I had planned a happy New Year message, filled with good thoughts and wishes for the many of us who are advocates for a just and equitable Ontario and Canada. And while I'm sending those wishes that everything that is good and positive will come our way; that the lives of those who are in distress will be made easier and that the hearts and minds of those who make decisions that have impact on our lives will be guided by fairness and good conscience, my focus in this message has changed due to two emails that I received in the dying days of 2013 and the opening days of 2014.
Executive Director's Message
Canada's immigrant and refugee-serving sector is heading to Ottawa next week (November 13-15) for the first National Settlement and Integration conference in a decade. The last national gathering was held in Calgary in 2003. What a difference a decade has made, yet how things have stayed the same.
I have written on this topic before in this space and I've touched on aspects of it in the many speeches that I have given. And over the past two to three years there has been at least one workshop or seminar on a similar topic at the annual OCASI's Executive Directors' Forum or Professional Development Conferences. Given the currency of the topic, I feel it's worth re-airing.
On July 15, 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) launched its new policy Removing Canadian Experience as a Barrier to Employment. The policy aims to clarify the existing code grounds where discrimination is prohibited in employment. The Commission boldly states in the policy that requiring Canadian experience as a condition of employment is discriminatory on its face and the onus is on employers to prove that there is a legitimate and necessary reason for such a requirement. This is significant.
A couple of weeks ago, OCASI hosted a meeting of colleagues from across the country. The one thing they all had in common is a strong belief that the sector is changing and as sector leaders they needed to be ahead of the curve, to influence, since we can't control the changes that are taking place. It was quite a collection of folks. From almost every province, they primarily came from immigrant and refugee serving agencies but also from umbrella organizations like OCASI and from universities.
At the end of May, I received an e-mail from my colleague-friend Anon who indicated that news was expected from the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration - news that would be pleasing to OCASI. Now news from the Minister isn't surprising. We've had at least one policy announcement or regulation change or musings from the Minister on a daily basis (or so it seems) since he was appointed the Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism portfolio. But pleasing to OCASI? Long story short, a few days later Twitter was abuzz with the news. Access to citizenship would be made easier.
The gorgeous weather we've been experiencing here in Southern Ontario makes one hopeful that we've turned the corner on winter's cold and damp and that we're settling into Spring. There's a sense of hope in the air as I meet and converse with my colleagues from across the province and country; a particular optimism, a sense of ‘can do' that we haven't seen in many years.
The Federal Government Temporary Foreign Workers Program exploded onto the front page of major newspapers, lit up social media boards and started conversations in the hallways of service organizations, on buses and in corner stores this past week. This was not anticipated.