Aid Urged For Foreign Professionals (The Toronto Star)

January 12, 2006: Aid Urged For Foreign Professionals (The Toronto Star)

Aid urged for foreign professionals
Jan. 12, 2006. 01:00 AM

Ottawa should pay part of the initial salaries of immigrant engineers and other professionals to help establish them in their fields in Canada, a Toronto Liberal MP told a debate on social issues yesterday.

Even if their degrees are accepted in Canada, or required upgrades have been completed, foreign-trained professional still face roadblocks to gaining appropriate employment in this country, Beaches-East York candidate Maria Minna told a Community and Social Planning Council of Toronto forum yesterday.

“Lets face it, even (some of the) immigrants who do have credentials recognized … they still can't get the right jobs,” she said.

“There's still racism … and stigmatization in this society whether we like it or not,” said Minna, who is in a tough fight for her seat in the Jan. 23 election against high-profile challenger Marilyn Churley of the New Democratic Party.

Minna, chair of the Liberals' social policy committee, suggested the federal government should set up a “bridge” fund that would encourage employers to hire immigrant professionals by helping to pay their initial wages.

She said her government had run a similar, successful program for Canadian students to help them gain experience in the workplace.

“We need to do that with immigrant people,” Minna said.

“We no longer have a brain drain in this country, we have a brain waste and the brain waste of immigrant people is even worse.”

Churley was originally scheduled to debate Minna at yesterday's downtown YMCA event. But she was replaced earlier this week by Toronto Centre NDP candidate and social activist Michael Shapcott.

Organizers say the Conservative party declined to supply a candidate for the debate, while a scheduled Green party representative didn't show up.

Shapcott criticized the Liberals for their social policy record but agreed that new immigrants need more help assimilating into Canadian jobs and society.

He told the audience that during door-to-door campaigning, he'd met a Chinese-trained doctor who was currently working at a pizza shop.

“She has a teenaged fellow who is her boss and he's pushing her around and … she started crying when she told me that,” Shapcott said.

“We have about 5,000 doctors who are trained in other countries, who are ready to work here, but they are not able to work in this country.”

Shapcott said his party would use the federal unemployment insurance surplus for professional retraining and initial employment projects.

The two candidates also debated public housing, child care, homelessness and youth crime issues.

Additional articles by Joseph Hall