Eleanor Guerrero Campbell: Both the mandate letter to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Minister John McCallum and the Speech from the Throne are re-assuring of the federal government’s commitments to deliver on its 2015 election platform on immigration.
That platform was well received by the Canadian Filipino community and, confidently, by other immigrant communities as reflected in our editorial at the start of this special November issue. What progress has since been made on the specific commitments and what are their implications or ramifications?
Rey D. Pagtakhan: I suggest we dialogue on the one-year progress that has been made on the list of commitments in the order they have been sequenced in Part I.
1. Canada’s diversity in Government
This promise has been fulfilled. Canada’s diversity, including visible minority and gender parity, has been reflected in the Justin Trudeau cabinet since officially sworn into office on November 4, 2015.
EGC: Do you see any ramification? Could you give an example of an issue and an initiative to illustrate your point?
RDP: One ramification I see is the development of expectation, on the part of the immigrant communities, that cabinet – the government of the day – would take on initiatives and seize on opportunities to advance federal policies and develop appropriate programs that touch on the priorities of immigrants and new citizens. Accreditation of foreign-obtained credentials in the professions and trades – an issue that had already been debated in the mid-nineties in the House of Commons – is one compelling issue that continues to cry for more action. While inherently within provincial jurisdiction, the federal government could help further advance the issue by way of a federally funded national apprenticeship or traineeship program in partnership with the provinces.
The two levels of government should go beyond tool-kits on how to navigate the system and move forward on programs that would put bread and butter on the table for the families of new immigrants while the newly arrived breadwinners pursue an apprenticeship or traineeship program for a defined period of time.
Partnership support of educational institutions and provincial regulatory bodies should be further explored to help achieve this objective. Developments in these areas would help enhance our labor force in the professions and trades, optimize utilization of the immigrants’ talents and skills, ensure their equitable remuneration, facilitate their settlement and integration, assist in the removal of inter-provincial trade barriers and allow for greater mobility of human resources – all for the good both of Canada’s economy and social cohesion.
EGC: What about the promise to establish a government-wide appointment process based on merit, any progress?
RDP: Yes, this promise has also been fulfilled. The Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments and the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments – both constituted this year and widely reported – exemplify the new government-wide appointment process. While the shortlists of names provided are non-binding on the Prime Minister and the new process may not be wholly perfect in achieving its goals, the resulting appointments to date to these two Canadian institutions reflect a more rigorous commitment to merit, integrity, non-partisanship, gender balance and to Canada’s diversity.
Less profiled by the media but no less important, the same merit-based criteria to the selection process now apply to all Governor-in-Council (GIC) appointments to Crown corporations, government agencies, boards, commissions, and quasi-judicial tribunals. These federal institutions easily reach over 1,500 nationwide. Vacancies will be advertised in government websites and other online or print media, and for “ leadership positions (chairs, CEOs, heads of agencies, agents and officers of Parliament, ombudsmen) and all full-time positions”, published in the Canada Gazette.
Indeed, the new Government of Canada has moved quickly to fulfill its particular promise for a more rigorous merit-based approach to government-wide appointments.
“Merit will be assessed through a process that is reflective and appropriate for the organization’s mandate and operating context.”
Moreover, openness and transparency have become the order of the day. The impact of these changes is real and palpably far-reaching. Our diverse citizenry can sense fair and equal opportunity to render service to their country. Community leaders would do well to be vigilant and play their volunteer advocacy role to spread the news.
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