The new Ontario immigration policy is an important first step | Shahera Hyatt

The long-awaited overhaul of Ontario’s immigration system should help ensure highly trained workers have the opportunity to contribute to the province’s prosperity.

For years, I worked on-reserve with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation on health issues, including intergenerational health issues and training programs for Indigenous people in Northern Ontario. As part of the Provincial Nominee Program, I travelled around the world, learning from local health professionals.

Unifor’s Shahera Hyatt argues Canada must create job opportunities for immigrant workers Read more

At my last job in Ireland, for example, I met youth without access to training – jobs I am not trained for. If we want to create opportunities for those young people, it’s imperative we have an immigration system that guarantees they have access to quality training programmes in this province.

Currently, migrant workers are often forced to settle on regional reserves because of a lack of training. That’s why such measures as de-briefing sessions are so important to create an environment that encourages and empowers future generations of workers.

The changes announced last week are a positive step towards improving access to training. The province of Ontario is demonstrating commitment to supporting intergenerational approaches to training.

Under the changes, Ontario’s new publicly accessible training portal will feature information on how the province supports skills training for new Canadians. It will also make it easier for current skilled workers to access the support they need to stay in the workforce and ensure they have access to the qualifications they need.

First and foremost, the policy changes announced by Ontario show a commitment to transforming Ontario’s immigration system to be more flexible. This is an essential first step, because diverse populations can only contribute to a national or a local economy when they can access the skills and capabilities they need, across provincial boundaries.

Furthermore, several international immigrant partnerships are being established with the goal of hiring internationally trained workers in Ontario. This effort will focus on integrating highly skilled labour from destinations like India, Canada and Ireland, who are tied to local communities and share an interest in doing business with Ontario.

By creating foreign direct investment opportunities for existing businesses, the policy changes could also encourage small businesses to bring talent to Ontario, which will strengthen our economic competitiveness. Canada’s economy depends on skilled workers and we must find ways to ensure they have access to the training they need.

There is much still to be done. The province needs to ensure we’re building opportunities for future generations of workers to experience success in our nation’s economy. But the changes announced last week are a step in the right direction, and we are pleased to see the province taking the necessary steps to ensure future generations benefit from this policy change.

• Shahera Hyatt is regional president for the Ontario region at Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union

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