Ontario is on the verge of implementing a novel policy: banning employers from requiring Canadian work experience. This move aims to open doors for the country’s vast immigrant population who often struggle to find jobs in their fields despite having international qualifications.

Canada accepts a significant number of immigrants, welcoming over 526,000 new permanent residents in 2023 to a country of roughly 38 million. The U.S., which has nearly ten-times Canada’s population, welcomed just more than a million newcomers in 2023. However, there are many concerns about underemployment of these newcomers, particularly in healthcare professions.

Canada’s points-based immigration system, Express Entry, attracts highly skilled talent but often leaves their expertise and skills untapped. Skilled immigrants end up in low-wage jobs, a situation raising concerns about wasted potential and labour shortages.

    • While only 4.5% of Canadian doctors are not practicing medicine, the figure jumps to a staggering 30% for immigrant doctors.
    • Ontario alone had 13,000 internationally trained doctors sidelined during the pandemic peak.

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    Do Canada Work Experience Requirements Discriminate Against Newcomers?

    Requiring Canadian work experience for jobs often puts newcomers at a disadvantage, even though they may have the skills and qualifications necessary for the role. This creates a catch-22 situation: Newcomers can’t get the experience without a job, and they can’t get a job without the experience.

    • Discrimination:
      It can be seen as a form of discrimination based on national origin or place of origin, which is against Canadian human rights laws.
    • Barriers to entry:
      It makes it harder for newcomers to integrate into the Canadian workforce and contribute their skills and talents.
    • Wasted potential:
      It leaves the Canadian economy missing out on valuable skilled workers.
    • Unfair advantage:
      It can give an unfair advantage to domestic applicants who may have less relevant experience or qualifications.

    In November 2023, Ontario introduced Bill 149, legislation to ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience. While supporters of the ban believe it will address this underutilization and alleviate labour shortages, critics worry it could disadvantage young Canadians and raise safety concerns in certain fields.

    Ontario Bill 149: Working for Workers Four Act, 2023

    If passed, Bill 149 will introduce new requirements for employer job postings, including:

    • Ontario is set to ban Canadian work experience requirements.
      • Currently, qualified immigrants are unable to obtain work in Canada that they are qualified for due to a requirement that they need work experience in Canada.
      • Ontario hopes to reduce discrimination and disqualification for skilled immigrants, especially in healthcare professions.
    • Employers will be required to inform applicants if AI is used in reviewing applications.
    • Make changes addressing wage protections and workers’ compensation benefits.

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    “Removing requirements for Canadian work experience in job postings will help immigrants to enter the Canadian job market with an increased likelihood of finding meaningful work that is a good match for their skills and experience. Many newcomers are welcomed to Canada because of their education and experience, yet face significant challenges when trying to further their career path after they arrive. We see this every day with the people we serve at Matthew House Ottawa, and we look forward to seeing this legislation passed.”

    – Allan Reesor-McDowell
    Executive Director, Matthew House Ottawa

    Canada Is A Country Of Immigrants

    Canada is a country built on immigration, and we need to make sure that our policies are welcoming and inclusive for all. By addressing the issue of Canadian work experience requirements, Canada can help to create a more fair and equitable job market for everyone.

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