The Canadian Not-For-Profit Sector is Missing Opportunities Regarding Immigration
Around the world, Canada is often seen as one of the best countries to immigrate to, yet doing so is not without its problems. For instance, you have probably seen in the news, social media, or elsewhere the opinion that most immigrants are admitted to Canada as refugees, by family members, or "anchor marriages." But the truth is most immigrants to Canada are granted entry due to federal and provincial labour and economic interests 1. Despite the inevitable naysayers and cries of "not our jobs!," immigration remains one of our nation's greatest strengths and is a necessary aspect of Canada's population growth.
But how does Canada's not-for-profit sector factor in this?
Canadian associations exist for a broad range of reasons, but many are organizations with memberships comprised of professionals brought together by common goals, careers, and education. For example, CSAE counts among its members associations for tradespeople, healthcare professionals, financial interests, educators, and much more. These membership models look to Canadians established in the appropriate fields, but how are associations looking towards prospective contributors to those same fields to expand their membership?
Educated and well-trained immigrants have far more difficulty finding good jobs in Canada (especially those in restrictive, professional fields requiring certification and the like) than do Canadian-born applicants with a high-school degree 2. Numerous reasons can explain why this is, ranging from the difficulty in consistently tracking the value of foreign education and different education/certification standards, but this is just a portion of the picture.
Experts agree that discrimination remains an undeniable factor in this trend 3. As a result, highly-educated immigrants that would otherwise make a good fit in many Canadian associations find themselves stuck in "survival" jobs that have little or no prospects for improvement or professional advancement. These are the jobs few wants and no Canadian is outraged about someone else being willing to do. Often, the jobs they no longer find themselves qualified for (e.g., educators, doctors, engineers, the trades) also frequently suffer from labour shortages.
So, how can associations both help themselves and aid such highly-educated immigrants find a firmer toehold in Canada?
The Potential for New Association Membership
Any other reason for putting deeper thought into the issue of immigration in Canada aside, there is an opportunity for professional immigrants skilled in a given field becoming a source of association membership. Were these professional immigrants properly certified or otherwise capable of meeting the Canadian standards of their chosen profession, they would represent a significant pool for potential association membership in most sectors. Instead, unable to requalify for our standards due to associated costs, they will likely remain stuck in "survival" jobs. Can associations change this?
For the most part, given the financial nature of the obstacles facing immigrant professionals and tradespeople, associations simply do not have the funds available to outright purchase a solution. However, there are several methods by which organizations can step up and get involved with immigrants representing potential members within their respective sectors.
Not all associations are capable of such direct action, but several are: get involved in the politics of immigration in Canada. These Canadian associations have the ability to influence politics (especially if they have politicians as members) via lobbying and advocacy. By working to change Canada's immigration policies to better support recertification and requalification of immigrant professionals who could plug holes in job sectors Canadians themselves are not filling, associations would be expanding their own association membership potential.
Direct, otherwise unqualified sponsorship of immigrants by not-for-profits is currently not allowed by Canadian immigration laws and policies. This role is commonly limited to family members and spouses, but there are ways around this, such as the Provincial Nominee Program 4 (PNP.) Individually maintained and defined by each province (excluding Quebec), many of these programs would allow an association (or their members) to sponsor an immigrant on various grounds and qualifications, including a Job Offer Stream.
By providing employment to an immigrant representing future potential to their sector, an association presents both opportunity for requalification and Canadian experience (that some requalification programs may accept as on-the-job credit.) It is also likely that such employment would provide higher pay than most "survival" job immigrant professionals and tradespeople are normally resigned to take. Additional funds would increase the chance of such immigrants earning the funds need to pay for their requalification.
It is also worth noting that some government subsidized programs for trade certification conditionally allow non-citizen applicants. Such programs often require some sort of mentorship in place, however, which is ideal for someone sponsored by an association. And this also brings us to my next point.
Associations with strong ties (or willing to create them) to immigrant communities can provide expertise via mentorship to immigrants so the latter may one day become members. As previously mentioned, this mentorship can be necessary for some government subsidized programs to help immigrants requalify for their chosen profession but it has other benefits, as well.
Providing mentorship creates a relationship that could be a doorway to future association membership. Not only are you helping to bring someone new into your sector, but you are doing so in a way that is likely to make them loyal to your association. And, frankly, you're also offering help to someone new to Canada who could probably use a bit of guidance while acclimating to their new community and job markets.
Probably the most obvious way to help out -- but also the least likely to be readily available -- is to lend aid to an immigrant professional's requalification education. Providing some form of financial assistance is the more direct way of doing so, but also consider whether your association has any connections or influence it can lend.
Reach out to your local immigrant communities and start a support fund.
Start up a grant or loan program.
Get the experts in your association to participate in tutoring or offer similar assistance for requalification programs.
Your association can get involved in strengthening its sector with new blood from abroad in a number of ways.
The Payoff for Us All
Don't buy into the misinformation no matter how often you hear someone talk about how immigrants "steal our jobs," are a burden on our tax dollars, etc. A big part of why Canada takes in so many immigrants each year is that doing so is vital to sustaining our population growth 5 and for maintaining a competitive economy with an otherwise insufficient labour force in key positions and sectors 6. In other words, Canada needs immigrants to prosper, and Canadian association membership models should proactively embrace this fact.
Associations have the opportunity to benefit while acting as a bridge between new Canadians and established communities. So, what is your association doing to help new Canadians discover their value to their new home?
Do you want to find out how your organization can work with the Canadian government to expand its association membership by aiding immigrant professionals? Pick up a copy of Huw Williams' Government Relations for Canadian Associations: How to be the Voice of Your Members with Government to learn about lobbying the government.
1. 2016 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, Section 3: Federal-Provincial/Territorial Partnerships
2. Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy on Removing the "Canadian experience" barrier (Feb. 1, 2013)
3. Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy on Removing the "Canadian experience" barrier (Feb. 1, 2013)
4. Provincial Nomination Programs
5. Mapped: Which country has the most immigrants?
6. Economic impact of immigration to Canada