New immigrants to Canada not sold on upcoming express entry system

A newly released government study suggests newcomers to the country have misgivings about Ottawa’s intention to ensure would-be immigrants possess skills that are in demand in Canada.

OTTAWA — A newly released government study suggests newcomers to the country have misgivings about Ottawa’s intention to ensure would-be immigrants possess skills that are in demand in Canada.

The respondents to the study wondered why Ottawa isn’t doing more to find jobs for qualified immigrants already here but who “have been frustrated by the lack of recognition of their credentials and their inability to acquire a sufficient amount of Canadian experience.”

The government’s new express entry system, launching in January, will allow Canadian employers to select skilled candidates from abroad if there are no Canadians or permanent residents available for the work.

Express entry candidates who are offered jobs or nominated under the so-called provincial nominee program will be invited to apply for permanent residency.

The government hopes the new system will reduce the need for temporary foreign workers and help address the country’s supposed skills shortage. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has called express entry a “top priority” for his department.

“Express entry promises to be a game-changer for Canadian immigration and Canada’s economy,” he said recently. “It will revolutionize the way we attract skilled immigrants and get them working here faster.”

But the Ipsos Reid study, commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration earlier this year, suggests newcomers in 14 focus groups located in seven communities across the country weren’t sold on the new system.

“A number of participants in all sessions wondered why the government was focusing on those who have yet to immigrate to Canada rather than those who have already immigrated,” the study states.

The respondents, from a mix of ages and socio-economic backgrounds, also questioned the integrity of the process.

They were “quick to caution that the potential for fraudulent behaviour” was real, whether on the part of applicant or the prospective employer.

“Participants expect that certain steps would be taken to guard against such behaviour,” the study says.

Alexander has been meeting the stakeholders and business leaders for months in advance of the launch of the express entry program on Jan. 1, 2015. His department didn’t immediately respond to a request for a comment on the Ipsos Reid study.

With the launch looming, the government has begun accepting 25,000 applications under the federal skilled worker program, and is actively recruiting skilled immigrants in 50 occupations that include financial managers, auditors and accountants, civil engineers and psychologists.

But another government study suggests that skilled newcomers already in Canada — including doctors, pharmacists and engineers — face “huge obstacles” preventing them from finding jobs even when their credentials are in order.

The participants in that study, conducted by Environics Research, said language barriers and requirements for Canadian experience on some job postings pose the biggest problems in their attempts to find work.

A spokesman for Employment Minister Jason Kenney says the government plans to address those complaints this fall.

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