Ontario plans to ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job postings or application forms, the labour minister announced Thursday, saying it will be an important step to help newcomers get their foot in the door.
Ontario would be the first province to dismantle that barrier in the hiring process, Labour Minister David Piccini said.
New Canadians bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and ability, but recent immigrants with a bachelor’s degree are twice as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts to work in jobs that require only a high school education, he said.
“I would say [to employers], bring them in for an interview, talk to them, get to know that individual, or talk to them about their experience,” Piccini said.
“We know many jobs have an important trial component to assess competency, but what we’ve heard far too often is that people don’t even get that shot to walk in the door and have that conversation and what we’re saying here is: that first hurdle, we’re bashing it down.”
Two years ago, the Ontario government passed a law prohibiting certain non-health professions from requiring Canadian work experience for licensing.
Shanika Niwanthi came to Canada in 2021 as an international student with a Master of Business Administration degree and over a decade of experience in corporate human resources. She also studied global business management at Seneca College.
“You’d think these years of experience, education and impressive career has helped me to get a decent job here,” she said at Piccini’s announcement.
“(But) like many newcomers, I had to experience … underemployment. My talent was going to waste and was never fully utilized. Yes, I managed to land a job, but not in HR, not in business, and not in anything even close to that. I managed to get a survival job at McDonald’s, pouring coffees and making sandwiches.”
Niwanthi eventually connected with newcomer women’s services and made use of a government program allowing women with similar experience to hers to earn credentials at top business schools and take a job placement. She is now manager of HR and payroll at the community services organization where she did her placement.
“I’m proud to be an immigrant contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of this province,” she said.
“Today’s announcement is an amazing step in the right direction to eliminate many systematic barriers faced by newcomers to Canada.”
Ban doesn’t create pathway to success, NDP MPP says
NDP MPP Doly Begum, who represents Scarborough Southwest, said she is glad that the labour minister is talking about employment issues faced by immigrants but she wonders if the ban will help people get jobs.
The minister should have talked to immigrants about their experiences, she added.
Begum, the party’s critic for citizenship, foreign credentials, and immigration services, said Canadian experience is often a covert requirement, with employers filtering people out based on their resumes.
The actual problem is discrimination and systemic barriers that people face when they apply for jobs, she said, adding employers may be devaluing foreign knowledge.
“While you ban a job description from posting Canadian experience, it still does not create a pathway for that doctor who’s now driving a cab to be able to succeed in Ontario,” she said.
Begum said what newcomers need are bridging programs, practice-ready assessment programs and funding for individuals to take that training.
Minister to introduce labour law changes Tuesday
Piccini said the ban on requiring Canadian work experience in job postings will be contained in legislation with a slew of labour law changes he will introduce on Tuesday, including requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and boosting benefits for injured workers.
The new legislation would also increase the number of international students in Ontario eligible for the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program by revising eligibility requirements to allow students from one-year college graduate certificate programs to apply.
As well, it would change how regulated professions such as accounting, architecture and geoscience use third-party organizations to assess international qualifications, which the government says would improve oversight and accountability.