--> Getting It Right: What Maketh a Canadian - Part 2

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Maketh a Canadian - Part 2

Last week, I wrote about “Canadians of Convenience” – those citizens living abroad but keeping a Canadian passport as an insurance policy against civil strife or natural disaster. These dual citizens contribute nothing to Canada, but are happy enough to jump on a Canadian vessel when the bombs are falling, only to return to their true “homes” the next month.

There was no shortage of reader comment on that column. Some of you agreed whole-heartedly, some disagreed so vehemently my computer sizzled when the email arrived. Some readers felt I was bashing dual-citizens living here in Canada instead of those who have no intention of being “Canadians” but like the cache of the blue passport.

However, I also received two separate letters that have haunted me since they showed up in my inbox last weekend.

They were both passionately written by individuals who had wanted to immigrate to Canada.

They sold their homes, gave up their jobs, amassed their life savings, pulled their children from their schools and friends and launched themselves towards the great land of Canada.

Both were highly educated as engineers; both were confident after a short period of adjustment, they would find work and be able to support their families.

It just didn’t work out that way.

In a country crying out for skilled workers, their qualifications were questioned and their professional designations denigrated. There was no way to gain credit for their existing education and skills and support their families at the same time.

After six months, one was working as a security guard for $12 an hour, a long way from the career his education – and Canadian Immigration – had suggested would be his. They tried to stick it out, became Canadian citizens, enrolled their children in schools and tried to assimilate.

And, finally, after a number of hard years of not getting ahead, both letter writers returned to their native countries where they would be able to raise their families to a higher standard of living.

Both feel utterly betrayed by the Canadian government which encouraged them to apply, levied large immigration fees and didn’t breathe a hint of the challenges that would face them.

We all know nurses who are working as house cleaners and doctors who are driving taxi cabs. There is something very wrong about encouraging skilled workers to immigrate to Canada, and then refuse them the opportunity to work in their fields once they arrive.

There have been some efforts recently to right these inequalities. There is a plan on the table to put in place a process for the recognition of international educations and skills.

I don’t know how many of our citizens living abroad are those that chose to leave because they were mislead by the promise of Canada but I appreciate the letter writers who reminded me that not all who leave Canada are cut from the same cloth.


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