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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Beware Human Rights Tribunals Rulings

Most advanced countries of the world have professional standards and representative bodies behind the professions to ensure adequate accreditation to those qualifying through their academic exposure to the work and standards of the profession in question. Not all countries adhere to the same level of standards, but most Western countries do. In such instances, countries in recognition of their equal professional standards offer accreditation through an exchange of nationals who have attended the requisite universities and achieved graduating credentials.

Canada, for example, has exchange accreditation with a number of European countries like France and England where the standards of each are considered to be of equal value. Even so, when an emigrant in the professions migrates from one country to another, he/she as a matter of course sits for a standard test whose performance results accredits them if they pass, to be acknowledged by the professional body, and to practise their profession in Canada.

Often enough, those sitting for examination are informed that their level of knowledge and practise does not match Canada's, and they must undergo a fresh or additional learning process and write exams in the professional discipline to allow them to be accredited for practise. Someone who has attended university to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer cannot simply, as a landed immigrant, assume that their credentials respected in their country of origin will be similarly respected in Canada.

Many people with professional standing in countries abroad in seeking to become an immigrant to Canada undergo an interview with a Canadian immigration officer at which meeting that person will be informed of the status of their professional credentials as far as Canada is concerned, along with encouragement to come to Canada where their profession can be practised as long as they undertake an upgrading if such is required.

One such immigrant was Ladislav Mihaly who arrived in Canada from the Czech Republic in 1999 with his Czech engineering diploma in hand. He sought accreditation as required from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA).  Mr. Mihaly had received his two masters degrees at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava and the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague.

Many countries have varying standards of professional engineering. Mr. Mihaly was informed by APEGGA that he would be required to pass four exams along with the Standard National Professional Practice Exam. Apart from the four exams in question, he has taken the NPPE three times and failed each attempt. Clearly he could not qualify for acceptance on the basis of the professional qualifications he had brought to Canada.

This was an inconvenience that Mr. Mihaly was not prepared to accept, it would appear; in 2008 he appealed to the Alberta Human Rights Commission with the claim that he was being discriminated against, illegally, because of his Czech education. Two weeks ago the determination of the commission was revealed by tribunal chairman Moosa Jiwaji.

The tribunal reached the decision that APEGGA must pay $10,000 in damages to Mr. Mihaly, presumably for aggravation and hurt feelings.  Within three months APEGGA must also "establish a committee ... to specifically explore and investigate options to appropriately and individually assess [his] qualifications ... with a view to correcting any perceived academic deficiencies".

The tribunal seeks, it would appear, to establish a precedent to change Canadian legislation, co-opting Parliament's, or provincial governments' role in setting professional standards for new immigrants who enter Canada with a professional education that doesn't match that of Canadian professional bodies, making it obligatory for those professional bodies to undertake of their own initiative and cost to re-educate and upgrade the professionalism of people like Mr. Mihaly.
[180] In any event, I do find that certain requirements for licensure made of Mr. Mihaly perpetuated disadvantage thus constituting substantive discrimination… The imposition of additional exams or requirements without appropriate individualized assessment or the necessary flexibility, restricts the ability of immigrants to work in their respective professions and continues to perpetuate disadvantage in these groups. … While I understand that the imposition of policies to ensure competency and safety in professional fields may be necessary, the nature of certain policies imposed by APEGGA on immigrants such as Mr. Mihaly with foreign credentials, appear too restrictive and categorizes immigrants, not based on individual assessment, but rather on the country from which qualifications were received.

[201] In my view, this process [of using foreign degree lists], which relies mostly upon secondary sources of information and global criteria, is a poor substitute for directly assessing the education of IEGs who come from different countries. Such an assessment has the potential for significant inaccuracies and has very significant effects on foreign trained engineers.                                  Partial Transcript Commission Ruling
Mr. Mihaly had argued that APEGGA considers some countries' engineering programs "substantially equivalent" to Canadian standards, having the effect of exempting such graduates from examination requirements. That Canada has arrangements with some countries resulting in exemptions, unfairly and negatively impacts on Mr. Mihaly simply because his country does not share Canadian standards in engineering principles and standards.

In other words simply because his degrees came from the Slovak and Czech Republics, penalizing him is wrong, since, obviously their inadequate-to-Canadian-standards academic criteria in professional engineering isn't Mr. Mihaly's fault. No mention of his having failed on three occasions the more basic and fundamental of the exams, let alone his never having submitted to the others he would be required to write and pass to enable him to practise his profession in Canada.

All this has been white-washed by the human rights commission, and the professional accrediting body is held responsible for Mr. Mihaly's failure to qualify. Needless to say, this is an appallingly ignorant and potentially dangerous position for the commission to take. One that might have the potential to unleash on the Canadian engineering profession someone who is inadequately schooled and incapable of passing even basic muster.

A framegrab from a video in which APEGA Registrar Carol Moen explains why the group will appeal the Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal decision.
YouTubeA framegrab from a video in which APEGA Registrar Carol Moen explains why the group will appeal the Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal decision.
And needless to say, the professional body plans to appeal the ruling and take it to a higher court of appeal. Where, one can only hope, a sager mind will be capable of discerning the real story behind the scene of this absurd scenario.

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