By Abbey Mikha
Discrimination is still occurring in Canada today against visible minorities in the workplace, and this is evident because of what I found in my research, but also because I have witnessed friends and family who are from subgroups go through this when seeking employment. When families come to Canada from other countries they hope for a better life for themselves and their children, but sometimes people who are doctors from foreign countries end up working as cab drivers, in fast food restaurants, or in convenience stores. It is my hope that there will be more opportunity and fairness in regards to these matters in the future in Canada. In the following essay I have presented the evidence from the literature that this type of discrimination still occurs in Canada. The people of the world are one, and although there is a difference in our education system of various societies, human beings should be given a chance if they can do the job and prove themselves, regardless of their ethnicity, skin color, or minority status. Perhaps in regards to education individuals could take courses to review material, but taking an entire degree all over again, from beginning to end, is a waste of time, which is what my Assyrian father was asked to do. This is excessive and bigoted.
In the article titled, “The Voices of Visible Minorities Speaking Out On Breaking Down Barriers” it discusses the situation of Fauzia and John. Here are their stories:
“Fauzia is a 35-year-old woman from Pakistan who came to Canada two years ago. Although she arrived under the “skilled immigrant” program, her search for employment in her field has not been easy: her educational background and previous work experience as a geologist did little to spark interest among potential Canadian employers. As a consequence, Fauzia has worked at relatively menial jobs in order to survive. Two months ago, she left her restaurant job for a team leader position in a geological consulting firm…. Fauzia is excited. This, she believes, is the “foot in the door” she’s been looking for. She sees it as her opportunity to use her talents”(Conference Board of Canada 2004).
John was born in Canada but he is also a minority:
“John, a black, Canadian-born man living in Toronto, had been working as a database administrator at a medium-sized company for three years when a managerial position became vacant. Possessing previous management experience and a solid knowledge of the company’s information technology (IT) structures, he felt that he was in a great position to be promoted. He was competing with only one other candidate, a white man. When the director told John that the position had been given to the other candidate, John asked why. He was told that even though his qualifications met the requirements of the job, he did not “fit” with the management culture of the organization” (Conference Board of Canada 2004).
These are examples of individuals who have faced discrimination in the workplace. These two should have been assessed according to their knowledge, experience, and education. They should not have been judged based on their ethnicity or skin color. This though is the reality of seeking employment in Canada. Not every single person is treated unfairly, but there are many instances such as those of Fouzia and John where opportunity was denied for the wrong reasons.
In the article titled, “The Voices of Visible Minorities Speaking Out On Breaking Down Barriers” it also said that in a recent Statistics Canada Survey six in 10 newcomers worked on different professional field than they had before coming to Canada. The same survey showed that many immigrants find themselves in sales, service, or processing and manufacturing occupations after they arrive. Not only do many migrants with degrees find themselves in low-level jobs, but they also earn less than those workers born in Canada (Conference Board of Canada 2004).
In this same article it also said that many of the immigrants in the skilled worker stream had come to Canada on the understanding that it would be easy to find work and to live a high quality of life. However this did not occur and it has become a big reason for frustration. People said, “I have the feeling that I was good enough for immigration but not good enough for Canadian employers.... If Canada needs cab drivers, then Canada should get cab drivers, not professionals” (Conference Board of Canada 2004).
In the article titled, “Devaluation of Immigrants' Foreign-Acquired Qualifications and Credentials” it also discussed the issue of skill discounting. It said that immigrants to Canada experience lower levels of earnings and labor force participation than do those people born in Canada. One of the most common problems in finding employment was that immigrants said that there was a lack of recognition of foreign education and skills (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
Also in this article it said that it has been reported that a foreign university degree held by an immigrant had an earnings return of less than one-third that of a Canadian university degree held by a native born employee, unless the immigrant was white. Then in which case the foreign degree was equivalent in value to a Canadian degree (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007). The proportion of immigrants to Canada who are visible minorities is high and increasing. As a result, the negative effects of skill discounting can be expected to become more severe in the coming years (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
From my personal experience in Canada I have witnessed that although Canadian people are friendly to most people, employers like to give jobs to Canadians of European descent, and tend to ghettoize people from other cultures especially Africa and now the Middle East.
What Canadians Believe in Regards to Discrimination on Visible Minorities in Canada:
According to the article titled, “Devaluation of Immigrants' Foreign-Acquired Qualifications and Credentials” adverse attitudes and beliefs about visible minorities and immigrants persist in Canadian society today. They are less unconcealed than in the past and function in indirect ways so that those who believe in these biases are often not aware of their effects. For example research has shown that white Canadians are predominantly likely to feel "uncomfortable" around visible minority immigrants and to prefer members of their own group (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
The same article discussed a recent poll which found that many Canadians see immigrants from Europe as making a bigger and better contribution to Canada than immigrants from Asia, India, or the Caribbean (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
In addition, immigrants are at times seen as competing with Canadians born in Canada for economic means and for cultural dominance. Beliefs about national identity, and attitudes such as, “To be a Canadian one must have been born in Canada, be part of the dominant culture, and be white, can also lead to the exclusion of immigrants and visible minorities” (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
According to the article titled, “Devaluation of Immigrants' Foreign-Acquired Qualifications and Credentials, Canadian Issues” it is also said that if visible minorities are asked about their experiences in Canada, many say they are definitely targets of discrimination because of their minority status. Recent analyses show that a substantial ratio of visible minorities like Blacks, Chinese, and South Asians, report having experienced discrimination and of feeling vulnerable to future discrimination (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
Although White Canadians acknowledge that racism exists in Canada, they are less prone than visible minorities to believe that it takes the form of fewer opportunities for visible minorities (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
Studies in Regards to Discrimination in Canada:
In the article, “Devaluation of Immigrants' Foreign-Acquired Qualifications and Credentials” it also discussed various studies. In their first study, partakers were asked to appraise an applicant for a marketing position in a Canadian firm with the information provided in his resume. Participants were presented with one of four resumes with corresponding qualifications. However, the applicant was presented as either an immigrant who had received his schooling in South Africa, or as a Canadian born who had received his education and instruction in Canada. In addition, through the applicant's name and his described participation in local clubs, they were able to imply that he was either white or black (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
When applicants were educated and trained in Canada, they were evaluated equivalently notwithstanding visible minority status. In this case, there was little doubt about qualifications and no ready justification for discrimination. When the applicants were immigrants with foreign qualifications, however, they found that the black immigrant applicant was evaluated significantly less approvingly than the white immigrant applicant and then the Canadian applicants. In these cases the fact that the individual had foreign qualifications made the situation unclear and provided an excuse for undervaluing the individuals (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
As a result, it was easy to judge the black applicant as unsuitable for the position without appearing to be prejudiced. Thus, even when there were no actual differences between the qualifications of the white immigrants and those of the black immigrants, the black immigrant with foreign skills was especially likely to have his skills discounted. Crucially, if there were true concerns about the foreign (i.e., South African) qualifications, the white applicant with these qualifications should also have been evaluated as inappropriate for the position. This did not occur. One rationale provided for discounting the black South African applicant's credentials was a need for Canadian experience meaning Canadian experience is needed in order to obtain a job to gain Canadian experience (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
In a second study, they examined the effects of prejudice more directly. First, in an independent context, they assessed partakers’ subtle prejudices. Several weeks later, they asked them to evaluate an applicant for a position at a health services clinic on the basis of information provided in her resume. In this study, the applicant was of Asian Indian ancestry in all cases. They varied, however, whether she was born and had received her education in Canada, in the United Kingdom, or in India. As in the previous study, the qualifications held by the applicants were equivalent. Nonetheless, they found that the application of an immigrant from India with Indian qualifications was evaluated less approvingly than the other two applications. Only individuals who had earlier been found to hold prejudicial attitudes provided this unfavorable evaluation. In this case, the foreign qualifications from India were seen as particularly unclear, and provided an excuse for those who held prejudicial attitudes to discriminate against the applicant. As in the previous study, if there were true concerns about the Indian qualifications, then the less prejudiced participants should have evaluated the applicant trained in India less favorably as well. Once again, this did not occur (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
The researchers involved in the previous studies said that their inquiry supports the assertion that visible minority immigrants are especially likely to experience discrimination in employment, and that this perception is specifically attributable to their visible minority status. The participants in the studies were likely unaware of the influence that their biases had on the evaluations they provided. Nonetheless, the very subtlety of these biases allowed them to operate unchecked, and allowed those who discriminate on the basis of their biases to confidently believe they are deciding objectively (Esses, Dietz, Bennett, Joshi, Chetan 2007).
The idea that having foreign qualifications makes it right to discriminate against visible minority immigrants is something that should be addressed by politicians in Canada. Minorities contribute to the Canadian economy and are a large part of the work force, and they should be appreciated and respected. Minorities do the jobs sometimes that no one else does.
I remember arriving in Canada in 1991 with my family. We had lived in Germany for five years before that time. My father, an Assyrian was looking for work in Toronto. He was previously employed as a pharmacist assistant in his country, but he could not work in his field in Canada because his college degree from Iraq was not accepted in Canada. If he wanted to be a pharmacist assistant again he had to go through the Canadian school college system. My father opted to work as a convenience store manager for many years because it was difficult to go back to school because he had a family to provide for. Life is difficult and Canadian government and employers should be more sensitive to minorities because many of them have come from war torn countries where life was very challenging and folks suffered a lot. The Assyrian people are a minority trying to achieve human rights in their ancestral Assyrian homeland, which is called “North of Iraq” today. They are for the most part hard working people who value education and trying to achieve success in life as human beings. My exploration into the subject matter of discrimination in trying to acquire employment in Canada has proven to me that minorities seeking employment with foreign credentials experience discrimination in Canadian society today including Assyrians fleeing from death and horror in Syria and Iraq.
Discrimination and false negative perception of minorities should be eliminated on a world scale, but especially of course in Canada where there is a multicultural society and a mosaic of nations. Employers in Canada should learn to accept others and respect them regardless of their background. This is a country of foreigners. You are not ethnic to this land unless you are a Native Aboriginal! A good person is a good person whether he or she is white, black, brown, yellow, red, or any other color that being human allows us to be, and a good worker is a good worker regardless where he or she received training, and should at least be given a chance to prove himself or herself.
Everyone deserves a future in the country they live, rather than being destined to be a cab driver for the rest of life, or perhaps even working a lower level job in the many scary factories in Canada, or working managing a convenience store where sometimes times Canadian people would say, "Go back to your country!" If our country Assyria was stable, not war torn, and we had the possibility of surviving and thriving in it believe me we would be in our homeland.
Conference Board of Canada (2004). The Voices of Visible Minorities Speaking Out on Breaking Down Barriers. Retrieved February 4th 2013 from: <http://triec.ca/uploads/368/voices_of_visible_minorities.pdf>
Esses, Victoria M; Dietz, Joerg; Bennett-Abuayyash, Caroline; Joshi, Chetan (2007). Devaluation of Immigrants' Foreign-Acquired Qualifications and Credentials, Canadian Issues, 114-118.
Swidinsky, Robert; Swidinsky, Michael (2002). The Relative Earnings of Visible Minorities in Canada: New Evidence from the 1996 census: 630-659.
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Abbey is a writer and blogger interested in humanitarian issues. She is also a defender of her Assyrian nation, from a young age spreading the Sacred Assyrian Message.
All articles at the Assyrian Thinker website are the copyright (©) 2016 Abbey Mikha