Mark Carney has been welcomed in the UK, so why won't Canada welcome British immigrants?

With almost a decade spent as a financial journalist, the ability to speak four languages and a diploma in astronomy, my first Canadian job was part-time in a book store

Share

As one Canadian completes the first month at an important new job in London it will be five years since I left London for a new life in Canada. Only one of us has been successful.

Mark Carney might be the Governor the Bank of England needs (as opposed to the one it deserves) but he's also the 'right' kind of foreigner coming over here and taking a British job.

Such transatlantic career success can only work one way, thanks to the concept of "Canadian Experience". This a Catch-22 situation where Canadian employers ask for prior experience in a Canadian workplace, leaving many newcomers, especially those from developing countries, toiling in menial, under-paid work.

But what makes the experience of working in Canada different from any other country in the world? Is the Pakistani scientist driving a cab in Toronto at a disadvantage because the laws of physics are somehow different in Canada?

“This is destructive and counter-productive,” Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission told me recently. The commission works to prevent discrimination and advance human rights in Ontario, the Canadian province with the largest population.

“I would suspect that some people require Canadian experience because they don’t want people who they see as unlike them and at times it could be motivated by stereotypes or discriminatory views,” Hall added. Her organization is the first Canadian human rights body to challenge employer attitudes to newcomers.

Despite its positive image, one important fact about Canada that I didn’t know until getting there was how a foreign career background and ethnic name would work against me and that the biggest barrier to employment in Canada would turn out to be Canadian employers themselves.

With almost a decade spent as a financial journalist, the ability to speak four languages and a diploma in astronomy, my first Canadian job was part-time in a book store. Underemployment is part and parcel of the process of gaining Canadian Experience.

My last salary in the UK was around £35,000. My first Canadian tax return showed that in my first year of work in Canada, I earned the equivalent of just £11,000. I almost cried. On the way home from my book store I’d cross a bridge over Toronto’s Don River and sometimes think about jumping in. “But if I did that,” I thought to myself, “then Canada’s won. I won’t be beaten by Canada.”

Deciding to brush up on my skills, I attended a job seeker’s course for foreigners. Sitting there on the first morning with about nine other foreigners, I felt as though I was in an episode of 70s sitcom Mind Your Language.

Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and the country’s financial hub yet someone with prior experience of covering financial markets has been routinely ignored by companies that, operating in a global marketplace, could make good use of my international experience.

“Are you calling from Australia?” one financial markets company asked me as I followed-up a job application. Another follow-up call, this time for a writing job at an online stock broker, I was berated by the human resources “professional” for having dared to apply for a job I was “obviously overqualified” for.

Even trying for a job in my own career field has been problematic. Lacking the financial firepower of London or New York, Toronto is a hub for the ethically ambiguous mining industry and openings for financial reporters are scarce. The local bureau of the last financial news company I worked for couldn’t be less interested in me and I even found myself applying for the same job twice at a different financial news firm after the person who had got the job the first time unfortunately committed suicide.

Bar work is also out of reach as the only brown-skinned people employed in the hospitality industry here are the kitchen staff, most of whom have fled persecution in Sri Lanka. Most Canadians think the Tamil Tigers are some kind of baseball team.

Another employment barrier are the fees charged by accreditation companies to vet foreign qualifications. Companies such as the Toronto Transit Commission routinely ask foreign-educated job seekers to get their qualifications verified by a company that charges around $300 just to apply for a job driving a tram or a bus. I doubt Mark Carney had to pay the equivalent of £150 for an academic background check.

Whether it’s pure prejudice, corporate incompetence or an unhappy mix of the two, I face the prospect of continued underemployment in a country where employers still ignore the extensive skills and experience I have to offer. Although I’ve spent enough time here to apply for a Canadian passport, is there really any point in staying in a country where I offer so much, but employers care so little?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories