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The Toronto Star published a story this week about Amrit Soar, an immigrant from Kenya who came to Canada in 2007. Immigration officials told Soar that she would be a perfect fit for Canada, because she was a lawyer with over 18 years of experience in her native country. She was also a partner in a successful law firm, and officials told her that was just what Canada was looking for.
Soar turned out to be just one more immigrant coming to Canada who thought that her qualifications – and rightfully so – would be enough in Canada. Instead, to practise law in Canada she would have to take several courses as well as exams, and would not be able to work in her field until she had completed.
“Everywhere I applied, they asked for Canadian work experience, and I found I could not get Canadian work experience without Canadian work experience,” she told the Star.
While many professions are being fast-tracked through various processes that allow people trained and educated in other countries to work in Canada faster, the field of law hasn’t progressed very far.
However, Soar and several other organizations, including the University of Toronto Law School and the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, are planning on changing this fact. National law firm Fraser Milner became the first to offer a paid internship for lawyers who have trained in other countries, and the first of these interns was Soar herself. Typically, internships aren’t paid and they leave a difficult choice for those who enter into them – gain valuable experience, or eat?
The internship provided Soar with exactly what she needed – Canadian work experience. The University of Toronto has also introduced a ten-month course to assist lawyers trained in other countries get accreditation in Canada.
Soar still has to pass accreditation exams, but the internship has provided her with an income as well as a way to gain Canadian work experience while she studies, something that a lot more Canadian organizations should consider doing if they want to encourage more skilled immigrants to come to and benefit Canada.
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