Mr. Speaker, on March 5, I asked the government when would it deliver on its long overdue and limited foreign credentials promise to new Canadians. Instead of fully answering my question, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism only mentioned half measures, thus displaying the Conservative government's inadequate level of dedication to helping newcomers succeed in Canada.
In a time when the lack of foreign credentials recognition is costing our country over $2.6 billion per year in lost productivity alone, the federal government's recent announcement for the expansion of existing overseas orientation services constitutes an insufficient commitment to addressing the needs of both new Canadians and our economy as a whole.
The federal agency responsible for the assessment and recognition of credentials does not receive the funding required to effectively meet the purpose for which it was initially envisioned and has been downgraded to a referral office that does little more than direct new Canadians to provincial offices, where the real work of foreign credentials recognition is undertaken.
As a legacy of the Liberal Party's commitment to new Canadians, our country continues to be the destination of choice for important talent from around the world. However, a recent Statistics Canada report highlights that, under the Conservative government, Canadians who received their education and training overseas are overrepresented in the poverty, unemployment and underemployment rates of our country.
Additionally, the Globe and Mail reported last week that “Canadian immigrants, even those highly skilled and educated, suffer from an income gap that is unacceptably wide and slow to close” and that more needs to be done in the area of foreign credentials definition.
There are numerous examples of significant inefficiencies in the system. A family that moved as permanent residents from India to the city of Brampton, in Ontario, includes the father who used to be an IT specialist and is now a dishwasher in a restaurant, as well as a son who used to work as a doctor and now delivers pizza as he cannot afford the large fees associated with upgrading his degree and cannot find other work.
The Liberal Party's round table discussions with citizens, during the Conservatives' parliament prorogation, suggest that now is the time to move beyond the government's piecemeal and lengthy approach with respect to foreign credentials recognition. Now is the time to work Canadian and overseas educational institutions, provinces and territories and the appropriate regulatory bodies to develop bridging courses in those target countries where we have opened up offices and allocated resources so upgrading can begin before new Canadians arrive here. Now is the time to expand retraining, upgrading and language programs for new Canadians who are already in Canada.
Why is the government not ensuring that the foreign credentials barriers for all new Canadians are removed in a more comprehensive manner sooner rather than later?