Friday, January 12, 2007

Accredit foreign workers now

In the effort to build a more progressive society where everyone plays an equal part -- not one where the working and middle classes serve the upper echelons -- one group is often marginalized: Immigrant, skilled workers who are forced to drive taxis or flip burgers because their foreign credentials aren't recognized. This applies to both people who have full documentation of their skills as well as those who don't have them because they were "left behind" while running from the authorities.

This lack of justice has been a problem that's been going on for decades, but with a greater percentage of the immigrants coming from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia it has only gotten worse. What's even more bizarre is that accrediting authorities don't even want to talk to these people, they have a vested interest in "protecting" those who are already members and don't want "outsiders" from joining the club.

The problem is those immigrants came to Canada on the specific promise their skills would be recognized. By not doing so, we're breaking faith. And, as a consequence, possibly creating another terrorist within our midst.

Today's decision by the Ontario Superior Court in one such case is a step in the right direction. A teacher from Iran who escaped persecution (specifically, because she had the chutzpah to have her class debate the merits of The Satanic Verses) sued the Ontario Teachers' College saying it wouldn't even allow her to take the necessary examinations to become a licenced teacher in the province. The court said that the College discriminated against Fatima Siadit.

She's just one. We've all met the engineer / taxi driver at some point in our lives, or the physician / janitor, and so forth. What is it with Canada that this discrimination continues? We cry about a shortage of skilled labour, yet most of it is right here and ready to go at a second's notice.

For God's sake, just let them take the examinations. They're written in English or French so that should weed out ... well, nobody. If language proficiency is an issue, add the demand they take the TOEFL or the TFI in French (with additional testing to prove spoken proficiency and not merely they've been "taught to the test"), but that's it. We could easily drop the unemployment rate a full percentage point, and raise income tax revenues substantially, by ending this discrimination. If those who run the law societies and medical colleges and so forth resist, let them be stripped of their credentials and forced to push brooms so they feel what it's like.

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