O Canada

Friday, January 5, 2007

FAIR ACCESS TO REGULATED PROFESSIONS ACT, 2006

The following is my presentation to the Standing Committee on their deliberations on Bill 124, Fair Access to Regulated Profession Act, 2006 (November 21, 2006)

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I would like to thank the Hon. Minister of Immigration Mike Colle and South Asian Women’s Centre, Toronto and its executive director, Kripa Sekhar for this opportunity to make a submission on this important topic.

My name is Prasad Nair; I immigrated to Canada in July 2003 with my wife and our 4 year old child. We both have MSW and LLB degrees from India. Before coming to Canada as skilled immigrants, we were both working in the field of Social Work.

I would like to use this opportunity to share my personal experience of surprises here in Canada.

I came to Canada in summer 2003, the moment I stepped out from the Airport, I fell in love with this country, and the brisk air just passed me assured me that I found a good place to live.
After initial settlement, we started our job search... We came to know that the social work profession is controlled in Ontario by Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. And to be recognized and to practice as a social worker, a registration with OCSWSSW is mandatory. The internationally trained social worker’s qualification is to be assessed by Canadian Association of Social Workers as equivalent to that of a Canadian qualification. Both of us submitted our applications for evaluation.…..

We started our job search also… within a short span of two months, I had generated around 14 interviews…. I got selection as a child protection worker with London CAS and they asked me to provide the CASW equalization….Seemed like life is easy…

Then came my next surprise, my application got rejected and no equalization was granted and the other surprise,….my wife got equalization…. They said in their letter that my qualification is not equal to Canadian social work degree…I have a MSW…. And that not even equal to Canadian BSW…. And no suggestion was given to me about how can I regain my qualification. I called the CASW office…. They said CASW assesses each application separately and independently. That time, I thought it may be because of my electives for MSW are different from my wife….I started asking other immigrant social workers and , I came to know that CASW had given equalization to one of my seniors previously and to another junior later with my same degree and electives.” I pointed this out to CASW authorities; the response was that ‘it may be an honest error’ and they asked me to prove the allegation rather than proactively looking into the matter. How can I do that, I am new to the country… new to the system…. How can I gather evidence against a professional organization? My fellow professionals were not ready to help pointing out that since CASW is saying about honest error… testifying for me may put them at risk of loosing their accreditation. CASW did not provide me any information about how I should challenge that decision. I was wondered at that time ‘‘if CASW has not given accreditation earlier why should they say that it may be an honest error?’’ And as I started studying about the issue, I understood that the independent and separate evaluation of each application creates, at times, dissimilar results for those who studied the same course with the same institution. In my case I lost my hard earned qualification… Again to my surprise, my qualification rejected by CASW was accepted by University of Toronto, York University and World Educational Services as equivalent to a Canadian social work degree.

Agreeing to the terms of fate or destiny…. I started working with a temporary agency in night shifts…day time searching for better jobs… baby sitting…. Cursing my decision of immigrating to Canada.. I saw Engineers, Doctors, Chartered Accountants and other esteemed professional around the globe, sweeping the factory floors, lifting and sorting in our warehouses…and trying to recreate their shattered dreams in this Promised Land.

In many occasions on the past three years, I felt an alienation from this society. I had brought my life savings to this country and I felt that I lost it. Back home I had bank deposit, land, a house and everything and in other words “I never thought about my next day’s food…but here, yes I was afraid about my ability to provide food for my children”. Thanks to the local food banks and their generous help… I stood in their queue for three hours after a whole night’s job to get a basket of food for my children. I was earning 9 dollars an hour and paying a rent of 1200 dollars and a car insurance of 300 dollars per month (a bonus rate for a new immigrant). My wife who was in her third trimester gave birth to our second baby… Another surprise… The odd jobs, unfamiliar work, sole supporter of the family and moreover the trauma of loosing my well merited qualification, my health is on stake…I lost my energy…Me and my wife argued with each other about my decision of immigrating to Canada… At times, we both thinking of ending our lives….Now looking back I know may be we were depressed and our skills as counsellors and social workers may have helped us to overcome that crisis… Now I am thinking about others who may be in other professions….

During that time we decided to pursue studies… here in Canada… For me honestly, I only know social work and the second best I know is to study…. We prepared out applications amidst this stress, the night jobs and job search… The next surprise… York University offered me an admission to their prestigious MSW program…But money..? I applied OSAP… applied for all scholarships, bursaries, started working part time…I spend all my bank balance… I even borrowed money from my relatives… planned to finish the master’s within eight months…. We planned it and we implemented the plan…. I was so interested to take an elective about family mediation… but since it was offered during summer… I had to compromise and had to take an elective in the winter in order to finish the course by summer…. Drove my car alone to the classes in the evenings… and from class room to midnight shifts…

My wife…. Started job search…. As usual not able to find the job… even after her MSW being recognized… she joined with the then newly offered bridging program for the social workers at Ryerson University… Both of us studying… betting ourselves against odds of destiny…. With the support of good friends… we both completed the programs successfully…

My next surprise…. After spending hard worked eight months and life savings…and a total debt of 10, 500 dollars, thanks to the Ontario Student Opportunity Grant… I got job as a child protection worker… the job that I was selected 2 years back and lost because of an unfair assessment….

I made it... but at what cost…. A seat in the University for an Upcoming Professional to do the MSW…. My life savings that I may have invested here otherwise…..The taxes that I would have contributed to the national and provisional exchequers… My time….my energy…. My belief towards the fairness of the system…and the haunting memory of the faces that I met in the factory corridors…. Warehouses….driving seats of taxicabs… further the anger and frustration to know the estimation and reports of agencies like conference board of Canada that not recognizing immigrants' learning and credentials costs our economy somewhere between $3-billion and $5-billion annually..

I am taking this opportunity to congratulate the Honorable Minister for his initiative on Bill 124 to ensure Fair Access to Regulated Professions and thereby helping aspiring immigrant professionals to better integration into our society.

For more information about the new Act visist: FAIR ACCESS TO REGULATED PROFESSIONS ACT, 2006

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