If your job posting calls for “Canadian experience,” it may now be discriminatory — at least in Ontario.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) unveiled its new Policy on Removing the ‘Canadian Experience’ Barrier on July 15, and it came out swinging against employers that may not be giving immigrants a fair shake at job opportunities. (See “‘Canadian experience’ requirement discriminatory.”)
When I read the OHRC’s policy, I started with a cynical eye — can it make a difference?
If an employer doesn’t want to hire a certain group of people — say, minorities — it doesn’t need to put “Minorities need not apply” in the ad. It can just not hire minorities. It’s racist, it’s discriminatory, it’s illegal — but it’s tough to prove.
The same goes with asking for Canadian experience. You don’t need to put it in a job ad if you only want workers who have proven themselves in Canada — you can just skip the resumés that don’t have it or bring in a few token candidates who don’t fit your bill to help with the optics. That tactic is reminiscent of the National Football League’s Rooney rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and other senior positions and has led to complaints among some minority candidates they’re being brought in and used just to satisfy the rule.
Plus, employers don’t seem to be calling for Canadian experience — at least not blatantly. An unscientific search of job board Workopolis on the morning of July 29 revealed just 56 postings with the phrase “Canadian experience.”
Then my cynicism faded and I donned my “Left alone, people will do the right thing” blinders. Is this policy even necessary in modern Canada?
While nobody would suggest every employer understands the economic benefits of hiring immigrants, that tide has turned. The majority get it — and we’ve covered our share of great stories highlighted at the annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards in Toronto, of which Canadian HR Reporter is a key sponsor and a strong believer.
But those blinders were quickly knocked off by a survey the OHRC did in 2012 on Canadian experience. It received more than 1,000 responses from jobseekers, regulatory body applicants, employers and others. And it proved newcomers face Canadian experience requirements from employers at the job search stage.
It also showed professional regulatory bodies need to find a way to smooth the path to membership for new Canadians without Canadian experience — so there’s work for those bodies to do as well.
With all that in mind, there’s only one way to view this policy: It’s laudable and helpful to employers and jobseekers alike.
Any move that helps new Canadians find work in their field can only be met with open arms. In nearly all cases, a call for Canadian work experience is arbitrary.
And in positions where it is necessary, employers will still be able to call for it. They’ll just have to clear the bona fide occupational requirement hurdle, which was spelled out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Meiorin. Essentially, employers must prove the decision was:
• adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed
• adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is needed to fulfill the purpose or goal
• reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, because it is impossible to accommodate the candidate without undue hardship.
The Meiorin bar is a high one, so employers will need to ensure the position truly requires Canadian experience before making it a requirement.
While some may argue the real problem is a lack of jobs, not the wording chosen by employers in job postings, the fact remains we need talented immigrants coming to Canada, en masse, in order to maintain our standard of living and grow the economy.
“If Canada is seen as a place where it is impossible to find a good job, a job in your field, or where, as an engineer or PhD graduate you are likely to end up driving a taxi, it will no longer be a desirable destination for many of the world’s most skilled immigrants,” said the OHRC. “They will simply choose to go elsewhere.”
The message from the OHRC is simple: Canada is an attractive destination for immigrants. But that shine can easily come off — and some may argue it’s already starting to fade and peel as stats show new Canadians face high unemployment and underemployment.
We don’t want the world’s best and brightest going elsewhere. We want them here, swimming among our talent pool and the OHRC policy will help ensure the water looks inviting. Other jurisdictions should follow suit.
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