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Labour mobility across Canada and across the Atlantic

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The free flow of skilled workers across provincial and national boundaries has become increasingly relevant in the age of free-trade markets and globalization.  To remain economically competitive with an efficient labour market, Canada has been taking steps to improve labour mobility and foreign credential recognition both at home and abroad.  Agreements have recently been signed both at the provincial level, and between Canada and the European Union.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) Minister Diane Finley has recently signed three new agreements with her counterparts in the European Union to improve labour mobility between Canada and the EU.  The goals of these agreements are to facilitate international labour mobility, improve foreign credential recognition, and strengthen the partnership between Canada and the European Union.

One of the agreements is a commitment to organizing two roundtable discussions on foreign credential recognition and labour mobility; one in Europe later this year and the other in Canada in 2010.

The other two agreements are narrower in scope, focusing on engineers and environmental professionals.  They seek to align practices in the engineering field and to develop mutual certification frameworks for environmental workers in Canada and the EU.  Other sectors will be considered for future agreements.

The EU and Canada have also agreed to open negotiations on a new free-trade pact at the beginning of May.  One of the goals is to allow the temporary movement of workers between Canada and the 27-member bloc.

At the national level, British Columbia (BC) recently became the first province in Canada to introduce legislation to clear the way for full labour mobility for all trades and professions across the country.  The new BC bill will allow a person who has been certified in their trade or profession in any Canadian jurisdiction, to work in their field in any other jurisdiction in Canada.  Similar legislation is being enacted across the country as the federal and provincial governments work towards full national labour mobility.

“This legislation provides a solid foundation for out future success, ensuring we have the human resources BC will need in the coming decades,” stated BC Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, Murray Coell.

BC has been a leader in the move towards a national labour mobility accord.  The province recently participated in a three-way joint cabinet meeting with the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan to collaborate on opening up Western Canada to new opportunities and to full labour mobility.

The Government of Canada has also been working to improve foreign credential recognition and workplace integration of newcomers.  Minister Finley and Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (CIMC) Minister Jason Kenney recently announced an investment of $50 million over the next two years to help newcomers with credential recognition so that they can work in their fields and contribute to the Canadian workforce more effectively.

“We compete in a global marketplace where the knowledge of our workforce is the key to our economy and our prosperity,” stated Minister Finley.  “That’s why Canada’s Economic Action Plan will invest $50 million over two years to speed up the process of assessing and recognizing foreign qualifications.”

Through this investment, new principles will be developed to guide the recognition of foreign credentials and new standards for the timely treatment of qualification recognition will be implemented.  Additionally, a list of priority occupations will be created and the Government of Canada will develop programs to help people begin the accreditation process in their home countries, before landing in Canada.

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