An Open Letter

 

 

 
 

 

May 31, 2004

To all the leadership candidates

AN OPEN LETTER

Canada loses over $4 billion dollars annually through the un-/under-employment of internationally trained workers immigrating to Canada. Canadian employers estimate that over 300,000 jobs go unfilled for lack of skilled workers. Canada’s ability to compete effectively in the global marketplace is eroding due to our failure to fully employ skilled immigrant workers while our competitors do. As Leaders of the each of the parties in Canada, we urge you to take a public leadership stance on government actions to resolve these contradictions.

We are a group of 27 organizations from cities across Canada who met on May 21 of this year to discuss the crisis in employment for internationally trained professionals and other immigrants. Collectively, we serve thousands of newcomers annually who have been brought to Canada for their skills and experience, but find only barriers to suitable employment. Canada cannot afford to waste these national assets if we are to remain globally competitive, make advances on establishing a knowledge-based economy and replace skilled workers as they retire.

At the same time, we have a crisis in the community sector that serves immigrants. Over the past several decades, the Federal government had invested heavily in a community infrastructure that delivers employment preparation, settlement and language services and skills training. Often the first contact for newcomers, we are the most frequently used gateway into Canadian society. This system is being eroded by a new focus on cost accounting over service delivery, agreements that fail to compensate for the full cost of delivering programs and the failure to recognize the value of integrated community services. Just when newcomer workers are a most needed brain gain for Canada, the community supports they rely on are being drained away.

We are asking you and your Party to take a leadership position in championing a number of changes that will support Canada’s social and economic development by fully integrating its newest members. Some needed changes include:

1. Stake out a mandate for the Government of Canada and its relevant ministries that will:
• Create a Human Resources Investment program with stable and adequate long term funding for newcomers, as already established for youth, people with disabilities and older workers
• Make skill upgrading and retraining for the new labour market more universal
• Extend other labour market support programs to underemployed workers to facilitate labour market re-entry and address immigrant access issues.

2. Accelerate labour market discussions with the Provinces that will:
• Lead to a streamlined, efficient and transparent credentials assessment and accreditation process for regulated trades and professions that recognizes legitimate newcomer assets
• Integrate settlement, language and employment preparation programs into a systemic response to labour market gaps and skill shortages
• Establish immigration-to-work programs that address Canadian employers’ risk aversion for workers with no Canadian experience
• Encourage newcomer employment further through pan-Canadian marketing strategies and employer subsidy programs.

3. Recognize the expertise of organizations already working with Canada’s newest workers by:
• Valuing formally the integrated service capacity developed by the community-based sector and directly involving groups in policy development and program design and implementation
• Engaging newcomers themselves in collaborative efforts with the provinces to reform occupational regulatory bodies
• Providing adequate, secure and equitable service contracts to community organizations that focus on quality standards and outcomes, as opposed to largely cost-focused partial-contribution agreements.

We believe that the upcoming election is the right time to declare where Canada’s interests and priorities lie. If we are to achieve our social and employment goals for all Canadians, completing the process of integrating immigrant workers by fully using their talents and energy must be a next step. We in the community sector are partners in this endeavor. Our broad range of services, our ability to lever additional resources and our entrepreneurial orientation and cost-effectiveness contribute to this goal.

We look forward to hearing you publicly state what your Party’s priorities are in the coming campaign. We will ourselves seek to raise questions on these issues at all-candidates meetings.

Sincerely,

Gerald Fitzgerald
Chair, Board of Directors
On behalf of the Newcomer Labour Market Partnership

Bruno M. Suppa,

President, Board of  Directors

COSTI Immigrant Services

Toronto, Ontario

Lawrence Woo

Chairman, Board of Directors S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Ted Town

Chair, Board of Directors

London Cross Cultural Learner Centre

London, Ontario

Alison Pond

Executive Director        

ACCES Employment Services

Toronto, Ontario

Fariborz Birjandian

Executive Director

Calgary Catholic Immigration Society

Calgary, Alberta

Carolyn Davis

Executive Director

Catholic Cross Cultural Services

Toronto, Ontario

Carl Nicholson 

Executive Director

The Catholic Immigration Centre, Ottawa

Ottawa, Ontario

Jim Gurnett

Executive Director

Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers

Edmonton, Alberta

Rudi Masswohl

Executive Director

Employment Help Centre

St. Catharine’s, Ontario

Robert De Fehr
Executive Director
Employment Projects of Winnipeg Inc.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Gerry Mills

Executive Director

Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Clifford Bell
Director, Training Institute
Immigrant Services Society of BC

Vancouver, British Columbia

Linda Lalande

Executive Director

International Centre of Winnipeg

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Kathryn Sabo

Executive Director

JobStart

Toronto, Ontario

Karen Goldenberg

President and Chief Executive Officer

JVS Toronto

Toronto, Ontario

Eunice Grayson

Executive Director

Learning Enrichment Foundation

Toronto, Ontario

Mary Williamson

Executive Director

London Cross Cultural Learning Centre

London, Ontario

Kay Blair

Executive Director

Microskills Community Development Centre

Toronto, Ontario

Claudette Legault

Executive Director

Metropolitan Immigrant Services Association

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Kelly Pollack

Director, Employment Programs

MOSAIC

Vancouver, British Columbia

Reza Shahbazi

Executive Director

New Canadians' Centre of Excellence Inc.

Windsor, Ontario          

Debbie Douglas

Executive Director

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Toronto, Ontario

Rhonda Singer

President

Progress Career Planning Institute

Toronto, Ontario

Morteza Jaffapour

Executive Director

Settlement and Integration Services Organization

Hamilton, Ontario

Monika Feist

Executive Director

Success Skills Centre

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Rita Chahal

Executive Director

Women In Media Foundation Inc.
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Heather McGregor

Executive Director

YWCA Toronto

Toronto, Ontario




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