Alberta bill aims to speed up accreditation of foreign-trained professionals

Bill 11, the Fair Registration Practices Act, was created after the United Conservative Party heard from people who trained as professionals and tradespeople in other countries about the delays they face getting their credentials recognized in Canada.

UCP heard from immigrant professionals facing long delays in getting credentials recognized

Foreign-trained professionals like physicians and engineers have faced delays in getting their credentials recognized in Canada. (Thomas Kienzle/Associated Press)

If a professional regulator is taking too long to evaluate the foreign training of engineers or doctors, the Alberta government wants the power to speed up the process.

The government wants to work with professional bodies first, but Premier Jason Kenney said he is prepared to take strong action if the accreditation process doesn't improve. 

"If...we see that there are some professional bodies that are abusing their authority to erect unjustifiable barriers to registration and certification, then I will be prepared to remind them that we could de-designate them and create new regulatory bodies in their place," he said. 

Bill 11, the Fair Registration Practices Act, was created in response to stories the United Conservative Party heard from people who trained as professionals and tradespeople in other countries about the delays they face getting their credentials recognized in Canada.

Kenney, who described the issue as a passion of his, said it was immoral and unethical to encourage skilled immigrants to come to Canada only to face underemployment because they can't work in the trades or professions they are trained for. He says he doesn't want to lower standards, but instead make the process fair, fast and transparent. 

The bill doesn't give Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping the authority to intervene in individual cases but would grant him the ability to work with regulators to ensure their processes are fair and issue orders if they don't comply.

Expectations for how applications are to be evaluated will be laid out in the legislation through the Fair Registration Practices Code.

Under the act, organizations like the College of Physicians and Surgeons will have six months to provide applicants with an interim decision, which could include advice on what additional documentation and extra training is required.

But there is no deadline for an applicant to receive a final decision, as different professions have different requirements.

Organizations that ignore compliance orders can face fines up to $50,000.

The minister can, under the act, perform audits and ask for reports into how organizations assess foreign credentials.

The Fair Registration Practices Code, included in the bill, will lay out what the government considers to be a transparent and impartial process.

The government wants to set up a Fair Registration Practices Office with a budget of $2.5 million to receive complaints and provide information for newcomers, as well as work with professional and trade organizations. 

Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia also have legislation governing the registration practices followed by professional and trade regulators.

Kenney wants his fellow premiers to discuss the issue of recognizing foreign credentials at next month's Council of the Federation meeting in Saskatoon. He also wants to convene a provincial summit on fairness to newcomers involving new Albertans, employer groups, settlement organizations and professional regulatory bodies.

The government also wants to provide more access to micro-loans to help people pay for additional training as well as expand the work of Alberta's international qualifications assessment service. 

The bill covers more than 60 regulatory bodies for professions which include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, architects and engineers. 



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