Immigrating for the Canadian dream may not be all it’s chalked up to be

Mohammad Faisal Kaukab (C) with his daughter, Muriha Manaal (L) and his son Muhammad Mujtaba Yousafzai (R) in Regina, December 17, 2013. Don Healy / Leader-Post


REGINA — It was May 2009 when Mohammad Faisal Kaukab applied to immigrate to Canada from Pakistan.

“There is a very good image about Canada,” Kaukab said. “It is a welcoming society and people care about each other, so that’s why I chose Canada.”

That decision would prove to be the easiest part of the immigration process, which was marred by red tape and a backlog of immigration files.

“It took me four years to immigrate to Canada,” Kaukab said.

And things haven’t got much easier for Kaukab since arriving in Regina on Oct. 1.

Despite having a degree in chartered accounting and more than a decade of on-the-job experience, Kaukab’s credentials are essentially meaningless in Canada until they’re assessed and recognized by a designated body – in this case, the International Qualifications Assessment Service.

The process could take anywhere from four to six months. For other professions, such as engineering or health care, the process can take years.

In the meantime, Kaukab is supporting his wife and two kids with funds brought with him from Pakistan, and taking employment courses offered through the Regina Open Door Society.

He estimates his funds will last another three months.

When they run out, he’ll be forced to find what has come to be known as a survival job, a job taken on by an over-qualified immigrant to make ends meet until something better comes along.

But Kaukab has heard firsthand from other immigrants how hard it can be to break out of those jobs.

“They say, ‘OK, we are making enough money and we can live (off of) that money,’” Kaukab said. ”They are basically sacrificing all their skills and their life, and they are just looking after their family.

They are not filling the actual role which has to be played by these people by immigrating to Canada.

“They are in the system but they are not a valuable addition to the system.”

Mohammad Faisal Kaukab in Regina, December 17, 2013. Don Healy / Leader-Post

A pan-Canadian framework has been put in place to help streamline the assessment of foreign qualifications. The framework represents an agreement of cooperation between provinces, territories and the government of Canada.

It states that immigrants looking to enter regulated professions in Canada will receive clear information as early as possible in the immigration process, as well as fair treatment and prompt communication during the recognition process.

As of May 2013, all immigrants coming through the federal skilled worker program must have their foreign credentials assessed before coming to Canada.

Upcoming changes to the Saskatchewan Immigration Act will also ensure that those coming to work in Saskatchewan have their credentials in place before arriving, executive director of immigration services Kirk Westgard said.

These changes should make it easier for new Canadians, but as Kaukab waits for his accreditation and navigates the Canadian job market, he thinks about the job he left behind on the promise of a better life for his family in Canada.

Now he’s not so sure the Canadian dream is all it’s chalked up to be.

“Over here, I’m fighting to earn bread and butter for myself and my family,” he said. “It’s a hell of a sacrifice.”

And should his long-term goal of using his training to contribute to Canada’s needs prove unfruitful, he’ll likely cut his losses and return toPakistan.

“Instead of going for the social assistance, I would prefer to go back home,” Kaukab said.

“If you’re not contributing to society, it’s better to leave and to try your luck somewhere else.”

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