   As a consequence of this systemic barrier, Filipinos are forced to take on survival jobs to support themselves and their families and to meet financial obligations such as  debts incurred due to the high cost of immigration.
In the survey, 53 percent of the respondents cited non-recognition of credentials and professionals’ licenses as a factor preventing them from practicing their profession.

Provincial regulatory bodies that make accreditation and licensing decisions were criticized by focus group participants for their basic ignorance of Filipino institutions and qualifications; arbitrariness in application of standards, high cost of enrolment in upgrading courses, and the failure to recognize even third country, including U.S.,  experience.

Many Filipino professionals thus end up in jobs far below their educational qualifications and skills, training and experience.  Half of the survey respondents said they were “overqualified” in their current jobs.  This situation applies to both the old-timers as well as newcomers, thus shaterring the popularly bandied myth that only the newcomers find difficulty accessing their trades and professions.
Of those who said they were “over-qualified” in their present jobs, 53 per cent were post-1990 arrivals  while 41 per cent were pre-1990 arrivals.

In the focus groups, an outstanding criticism was directed against Canada’s immigration policy and practice of bringing in the best and the brightest immigrants from the Philippines and other countries through their strict point system.  Majority of these immigrants, however, are not absorbed in jobs commensurate to their education and  training, with the end result of immigrants ending up as a source of high quality cheap labour  in Canada.

Focus groups were held with engineers, accountants, nurses, and with a group of mixed professions, both regulated and unregulated.  The authors attribute the remarkably high survey response rate of around 40 per cent not only to the distribution technique used, but more importantly, to the level of frustration among members of the community around this issue. Survey questionnaires were distributed at association meetings, social events, festivals, workplaces, residences, etc., by CASJ volunteers. The study was only one among other research studies on Filipinos in Canada featured at a workshop on Filipino immigration and settlement, during the recent 10th International Metropolis Conference, held October 17-21, 2004 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The conference was attended by 1,300 delegates from all over the world.

Reciprocity Agreement between Canada and the Philippines

During the period 1960s and 1970s, there was a reciprocity agreement between the Philippines and Canada.  Registered nurses who graduated in the Philippines were allowed to practice their nursing profession in Canada without going through the process of writing the nursing examination.  In other words, a registered nurse from the Philippines is just as good and as qualified as a registered nurse in Canada.  The only requirement in Quebec is that they pass the oral fluency test in the French language. Even then, they are still accorded a temporary permit prior to their passing the oral French language test. Under reciprocity agreements their educational training and professional experience were immediately recognized.  This clearly shows that Canada will recognize and accredit the skills and education of certain professions if there is a labor demand.

Shortage and Barriers to Nursing

Canada today is going through a nursing shortage crisis.  A study released by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) in June 2002, stated that by the year 2011, Canada could be short 78,000 nurses and by 2016 the shortfall could be 113,000 nurses.  And based on the nursing census of 2001, it is predicted that the country stands to lose 28% of its nursing workforce or 64,248 nurses through attrition and retirement by the year 2006.  Other than training and producing more domestic nurses, the only way to fill this gap is to accept foreign-trained and educated nurses.  But Canada has not made any changes to accommodate foreign-trained nurses.  Nurses from the Philippines, for instance, continue to be recruited to do domestic work under the LCP.

A report by the team on reciprocity further reveals the complexity of reciprocity and accreditation of foreign-trained nurses:

There is a multi-jurisdictional framework with regulatory laws [as regards accreditation and reciprocity].  [While] the federal government has the constitutional power over immigration policy provincial/territorial governments have the specific power to regulate professions. The latter have supervisory role over professional regulatory bodies.  Researchers and community groups have regarded regulatory bodies as gatekeepers to the professions. [Team report on reciprocity]

Canada’s decision to avoid nursing reciprocity agreements with sending countries has also not been helpful in addressing the current nursing shortage.  Other developed countries such as the United States and Great Britain have certain reciprocity agreements with sending countries such as the Philippines, thus, properly managing the immigration of educated, skilled and professional immigrants.

By not recognizing foreign-trained nurses, Canada actually forgoes potential increase in revenue.  Being paid as a nurse is two to three times higher than a being paid a domestic worker.  In Australia for example, they found out that $100 million to $350 million in 1990 was lost in revenue because Australia failed to recognize 200,000 immigrants who never returned to their professions. For Canada, the estimated economic loss is more than double these figures.  Not recognizing the education and skills of foreign-trained nurses cheapens the nursing profession, creates a clear division between First World and Third World nurses thus, preventing the full development of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses in Canada.  While nurses in Canada make up to $33 per hour in wages, Filipino nurses doing domestic work earn as little as $1.50 under the exploitative conditions of the Live-in-Caregiver Program.

Foreign-trained nurses such as those from the Philippines also face racist and discriminatory accreditation barriers to practicing their profession, resulting in downward mobility.  For instance, the Registered Nurse Association of BC (RNABC) has publicly claimed that Philippine-trained nurses are “not at par” with Canadian-trained nurses.  It has stated in the past that it feels pressured to lower standards for nursing practice in order to ease and facilitate the successful accreditation process of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses, claiming their major concern to protect the public.  Yet, it is precisely the policies of these regulatory bodies that prevent the accreditation of foreign-trained nurses that ultimately exacerbates the nursing shortage and threatens public safety.  A return to the policy of reciprocity in the 1960s and 1970s provides a practical and cost-effective strategy in alleviating the nursing shortage as well as increased revenue for Canada’s economy.

The results of the these study and research have been presented in a series of meetings to CASJ members, survey and focus group participants, and other interested community members.  An expected outcome of these meetings is the formulation of a set of policy recommendations that CASJ is submitting in advocating for changes that will allow access to trades and professions in the Filipino community.

CASJ petitions the Legislature of Ontario to amend the bill in these areas:

1. Provincial regulatory boards’ policies and practices need to be investigated and reformed to allow for a highly informed, professional, fair and efficient accreditation process.  Regulatory boards need to be educated and well-informed of the standards of educational and professional regulatory requirements in the immigrants’ respective countries of origin.

2. Governments (all three levels) need to provide sufficient and effective social supports for immigrants to allow them to settle and find appropriate jobs commensurate to their foreign education and experience.

3. Provide legal, professional and academic assistance to new Canadians seeking recognition of credentials. This includes provision of trained advocates, without charge to applicants, to present the cases of applicants before the regulatory appeal tribunal.

4. Fully establish a “Fair Registration Code” in the legislation. The strict point system established by the Canadian government to bring the brightest and the best from other countries  to Canada must be considered in allowing foreign-trained professionals to practise their professions commensurate to their training and experience after passing  fair and acceptable accreditation standards.

5. Lower the cost of upgrading courses and provide government subsidized loans to foreign-trained professionals so that they can utilize their skills and enable them to practise their professions, provide the much needed services for Ontarians and participate in nation building.

6. Grant reciprocity to foreign-trained nurses in order to help solve the nursing shortage.

7. Grant education points to foreign-trained nurses so they can come in as immigrants and not through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

8. Establish a department within the Access Centre established by the act which will fairly evaluate the equivalence of standards between regulatory bodies and educational institutions in different countries and in Ontario. Regulatory bodies will be provided with these data  to assist them in determining equivalence of credentials.

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