Bill 124: Creating Opportunity for All

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By Mike Colle – Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

On October 3, 2006, I moved Bill 124 to have its second reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. Bill 124, the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act, 2006, is the first legislation of its kind in the country. It is a part of the Ontario government’s commitment to break down barriers that prevent newcomers from succeeding in Ontario. I am very pleased with the progress of this legislation. And I am delighted with the support of countless individuals and community organizations throughout Ontario. If passed, this legislation would help skilled newcomers work in their fields sooner. The proposed legislation would require 34 regulated professions in Ontario to adopt registration practices that are fair, transparent and expeditious.

Currently, some professions do explain their requirements, while others don’t. Some may take many months to assess a newcomer’s work experience and credentials without providing feedback to the applicant regarding the status of their application.

Essentially, what I’m advocating is that when it comes to supporting and benefiting from Ontario’s newcomers, we need to do a better job. The status quo is not acceptable, and we need to invest in opportunity for all. Over this past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of connecting with literally thousands of individuals across the province. I’ve spoken with internationally trained professionals, front-line workers who have been their counselors and mentors, and leaders in that sector, as well as academia, business and regulatory bodies. They have really helped to shape this legislation. Really, Bill 124 is a result of their suggestions, their recommendations. It’s a result of that kind of expertise of experience. I presented it in the Ontario Legislature, but it’s a reflection of their many years of trying to ensure that internationally trained individuals and all newcomers get a fair shot at working in their chosen field here in Ontario.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the national economy loses $3-$5 billion in earnings each year due to the underemployment of skilled immigrants trained elsewhere. Critics may say that this legislation smacks of government involvement but I believe that it is government’s duty to work for change when there is such overwhelming need. This legislation makes certain there is clear, fair process with common benchmarks across the board. It also strikes a balance in maintaining the independence of the professions. Two key components of Bill 124 are a Fairness Commissioner and an Access Centre.

1) Under the proposed legislation, a Fairness Commissioner would be appointed to oversee compliance with the legislation and ensure that regulatory bodies treat all applicants fairly. The Fairness Commissioner will work alongside regulatory bodies and advise the government on the fairness and openness of registration practices.

2) The Access Centre for Internationally Trained Individuals would be a one-stop shop for newcomers trying to navigate through these complex processes to work in their profession. It would also serve as a centre for excellence on internships and mentorships for educational institutions, employers, and community agencies. Bill 124 is about breaking down barriers and opening doors. It’s about fairness and opportunity. And it’s about recognizing and appreciating global and international experiences.

For more information on Bill 124 and other initiatives, JobStart is a community employment service agency that assists newcomers. Jobstart has requested this update to provide more information to International Trained Professionals.

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