Canada made groundbreaking steps in cementing its position as a world leader in refugee resettlement with an investment to expand its Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot program (EMPP).
Initially conceived in 2018 as a small research project, the EMPP assists refugees to resettle in Canada, and increases the country’s labour force at the same time, especially in the trades and healthcare sectors.
The program intends to transform this story into one of financial prosperity for refugees, allowing them to overcome one of the toughest obstacles they face upon resettlement, which is finding solid economic ground, and show some recognition for their work experience, while at the same time, boosting the Canadian economy.
“Resettlement provides refugees with the opportunity to live in safety and rebuild their lives, but it shouldn’t mean their career experience gets overlooked in the process,” said Sean Fraser, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship in a Dec. 13 press release announcing the new funding.
IRCC Minister Sean Fraser.
If successful, this new phase of the EMPP will see up to 2,000 skilled workers immigrate to Canada, and be provided assistance such as fee waivers; affordable loans to help them with their travel and resettlement expenses; and support throughout their job search process.
To accomplish this, the federal government partnered with organizations such as Talent Beyond Boundaries, TalentLift, and Jumpstart Refugee Talent, leveraging their on-the-ground experience to improve the selection process and the assistance refugees receive along the way.
Bassel Ramli, co-founder and Global Programs Director at Jumpstart Refugee Talent said, “The Canadian economy is experiencing chronic talent shortages across multiple sectors. Meanwhile, millions of refugees around the world are seeking durable solutions to secure better lives for their families.”
A report published by Statistics Canada states that the number of positions that employers were looking to fill reached 959,600 in the third quarter of 2022, and according to the Financial Post, some employers were resorting to robots and automation to keep their businesses in operation.
In recent times, Canada has been at the helm of global initiatives to assist with refugee resettlement. The 2021 Global Trend Report, which is published by the United Nations Refugee Agency, stated that Canada successfully welcomed more than 20,400 refugees in 2021.
The result has been the creation of one of the most multicultural nations in the world, and many refugees have gone on to achieve unparalleled success.
One of these success stories is Robert Herjavec, an investor and entrepreneur. Herjavec arrived in Halifax with his family, carrying a single suitcase and $20, and became the founder of BRAK Systems, sold to AT&T Canada for $30.2 million, and of The Herjavec Group, which has over $200 million in annual revenue.
Soccer star Alphonso Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the Liberian Civil War. The family eventually settled in Edmonton, and recently, Davies made history by scoring Canada’s first ever World Cup goal at the 2022 championships in Qatar.
For many other refugees, however, the opportunities are difficult to find and many qualified refugees — some with masters degrees and doctorates —find themselves underemployed and working in service jobs such as taxi drivers.
A Statistics Canada study, which followed the labour and financial outcomes of refugees from 13 different countries between 1980 and 2009 found a high degree of variability in the earnings they made following resettlement, and according to Global News, “the median salary for a refugee who’s been in Canada for a decade is $27,000. That’s $14,000 less than the national median.”
This is the gap that the EMPP wants to fill by providing refugees with more access to opportunities that require their skills.
“Talented people in displacement need the same access to job and skilled visa opportunities as talent from any other background,” said Dana Wagner, co-founder and Managing Director at TalentLift. “This is about equity and supporting people to reach their potential, while creating enormous value for our teams and communities.”