Paving the way for newcomers to succeed

Immigration is as Canadian as hockey. Yet generations of immigrants continue to face barriers in their struggle to integrate into Canadian society and contribute fully to our city. In Thorncliffe Park, we seek to embrace newcomers and provide them with the means and tools they need to integrate, prosper and become an integral part of this city. However, that requires the ability to recognize the barriers newcomers face and the willingness to help them overcome their hurdles.

Because each immigrant comes to our city with dreams, aspirations and skills, we at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) imagine a city of welcoming communities where each newcomer is connected, included and successful. We imagine a city where an immigrant’s success is viewed as our success.

We imagine a city where the narrative of immigrants is what inspires change.

In our vision, immigrants who arrive in our city with hopes and aspirations to find a home and a purpose find both quickly.

We imagine a city that will listen to the story of immigrants like Tahir Rehman, an anaesthesiologist from Pakistan and resident of Thorncliffe Park, and incorporates his vision into this city’s vision.

This is Tahir’s story:

Tahir (left) and Jehad (right) take a walk around Thorncliffe and discuss the serious barriers facing newcomers when they arrive in Toronto. Tahir’s own story makes him passionate about helping to create an inclusive, welcoming city.

My name is Tahir Rehman and I arrived in Canada with my family on August 5, 2011. I still remember that feeling of excitement and energy as I set out to build a future in my new country. I had left behind a well-established career as an anaesthesiologist in Pakistan to start again from scratch. I had researched Canadian regulations governing the licensing of international medical graduates, and I was ready and eager to work hard and succeed. What I hadn’t bargained for were the barriers that would slowly but surely weaken my confidence and dampen my dreams for a good future for my family.

The first job I could get was in a meat factory in Mississauga. I worked there for four months until I suffered a back injury from the hard labour. I had to leave that job and find employment at another menial, though less physically strenuous job. I also struggled to improve my language skills so that I could re-qualify as a physician in Canada. As I tried to survive financially, I also continued to prepare for my medical licensing exams. It was incredibly difficult to concentrate on my studies while juggling the demands of supporting my family.

I have had my credentials evaluated and am trying to find work in allied fields. I am attending LINC classes and employment workshops at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) to improve my language and communication skills. I am putting on a brave face for my family while grappling with my growing feelings of disappointment and frustration the only thing that is keeping me on my path is the hope of surmounting these barriers one day, of becoming a successful professional in Toronto, a city I have grown to love. I am still struggling to reach my goals.

I believe that our city would be a better place to live in if these unnecessary barriers were removed. I imagine a city where newcomers would feel confident of achieving personal and professional success. I imagine a city where the only prerequisites for success would be honest hard work and professional expertise and a city where newcomers like me would have meaningful options for upgrading their skills and building successful careers. I imagine a city where I would be able to do what I am good at, to contribute my knowledge and talents and to be accepted and recognized. I am just one of many highly trained newcomers who are desperately trying to break down these barriers which seem almost insurmountable. I have lost much of my self- confidence but I haven’t lost hope. I am not afraid to work hard and persevere; all I want is a fair chance at success. As they say, ‘If you can imagine it, you can achieve it’

I am still holding on to my dreams and hoping for a change.

We at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office share Tahir’s imagination, of a city that makes the promise of integration a reality for all immigrants.

We imagine a city where immigrants and immigration are celebrated for their contributions and recognized for their talents. We imagine a city that recognizes the credentials and qualifications of immigrants and a city that does not ask about “Canadian experience” so that the promise of immigration is a reality for all immigrants. One day, we hope, the “Canadian Experience” requirement will be disregarded as a form of discrimination.

We imagine a city where immigrants come for the opportunity and stay to build a community, a “beloved community”.

We imagine a city where immigrants are not just numbers, but city builders. If we want to be an immigration superpower we must be global leaders in attracting, retaining and unleashing the talents of those whom we invest so much in attracting. This is the morally correct, economically sound and demographically imperative thing to do.

19 thoughts on “Paving the way for newcomers to succeed

  1. This is a very challenging issue and a tough one for people like Tahir. I want to say a special thank you to Tahir for sharing his story and allowing us the opportunity to put a human face to the multible barriers facing newcomers. I also want to thank United Way for providing this forum to start this conversation. The time to address this is now. Thanks for all of you who shared your stories with us. Please keep up the pressure and continue to share stories like Tahir’s.

  2. It is always very hard to start from scratch and when we add to this mix all the red-tape hurdles it makes life really interesting!
    But always remember you are not alone and they are not out to get you; it is a system and we have to follow it. Success is not impossible and your hard work is bound to take you forwards.
    Of course one feels negative and frustrated but please don’t give up as we need our doctors to take their rightful place in the Canadian Medical circles. God bless you.

  3. Dr. Tahir,I fully empathize with you. Disregard for a person’s overseas qualification, strong emphasis on Canadian Licensing and Local / Canadian experience requirement are all too stringent conditions that are usually faced by immigrants seeking employment. Knowing that the applicant is an immigrant, it seems irrational to ask for local experience, yet one has to face it.
    May Almighty Allah pave a easy path for you and all other immigrants.

  4. Rather than focusing on the lack of ‘Canadian Experience’ as a set-back, one should focus on ‘International Experience’ as strengths that newcomers bring to Canada. Many ‘Canadians’ who grew up in Canada lack proficiency in languages other than English, they may lack the world views that allows individuals to better understand the diverse needs that a city like Toronto have. It is a matter of fact that Canadian students who travel and seek experiences outside of Canada become more valued in the Canadian workplace. Newcomers already bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experiences. It is only a matter of time that they become acclimatized to Canadian life and they will indeed become valued contributors to the Canadian society.
    The ways I would suggest for newcomers to accelerate their settlement include:
    1. Don’t be shy; interact with English speaking individuals at every opportunity. Speak with the grocery clerk, greet your neighbours, ask your children about their day at school, attend your community’s cultural functions – you’ll meet others from your homeland whom you may share experiences. In these ways, you will start to expand your circle of friendships and networks.
    2. If you have children attending the local public school, volunteer in the school and your children’s classrooms. Most teachers welcome parents to share their home culture in the classrooms around the holidays that are listed in the multicultural calendars. Being involved in your children’s schooling will help you to understand Canadian culture, as well as help your children settle into their new life.
    3. There are many settlement agencies and government services – use the resources that are available. I commend Tahir on use the services of TNO.
    4. As well, use the language/culture-specific resources that are offered through cultural and professional associations.
    5. Don’t lose hope. Everything changes, and it is inevitable that you too, will find activities, friends, and work that you enjoy in this new place. You just need a positive outlook and perseverance…aim to contribute and you shall receive.
    My family and I were immigrants once upon a time and now we wouldn’t consider any place ‘home’ other than Toronto. Best wishes to you all.

    • I agree that the international education and experience that highly skilled immigrants possess can be a great strength. Even though it is perfectly reasonable for Canadian professional associations and regulating bodies to evaluate prior credentials, I think the whole process needs to be revised so that Canada can actually retain, utilize and benefit from the amazing talent and skills of the professionals it attracts.

  5. I am a Canadian who was born here. It is tough finding a job, but it becomes easier when you have CONTACTS and REFERENCES.

    Take whatever job you can.

    Build good relationships.


    GET A GOOD REFERENCE IN CANADA: in any job you can find here, show that you are a good, hard worker and willing to learn. Build a professional relationship with your employer. Ask for a reference.

    It becomes easier the more people you know.

  6. Job experience from your home country does not count because you need references. Your new employer will call up your previous employer to ask about what type of worker you were. The employer in Canada is not going to make a call to India or Pakistan for a reference.

    Try to find whatever job you can and build RELATIONSHIPS with Canadians. You can’t expect to come here and assume Canadian employers will embrace you without making an effort to fit in or build a relationship.

  7. I have worked for years in the academic and clinical research, side-by-side with immigrants who are physicians and cannot practice here. I would be pleased to meet with Tahir (over a cup of coffee) to assist him with his job search. Replies to this comment will reach my email address.

    • Paula what did you find the main barrier during your reearch ? please could you share with me

      • In my work, I found many people who had emigrated and were not able to practice their profession (medicine). Many of them decided that a Master’s degree would benefit them (and they went back to school), or they tried to get a job in the scientific department of pharmaceutical companies. This latter way seemed to be one that immigrants felt they could put their education to good use, despite their disappointment at being unable to practice. Humber College has a program that prepares people for careers in the pharmaceutical industry (Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs certificate), but you need to have at least an undergrad degree to enter. It includes a co-op program to gain real-world experience at a pharma company.

  8. Jehad and the TNO really are champions in the community and their work truly is helping so many. From creating meaningful opportunities for youth, to providing professionals with the training and integration help they need – the TNO really is a great place for newcomers. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  9. I want to know what we can do to remove the barriers around “Canadian experience”…what’s reasonable and what isn’t? For anyone who is a newcomer to Canada, what do you think? What has your experience been and if you could create the perfect system, what would it look like?

  10. Skilled workers are a big potentiel work force but it is held back by lack of canadian exprience.

  11. I consider it the feelings of all immigrants who are hoping for a city, in which we would not face these barriers and will never regret immigrating.My good wishes are with you .

  12. Its a v good story about immigrants and mostly immigrants face the same hurdles in settlement.

  13. Asking about “Canadian experience” is a big wall between new immigrants and a job of their field.

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