Thank you, Chair, and thank you, all, for the opportunity to make a few inputs today.
I'm an immigrant employment specialist with the KEYS Job Centre in Kingston, Ontario. I have served as the national director for human rights and anti-racism for the Canadian Labour Congress for more than eight years, where I was the lead on the labour migration file. Since 2007, I have contributed to the United Nations high-level dialogue on international migration and development, and I've participated as a labour expert at numerous national and international fora. My family also first landed here as immigrants in Atlantic Canada. We didn't stay.
The AIP is a good initiative. In particular, having an employer-driven program align itself with the service provider sector to devise individual settlement plans is smart. It's a good move. I want to focus a few of my comments on some recommendations for the potential expansion of this program and the retention issue.
Academics, like Oreopoulos and Dechief, and Ramos and Yoshida, specifically have looked at why recent immigrants leave Atlantic Canada. The number two reason they found is high rates of immigrants experiencing discrimination. What are you going to do?
Number one, invest in public campaigns that promote the benefits of immigration and that implicitly address xenophobia while building alliances with other marginalized workers. This means partnership campaigns with community, youth, and indigenous groups, municipalities, settlement agencies, unions, employers, and faith-based groups. This strategy pays off. Why? It mitigates the us and them divide. Wherever possible, link such campaigns to support inclusive and comprehensive labour force development strategies.
Two, jobs are good, and mentorship makes things even better. Peer-to-peer occupational mentoring helps skilled workers understand the cultural nuances and informal protocols within their professions. Mentor programs build professional networks, improve social integration, and support retention. Calgary's mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has spoken about creating space for a newcomer within his office team. The newcomer, it turns out, was an elected official in his own country. You can call that mayoral mentoring. My point is that when newcomers have a profile within a community, it can serve as a positive counter to xenophobia, like when newcomers are the public face in occupations like municipal clerks, bus drivers, city planners, or staff in the mayor's office. My point is to consider the public sector as well as the private sector for opportunities. I can say more of this in the Q and A.
Three, go global with local newcomer talent. Newcomers typically maintain strong ties with their home countries, including valuable connections with industry professionals, and they often bring an innovative lens. At our agency we maintain an inventory of newcomer skills and a brief profile of their home country social and economic networks. We are working with our local economic development commission to map local small and medium-sized enterprises that want to expand into global markets or source products internationally. Together, we offer seminars for these SMEs that are delivered by newcomers who have business-relevant experience or ties to international markets or manufacturers.
Here is a quick example. Yang is a newcomer from China. She has extensive experience in factory production. She ran a factory. She is a member of the factory owners association and is knowledgeable about quality control and exporting. Local small and medium enterprises that are in need but unfamiliar with how to source parts, or how to deal with quality control or import rules, are linked with her. This pairing promotes business expansion. The seminars are provided to the SMEs with skilled expertise on how to expand or improve their operational efficiency by capitalizing on newcomers' global marketplace knowledge. Newcomers' experience is valued, remunerated, and leads to increased economic growth, social integration, retention, and cross-cultural appreciation.
Four, let's keep people safe, healthy and empowered. This adds to retention. The Institute for Work and Health, which our agency works with, has done some very telling research. Ninety per cent of immigrant workplace injuries require medical attention, compared to 65% for other workers. Newcomers are more likely to be employed in jobs with a high number of workplace health and safety hazards. Recent immigrants are also less likely to access compensation after a workplace injury. Newcomers are often unfamiliar with safety precautions and the workplace injury claim and compensation processes.
The most recent study that we participated in looked at four dimensions of OH and S vulnerability: level of hazard facing the workers, workplace policies and procedures, worker awareness of hazards and rights and responsibilities, and the level of worker empowerment. The key takeaways for your study are that newcomers are exposed to more workplace hazards, and their low empowerment, their awareness of their rights and entitlements, increases their vulnerability.
What are the implications and recommendations? OH and S training needs to be done at many different times, in many different ways. More systemic training is required. Start early and at the lower ESL levels. We can't just be sending folks to websites. We have to target the sectors that are employing the newcomers. We have to involve the settlement sector, unions, and workers associations, and we need to ensure that the training addresses the entitlements and expectations of the newcomers. It has to be a two-way street. We have to establish a champion or a lead agency that works with the above stakeholders.
Last, different newcomers in different job categories need different supports. Dr. Ather Akbari from the Sobey school of business at Saint Mary's University projects that by 2018, there will be 56,000 and some job opportunities in Atlantic Canada, with the bulk being made up of labouring jobs, about 4,500, and intermediate skill level jobs, about 16,600, as well as technical or paraprofessional skill level jobs, about 17,500, give or take. He projects that only 18,000 will be in the higher skill level job opportunities.
He projects that 35% to 45% of immigrant job seekers are going to be in jobs that require intermediate to labourer skill levels. That newcomer profile is different from the highly skilled immigrant. What are you going to do? Some recommendations would be to invest in ESL training on the job site and provide tailored OH and S supports, and integrate the delivery with the involvement of unions, employers, and the settlement sector. This is going to help bring broader community and workplace integration, mitigate some xenophobia, and increase retention.
Thank you for your time.