The Party Leaders – Their Positions on Foreign Professionals

Harper en rajoute concernant la souveraineté
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper
The Question Posed To The Leaders:
Many immigrants to Canada are encouraged and allowed to move here based on their professional experience or credentials, only to discover once they arrive that their credentials are not recognized. What role should the federal government play in addressing this problem?
The Answers:

The Conservative  Party

Stephen Harper’s government met the challenge of the global economic crisis head on with our world-leading Economic Action Plan. Support for foreign credentials recognition has been a key part of our economic agenda. In 2009, we invested $50 million over two years for the development and implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. This funding has helped to streamline the recognition process in a number of important occupations and made it easier for foreign-trained Canadians to use their skills and expertise in Canada. Continue reading “The Party Leaders – Their Positions on Foreign Professionals”


Canada’s lawyers broadening their horizons


Canada’s lawyers broadening their horizons
Canadians are seeking opportunities for legal education in other countries — notably England, Australia and the United States.

Reuters Files

Canadians are seeking opportunities for legal education in other countries — notably England, Australia and the United States.

Vern Krishna, Financial Post · Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

What a difference a generation makes in the composition of the Canadian bar and the international competencies required of Canadian lawyers, who are broadening their horizons and becoming increasingly international in outlook and scope of work. More foreign-trained lawyers are immigrating into Canada; more Canadians are going to study abroad in foreign law schools; and law firms are looking at forging international partnerships in Europe and the Middle East. Continue reading “Canada’s lawyers broadening their horizons”

UToronto to offer bridging for foreign-trained lawyers

By | July 3rd, 2009 | 4:24 pm

Program will offer academic training, language referrals, career services and employment counselling to lawyers who want to practice in Ontario

The University of Toronto is starting Ontario’s first bridging program for internationally trained lawyers, thanks in part to a $4 million investment in the program from the provincial government.

Every year, the Internationally Trained Lawyer Program will aim to help 100 lawyers who need accreditation to practice law in the province. Michael Chan, Ontario’s minister of citizenship and immigration, launched the program a ceremony last Tuesday.

More: Ranking Canada’s law schools

“We have tremendous international talent, a pool of talent here in Ontario for which we already have bridging programs, such as pharmacists, engineers and nurses, who are all internationally trained but are not currently in the job that they want,” said Chan. “Our economic prosperity depends on attracting skilled newcomers from around the world and retaining those people.”

The program will provide a range of services,  including provincial work experience, academic training, language support, career services and employment counselling. It’s set to operate out of U of T’s law faculty, and will be supported by groups including the Law Society of Upper Canada and the National Committee on Accreditation, in addition to local law firms.

For more information, click here.

Ontario Law Society approves report on Canadian Common Law Degree

Federation’s report on Canadian Common Law Degree approved –
Convocation approved the final report of the Federation Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree

The Federation’s final report recommends that law societies in common law jurisdictions establish a uniform educational requirement for entry to their bar admission programs or licensing processes. The requirement is expressed in terms of competencies in basic skills, awareness of appropriate ethical values and core legal knowledge that law students are expected to acquire during law school. The final report also sets out certain institutional requirements, such as prerequisites for entry and length of program, that law schools are expected to meet.

The Law Society will recommend to the Federation that the committee responsible for implementation include appropriate representation from Canadian law schools, and that law societies have an opportunity to approve the implementation committee’s recommendations. Full report.

Foreign-trained Professionals Have Some Much-Needed Leverage.

The Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act

Foreign-trained Professionals Have Some Much-Needed Leverage.

July 28, 2009

Each year, thousands of foreign-trained skilled professionals come to Canada seeking a better life, bringing with them years of education and practical experience in their field of expertise. However, in many instances, they arrive here only to discover their foreign credentials will not be recognized by the professional associations responsible for issuing the certifications necessary to continue in their chosen profession. Without access to certification, many foreign-trained skilled professionals have no choice but to seek work in an alternative field, often performing manual or unskilled work, to support their families. In attempting to obtain certification, these skilled professionals often encounter frustration, needless bureaucracy, and closed doors.

In 2006, the Ontario Legislature enacted the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act (“FARPA”), which requires professional associations in Ontario to provide registration practices for foreign-trained professionals that are “transparent, objective, impartial and fair.” By enacting this legislation, the government of Ontario has recognized that, in far too many instances, engineers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professionals who come from abroad face an unnecessarily difficult battle in obtaining certification to continue their chosen profession in Ontario. This is also true for professionals born in Canada who go abroad for university and then return, only to discover their foreign credentials are not readily recognized in Ontario.

Pursuant to FARPA, regulated professions must establish objective licensing requirements for foreign-trained applicants. In assessing an applicant’s foreign credentials, professional associations must do so in a way that is “transparent, objective, impartial, and fair.” Registration decisions must be made within a reasonable period of time, and the association must provide a written response to the applicant, providing written reasons for its decision. The professional association also must provide the right to an internal review or appeal of its decision within a reasonable period of time, and the applicant must be provided the right to present oral or written arguments in support of the appeal. FARPA further provides that an applicant has the right to access the professional association’s records that relate to the application.

If an association fails to abide by FARPA’s requirements, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner is authorized to issue an order to the association compelling it to comply with FARPA. If the association fails to comply with such an order, in addition to other legal remedies that might be available to the applicant, the association could be subject to a fine in an amount up to $100,000.

Take for example a recent immigrant who is a professional engineer in his home country with many years of work experience. When he applies for certification with the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, the Association must assess his foreign credentials, including his educational background and work experience, based on criteria that are objective and fair. In other words, the Association must conduct a real assessment of his foreign credentials in light of criteria that have a real relationship to the same minimum requirements imposed on domestically trained applicants – the Association cannot impose greater or different standards on a foreign-trained applicant.

If the Association determines the applicant’s foreign credentials do not meet its criteria for licensing, the Association must provide in writing the basis for its decision, explaining how the criteria have not been met. However, it will not be sufficient to merely state what additional training or education is required. Rather, the Association must state why the additional training or education is required in light of its objective criteria. Moreover, the Association must provide the applicant with an opportunity to appeal and present oral and written arguments in response to the Association’s decision.

In this regard, FARPA can be an extremely effective tool in the hands of a foreign-trained professional. If the professional association has not established real objective criteria, cannot articulate the basis for its licensing decision, or cannot show it has acted fairly and impartially, the association will find itself in violation of FARPA. The applicant will then have a variety of potential remedies at its disposal, including seeking an order from the Office of the Fairness Commissioner and seeking enforcement of legal rights in court. Given that, the ultimate objective for every foreign-trained professional is to be treated fairly and impartially, requiring Ontario’s professional associations to comply with FARPA can go a long way in helping foreign-trained skilled professionals continue in their chosen fields and realize their dream of a better life.

Stephen J. Maddex is an associate in the Commercial Litigation Group in Ottawa. Before joining Lang Michener, he practiced with two large law firms in Houston, Texas, where he gained significant trial experience and appeared in courts all over the state. His practice focuses on U.S./Canada Cross-Border Litigation. For further information regarding FARPA, contact him directly at 613 232-7171 ext. 108 or

Foreign-trained lawyers hold their breath for help

Foreign-trained lawyers hold their breath for help
January 15, 2009

Paul Dalby

The legal profession in Ontario is perhaps the last place you would expect initiatives to create a level playing field for newcomers, especially from other countries.

Nigerian lawyer Nicholas Owodunni found out just how tough when he arrived one year ago with his new wife, Elizabeth, a Canadian-trained social worker.

Owodunni, 39, had trained at the Obafemi Awolowo University and the Nigerian Law School before logging seven years of general law practice.

But he was not prepared for the maze of requirements and regulations that sat between him and a law career in Ontario.

“The actual problem I had was in getting my accreditation,” he says. “I had to call back to Nigeria to get actual transcripts from law school and the university.” That took a lot of time.

Now, Owodunni must write nine exams, each costing $525 before he can search for an articling job.

Meanwhile, he has obtained his licence as a financial adviser, but he is determined to return to law.

Internationally trained lawyers following in Owodunni’s footsteps might have an easier time in the future, thanks to new plans being rolled out in the halls of Toronto’s world of law.

The first is a pilot project that seeks to bridge the gap for newcomers from overseas, which is being launched by one of the country’s pre-eminent law firms, Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC).

Deadline for applications to the six-month paid internship program at FMC closed earlier this month and the first candidates will arrive at the Toronto law firm in early February.

The internship will break down the mysteries of the law culture in Canada and give candidates work experience to put on their resumés and provide contacts in the profession.

Those assets are considered essential to nailing down the all-important articling job that launches law careers in Canada.

Meanwhile, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law has submitted a proposal to the Ontario government for an end-to-end bridging program to help ease internationally trained lawyers into the Canadian system.

“While FMC’s work is fantastic, we need more,” says Jane Price, faculty director of professional diversity and legal opportunities. “If we get government funds, we will use FMC’s internship as a pilot to try and get other people to follow suit.”

The U of T proposal would provide international lawyers with job skills training, courses on cultural fluency, academic courses and a job placement.

Price says the decks are currently stacked against internationally trained lawyers. “Their barriers are really enormous, and I think people are recognizing we are not doing a fantastic job here.”

Foreign trained lawyers face hurdles

Foreign-trained lawyers face hurdles

By Michael Rappaport
December 11 2009 issue

[TL Price for The Lawyers Weekly, Images by]
Click here to see full sized version.

Lawyers trained abroad who want to practise in Canada must overcome many hurdles, not least of which is having their legal education and experience recognized by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC).

The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is the standing committee of the FLSC that is responsible for evaluating the credentials of foreign-trained lawyers and awarding certificates of qualification that permit the recipient to apply to write Bar admission exams in most provinces with the exception of Quebec, which has its own process. In Manitoba and the Maritime provinces, the NCA’s recommendations are considered on a less formal basis.

According to FLSC statistics, in the past decade the number of applicants has more than tripled from 225 in 1999 to 749 in 2009. Of the 749 applicants who applied to be assessed by the NCA in 2009, the majority were from the U.K. (203), followed by the U.S. (141), India (107), Australia (79) and Nigeria (39).

Deborah Wolfe, managing director of the NCA, says evaluation of applications is a multi-stepped process.

‘First, we look at the country where the applicant did their law degree, whether it’s a common law, hybrid or civil law jurisdiction. Then, we examine the law school the applicant attended, whether it’s accredited, how high its standards are and the course of study. Finally, we review the applicant’s grades overall and work experience,’ Wolfe explains.

After the NCA reviews an applicant’s qualifications, the NCA will recommend the following options: (1) the applicant pass challenge examinations in specified areas of law; (2) the applicant take specific courses at a Canadian law school; or (3) the applicant complete a Canadian law degree.

‘Over 80 percent of the time, applicants are told to complete challenge exams or take additional courses at law school,’ Wolfe says. At a minimum, applicants must write four challenge exams in the following core subjects before they may be granted a certificate of qualification: (i) constitutional law, (ii) criminal law, (iii) evidence and (iv) corporate law.

Foreign-trained lawyers must pay $525 to have their credentials evaluated by the NCA. The challenge exams each cost $525 to write, not including the cost of required textbooks. Overall, Wolfe estimates that even if an applicant is required to write only the minimum number of exams, he or she can expect to spend around $3,000.

The challenge exams are self-study and there has been a distressingly high failure rate. According to FLSC statistics, 4,515 foreign-trained lawyers applied to be assessed from 1999 to 2009, but less than half of applicants, 1,708, ended up with certificates of qualification.

In response to the low rates of successful applicants, the government of Ontario partnered with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law to create the first ever bridging program aimed to assist foreign-trained lawyers seeking accreditation to practise law in Ontario.

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law will be opening its Internationally Trained Lawyer (ITL) program in September 2010 with $4 million in funding from the government of Ontario. Other stakeholders include the Law Society of Upper Canada, the National Committee on Accreditation, Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council, Pro Bono Law Ontario and Pro Bono Students Canada, as well as a number of law firms.

In an interview with The Lawyers Weekly, Jane Kidner, the assistant dean of the ITL program, commented upon the challenges faced by foreign-trained lawyers who want to practise in Canada.

‘It’s a problem that has plagued the profession for years. There are increasing numbers of lawyers who want to practise in Canada but many barriers that stand in their way,’ Kidner says.

Currently, the challenge exams are all self-study, so applicants who have difficulty with the material are on their own. The exams are graded either pass or fail, and applicants are permitted to rewrite an exam once. However, if applicants fail the exam a second time, they are instructed to take a course in the prescribed subject matter at a Canadian law school.

‘Many of these lawyers come to Canada with superb credentials, solid legal backgrounds and substantial experience, but they lack the linguistic fluency and cultural norms to succeed,’ Kidner says.

The ITL program is designed to assist applicants prepare for the NCA challenge exams and also to help foreign-trained lawyers adapt to Canada, with an emphasis on language and cultural fluency training. The one-year program will charge about $3,000 for tuition, which includes the costs of cultural fluency workshops and legal work placements.

Workshops in cultural fluency are essential, according to Kidner, since many foreign-trained lawyers may not be aware of the expectations and cultural norms that Canadians take for granted. In addition, she says the work placements will provide students with an opportunity to learn on the job and begin to develop their own contacts, which may lead to articling positions or future employment.

The ITL program plans to admit about 90 to 95 qualified candidates for the September 2010 school year.


Some complain about Canadian accreditation process

Some foreign-trained lawyers who applied to have their education and experience evaluated by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) have complained that the process isn’t sufficiently transparent and the NCA recommendations sometimes differ widely for applicants with very similar backgrounds.

When the NCA reviewed the applications from Modupe Egunjobi and Solmaz Separy, they should have appeared very similar — at least on paper.

Both obtained law degrees from law schools in common-law jurisdictions: Egunjobi from the University of Ibaban in Nigeria and Separy from the University of Buckingham in England. Both performed very well in their respective academic programs. After completing their bachelors’ of law, both earned masters’ in law from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

The only difference between Egunjobi’s and Separy’s law degree programs was that Egunjobi’s law degree program took the traditional three years while Separy’s law degree program was condensed into two years without any summer break.

Yet the NCA recommended that Egunjobi pass four challenge exams — the bare minimum —while Separy was informed that she would have to write eight challenge exams if she wanted to be eligible to write the Bar admission exams. Given that each exam costs $525 to write (not including material) and can take weeks of preparation, the difference was not trivial.

Egunjobi says that she knew of many other applicants with similar experience that were given different recommendations by the NCA. She was critical of the NCA for not providing sufficiently detailed justifications for their decisions.

‘The committee was not transparent. They did not provide an explanation as to how they arrived at their decision,’ Egunjobi says. Currently, Egunjobi is an articling student at the Family Responsibility Office at the Ministry of Community and Social Services

In an interview with The Lawyers Weekly, Deborah Wolfe, managing director of the NCA, defended the evaluation process and maintained that the reasons given for the recommendations were sufficient. ‘We tell people why they were assigned exams,’ Wolfe says. ‘It could be because they didn’t take a course or their performance was poor.’

‘People might feel that they are treated unfairly since they might have lots of practice but still they may lack knowledge in the areas we require,’ says Stéphane Rivard, president of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

In contrast, Separy, who is currently an associate at the Toronto office of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, says that ‘more disclosure on the assessment process would be welcome.’