Employment rights for new Canadians: Reasonable Doubt

November 8, 2018
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From NOW Magazine's Reasonable Doubt column: More than half of Toronto residents are born outside of Canada. Still, employers continue to discriminate based on immigration status and citizenship. Muhammad Haseeb learned this in his search for employment with Imperial Oil Ltd.

Mr. Haseeb was an international student who graduated with an engineering degree from McGill University. He applied to work for Imperial Oil during his final semester, while he was on a student visa. Upon graduation, he would become eligible for a postgraduate work permit for a three-year term. This permit allows individuals to work with any employer anywhere in Canada.

Imperial Oil had a policy requiring project engineers to be able to work in Canada permanently in order to be eligible for a permanent and full-time position. Mr. Haseeb received an offer of employment with the condition that he provide proof of his eligibility to work in Canada "on a permanent basis." Imperial Oil required proof in the form of a Canadian birth certificate, Canadian citizenship certificate, or a Canadian certificate of permanent residence. Since Mr. Haseeb could not provide such proof, the job offer was revoked.

What did the employer do wrong?

The Ontario Human Rights Code prevents employers from discriminating against a job applicant based on his or her citizenship. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario concluded that Imperial Oil’s policy of asking job applicants to prove that they could work in Canada permanently was discriminatory.

The "permanent basis" requirement effectively meant job applicants to Imperial Oil had to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. But being permanent in Canada was not required for the essential duties of the position. For instance, Imperial Oil had occasionally hired experienced engineers in the past who did not meet their permanency requirement policy but did possess a skill set in high demand. Mr. Haseeb won his case.

Read more: Employment rights for new Canadians: Reasonable Doubt