Canada – Foreign Trained Professionals and FARPA

Canada – Foreign Trained Professionals and FARPA (“Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act”)

July 26, 2010

John Richardson

Barrister and Solicitor

Toronto, Canada

Admitted to the bars of Ontario, New York and Massachusetts

“It’s a story that replays for thousands of new arrivals each year: a skilled immigrant arrives in Canada with high hopes. He or she is an engineer, a teacher, a lawyer, a financial planner, a business executive, a [insert profession here]. With no luck finding relevant work in Canada, he or she realizes going back to school, retraining and even getting re-licensed may be the first steps necessary before he or she can even dream of getting a job in his or her area of expertise.”

Canadian Immigrant Magazine

When it comes to immigrating to Canada, for foreign trained professionals, there has been both good news and bad news.

First, the good news:

Canada is a prosperous, civilized country which is open to immigrants from all parts of the world.

Now, the bad news:

It has historically been very difficult for immigrants to practice their professions or to have their educational qualifications recognized. In Ontario there is a shortage of doctors. Yet, foreign trained doctors drive taxis. People are more comfortable getting legal services in their mother tongue. Yet foreign trained lawyers are denied admission to the bar. Foreign trained teachers are uniquely qualified to “bring the world” to the classrooms of our students. Yet, they are denied  entry to the teaching profession. The list goes on and on. Not only is this unfair to immigrants, but it denies Canadian society the benefits of immigrants’ education and perspectives.

The Regulated Professions Are Particularly Hostile to Foreign Trained Professionals

In Canada, the admission to professions is under the jurisdiction of the provinces. To make matters worse, many provinces have a tradition of allowing many professions to govern themselves. These professions are called “Self Governing Professions”. In general, “Self Governing Professions” have the right to decide who and under what circumstances people can become a member. The most notorious example of a “Self Governing Profession” is the Ontario Legal Profession. The Law Society of Upper Canada has historically had the right to decide:

–         who will become a lawyer in Ontario; and

–         under what circumstances

The Law Society has made it particularly and unreasonably difficult for “foreign trained” lawyers to become a lawyer in Ontario.

Since 2007, admission to the legal profession in Ontario has become a lot easier for “foreign trained lawyers.”

The Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act

At least three Canadian provinces (Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia) have recognized the unfairness of not allowing foreign professionals admission to their professions. Each of these provinces (and it is likely that more will come) have enacted legislation which mandates the following general duty on regulated professions:

“A regulated profession has a duty to provide registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.”

In theory this means that:

First,  regulated professions must establish objective licensing requirements for foreign-trained applicants. In other words, foreign trained applicants have a statutory right to a process that will allow them to become licensed.

Second, the process of evaluating  foreign credentials,  must be done  in a way that is “transparent, objective, impartial, and fair.”

Although there are some other “bells and whistles”, this is the primary focus of the legislation. It should be noted that not all of the regulated professions are covered by Fair Access Legislation.

(It should be noted that the requirements in FARPA also apply to Canadians who leave Canada for their education. For example, there is a shortage of law schools in Canada.  As a result, many Canadians  study law abroad. These Canadians also have a right to have their foreign law degrees evaluated in accordance with FARPA.)

In any case, if you are a “foreign trained professional” who is considering immigrating to Canada you may want to consult a lawyer familiar with fair access legislation. This should be done earlier rather than later. You should not assume that the professions will have registration practices that are compliance with the law (sad but true).

Ontario has a “Fairness Commissioner” who is entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the law. On their site, you can see examples of foreign trained lawyers, engineers, teachers and accountants who have experienced difficulty in practicing their professions. Read their stories and watch their videos.

In addition to IELTS prep and getting their educational transcripts evaluated, it is important that foreign trained professionals coming to Canada, consider how they will become licensed to practice the profession of their choice!

Warning: The above article does not constitute and should not be considered to be legal advice for any particular individual. To obtain legal advice you should consult a licensed lawyer.