WHAT IS THE “CANADIAN EXPERIENCE”?

By: Phoebe Shao { CHRV Volunteer}

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Canada welcomes immigrants from all over the world, especially skilled ones. Unfortunately, many employers and professional regulators require newcomers to have the “Canadian work experience.” Highly skilled immigrants who carry the title of a PhD, MDs immigrate to Canada in the hope of better job opportunities and living standards. Yet many immigrants gain employment as taxi drivers, dishwashers, or administrative assistants.

Research conducted by University of Toronto Associate Professor Izumi Sakamoto on the concept of the “Canadian experience” has discovered the difference in the definition of the “Canadian experience.” Immigrants believe that “Canadian experience” is a term to prove their value by assuming volunteer work or agreeing to lower-skilled jobs than what their credentials deserve before obtaining a higher position. Canadian employers define “Canadian experience” as a cultural difference. Employers take into account how well and how quickly an employee can fit into the workplace culture, rather than credentials such as education level or past experience. Some employers are even using the Canadian experience as a proxy for discrimination. Because the term “Canadian experience” is ill-defined, many immigrants are left confronted with the question, “What is the Canadian experience and how do I obtain it?”

In July 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) launched a new policy directive denouncing the requirement for the so-called “Canadian experience.” OHRC hopes its new policy will help raise awareness of how the term is used and adjust the mentality of Canadian employers by hiring without discrimination. OHRC maintains that when businesses invest in newcomers, businesses will gain skills and diverse experiences from immigrants, becoming more competitive in today’s global economy.

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