The second annual Premier’s Summit On Fairness For Newcomers took place on March 17, 2023, in Calgary. This year’s theme was “Creating pathways to success for newcomers: fairness, professional licensing, immigration and settlement.” The conference brings together immigration stakeholders from across Alberta – from settlement agencies and ethnocultural community organizations to employers and regulatory bodies – to discuss actions to support newcomer success and drive economic growth.
I attended the event wearing many hats – an industry representative, an LLC Media columnist, and an engaged Albertan and public policy professional. I was there to represent my employer, Enserva, a trade association representing the Canadian energy services, supply, and manufacturing sectors. Like many sectors in Alberta, our sector is experiencing a labour shortage. We need skilled trades to help us meet the demand for reliable and affordable energy today and to meet the opportunity of the energy transition tomorrow.
We have been advocating all levels of government that immigration needs to be part of the pathways to driving economic growth. We were pleased with the February 2023 announcement that Alberta will get to bring in more skilled newcomers through the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program. The Premier’s Summit on Fairness For Newcomers provided lots of learning and takeaways for how the industry can become a stronger partner for the successful settlement of newcomers through employment and mentorship.
I had the pleasure of attending the Summit with my father, who has volunteered in ethnocultural community organizations and settlement agencies since we immigrated to Canada in the late 1990s. From the perspective of ethnocultural community organizations and settlement agencies, they are often the ones intimately walking the integration journey with newcomers. They want to see better pathways for support for integration in the community and labour market.
Through two riveting panel sessions, the audience was privy to a newcomer experience discussion where internationally trained professionals shared their stories of immigration and integration in Canada and a regulated professions discussion where a variety of regulatory colleges shared recent initiatives to remove barriers to licensing for internationally trained immigrants. We heard the stories of lawyers, pharmacists, and nurses who had to start from scratch, further their studies, and surmount a myriad of obstacles to get back into their professional fields.
There were many cheers and claps as they shared their stories of resilience and advice for those who might be in their shoes today or those working to support them. Tough yet hopeful conversations were had with the panel of regulatory bodies as to how the need for public safety should be balanced and not be used as a premise to create barriers to entry for newcomers.
Although it would have been good to see a greater variety of regulatory bodies on the panel, and the conversation could have gone deeper, it was incredible that the conversation was happening at all. I doubt that many other provinces in Canada are bringing together different stakeholder groups often on opposing sides of an issue to tackle difficult conversations such as what occurred at the Summit.
The Summit program didn’t end there. The audience got to see and hear from several high-profile Alberta policymakers and decision-makers, including the Honourable Premier Danielle Smith herself, as well as the Honourable Ministers Madu, Sawhney, and Copping, to name a few. It showcased that the Government of Alberta takes the topic of newcomers’ settlement and integration seriously. The audience was delighted and inspired by the two keynote speakers: Manjit Minhas, beer baroness entrepreneur, and Nav Bhatia, Toronto Raptors’ Superfan. They each shared their inspiring journeys and left the audience with words of advice and encouragement to push to break barriers and strive for excellence.
I will end with a quote from Minister Madu’s welcome message, “everyone here today, regardless of their role, has something unique and worthwhile to contribute. Each one of us also had the opportunity to listen and learn, and my hope is that we will all leave the summit richer in knowledge and awareness and ready to act.”
Nancy Wanye writes for LCCMedia
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