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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Advocacy on proposed policy amendments impacting foreign graduates in Canada

On Friday, 20 November 2015, I sent off a letter by e-mail and regular (postal) mail to  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum, regarding proposed amendments to their Express Entry Immigration Program outlining some key concerns as an international graduate of a Canadian institution. I detailed my migrant trajectory, work experience and settlement patterns to offer closer context to some recommendations.

The letter first congratulated the Prime Minister on his new portfolio and visionary cabinet. It also lauded the government's expediency with citizen feedback most recently reflected in the announcement of the return of the long form mandatory questionnaire in time for the 2016 national census, and went on to outline the reasons for my approaching the cabinet with proposed amendments to their Express Entry immigration program.  

Prime Minister Trudeau's campaign had already made broad announcements to ease hurdles and eliminate barriers to citizenship through the various streams (federal and provincial) for foreign students and graduates among other cohorts. Once implemented, these policies would strengthen Canada's position as an exporter of education and continue to attract talented immigrants to fill labour shortages to support an ongoing and historic symbiosis as birth rates plummet and baby boomers retire in large numbers in the host nation. The letter referenced Canada's unique success with multiculturalism--foreign students and graduates constituting a significant portion of this mix every year. Among the most challenging periods for foreign graduates from Canadian institutes are the gaps between program completion, graduation notification and the actual arrival of their open work permits. These challenges were outlined and recommendations offered. 

Three key recommendations were made to: 

  1. Repeal the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) test, especially for professions where skills are transferable for foreign graduates of Canadian institutions
  2. Inform employers that international students who have applied for their post graduation work permit (PGWP) deserve to be employed like domestic students
  3. Remove the Express Entry criteria for international students OR award points for years spent studying in Canada (for eg. 300 for 1 year, 600 for 2 years, etc.) with additional points for co-ops and volunteer work completed in Canada at the Express Entry assessment

As an Express Entry candidate on the verge of the desired points for immigration to Canada, my recommendations came couched with the hope of being invited for permanent residency before my 30th birthday, three days after Christmas this year.  The letter concluded on a high note, with the hope to soon witness the impact of amendments to immigration that would enable smoother settlement experiences for skilled international graduates who have sacrificed their time, money, and simple pleasures to join the Canadian labour force and give back collectively to their new homeland.

To read the entire letter, feel free to get in touch at 


Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2014, February 12). Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Economic Impact of International Education in Canada - An Update. (2013, December 31). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from

Mckenna, B. (2015, November 7). As the baby boomers retire, the threat of intergenerational inequality looms. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Smith, B. (2015, October 28). Canada: New PM pledges to ease citizenship path, stakeholders optimistic. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Thursday, November 19, 2015

OTTAWA IS ON FIRE! Rebranding Canada’s favourite city in 2017

Extolled for being great communicators, former winner of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Award, Mayor Jim Watson along with veteran businessman Guy Laflamme, an MBA professor at the University of Ottawa for over 25 years, engaged a full audience at the Lowertown Brewery in Ottawa’s Byward Market on Tuesday night, the 27th of October, by their fireside chat on “Ottawa 2017”.

What is Ottawa 2017?

APEX CELEBRATIONS: Ottawa 2017 is gaining high currency nationwide!

In 2017, Canada turns 150 years as a nation, and the city’s mayor was in full form as he introduced the idea of a joyeux anniversaire as the country unites in the opinion that Ottawa should lead the country’s sesquicentennial celebrations. Guy Laflamme, Executive Director for this project, has scripted a 300-page blueprint/business plan of 2017 that details the year-long festivities and logistics planned for this city. Every day of the year will be celebrated as Canada Day.  The yearlong event is pegged to be not just a “flash in the pan”, but a mega celebration with sustainable long-term benefits for the city, province and neighbouring provinces.  Moreover, it’s not just Canada but the province of Ontario that’s also turning 150 years old and they are hoping to align Ontario's celebrations with the city of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017.  


Guy Laflamme’s team conducted a series of consultations and sought over 600 recommendations from a number of stakeholders from which around 60% of the ideas were implemented. Research revealed that Ottawa should lead the celebrations as the country’s capital. They conducted numerous focus groups and considered the results of national surveys. 

Findings and proposed festivities

In 2017, it is estimated that over 11 million visitors will be coming to Ottawa,  the epicenter of all celebrations. It will be a unique program and rebranding exercise for the city, that plans to engage all of Canada with most events being offered FREE of charge. Guy explained some specifics of his blueprint, and how the project aimed to bring Ottawa to the forefront of all celebrations in his multimedia presentation that included fancy building projections, the new glass structure at the National Arts Centre, big interactive GIS powered experiences, a salute to the video games industry, sound and light shows, National Museum exhibits, and so much more! The plan is to distribute the celebrations equally across all regions of the city. Ottawa the Old will become Ottawa the Bold, spoke Guy, the mutltimedia magician.

The idea would be to partner with existing local events (like Bluesfest, Jazz Fest), festivals and local businesses to magnify the offering for 2017. Their efforts have received close to 6 million dollars in municipal funding and is slated to bring in almost $230 million in GDP impact and provincial economic benefits. While New Canadians and the Canadian Youth (in accordance with the Canadian Tourism Commission 2017 Strategy) are the key target markets for this festival others include:  National Capital Region (NCR) Residents, Leisure tourists, Travel trade associations in Canada and the US.  All activities would be aimed at social cohesion and acculturation of diverse new cohorts of new Canadians by involving embassies and sub-communities as much as possible.   
How do organizations and small businesses get involved?

Watch out for in the middle of May 2016 to find out exactly how. In the meantime, if you’d like to brainstorm, feel free to contact Guy or Jim. They extend an invite to align all your marketing efforts across all your platforms in ingenious ways to encourage a 150 years alliance. The board is also ready to sit down with your unique organizations and chat about other ways you could become "Sesquicentennial Ambassadors".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where is, what about, Ottawa?

Sorry for the long sabbatical!

I was sidetracked by the World Book Reviews blog. But largely, I was adjusting to Arctic/Atlantic climates, because, you know, minus 44 degrees Centigrade is teeshirt weather.

Since My RitetoRead is the more city-portrait-calendar-of-events-in-town kind of blog, I return with posts about present cities and future ones too.

Most non-Canadians assume I must be living in Toronto when I tell them where I am in Canada. Even when I slowly enunciate "Ott-awa", the city still doesn't ring many bells. In Canada of course, everyone knows Ottawa. The house of big government.  Parliament Street. The Parliament. The Government. And until not too long ago, Stephen Harper. 

But, one rad mayor and his 2017 Team are about to change all of that. Watch out for some major rebranding ops underway for Ottawa in 2017 as the nation turns 150 years and its "old" sleepy capital gets a facelift and image makeover with the numerous activities planned for that year. I was glad when Ottawa's IABC event came along and explained all that was in store for this city in 2017. Read my next post to find out what's in store for Ottawa 2017. 

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