Commentary

Reflections on 'Coming To Hamilton'

Hamilton can be the city that leads the way in recognizing the employment opportunities for immigrants from across the globe, as we have done in the past.

By Daniel Hyams
Published July 03, 2017

The mental image of myself living in Canada, over ten years ago, was more a dream that seemed far from being a reality.

Applying for Permanent Residency of Canada in 2008 was an application process that I treated as a possible future option, rather than a concrete direction of my life. This was primarily because when I applied in 2008 to come to Canada, there was no guarantee that I, like other applicants, would be accepted.

When I was informed that the application process would take four years, it seemed a distant possibility. However, the four years passed rapidly, and when I was presented with the opportunity to come Canada, I had to make the decision immediately, with the actual landing immigration in Canada coming within six months of acceptance.

In that six-month period, I was invited to a half-day orientation presentation hosted by the High Commission of Canada in London. It was for all newly-accepted professional class immigrants as a 'Welcome to Canada' class.

What exactly can you present about immigrating to Canada in four hours? What us 12 soon-to-be immigrants had in common was that we were all qualified and educated professionals, including a medical doctor, teacher and engineer. I was a PhD student (at the time) with ten years of public sector, parliamentary and governmental policy experiences, so I felt I was in good company. I was also the youngest of the group.

We were assured that Canada was a country that was in great demand for our skills and that there was a euphoric need in both social and economic terms for people like us to come to Canada and fill the needs of the jobs that were abundant in the major cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, as well as the suburban cities, particularly the GTA.

As I left the workshop, a senior official from the High Commission pulled me aside by my arm, and said, smiling "You will not have a problem getting a job in Canada." I booked my flight later that day.

Fast forward to 2017. I have been in Hamilton for over four years. The question is: is it possible to stay? And with all the wonderful things that Hamilton has to offer, are the employment opportunities that were assured at the workshop all those years ago really there? That's a loaded question that is impossible to answer, but it's a concept that can be considered.

It's hard to equate 'success' but my proudest achievement is my TV show on Cable 14 Hamilton, 'Coming To Hamilton'. I volunteer for this role, as I volunteer my time to write this article, as well as my previous six op-eds for the Hamilton Spectator.

I have been honoured with a range of diverse guests, including civic leaders such as Denise Christopherson and Mayor Fred Eisenberger, to recent immigrants and those who work in settlement agencies. Marc Skulnick, editor of Hamilton Magazine, spoke about choosing Hamilton to live, work and play, and it's interesting that someone who is an engaged community leader also 'Came to Hamilton'!

What has been hard for me, as the host, is to hear the recurring stories of the hardships for immigrants, particularly those with high skills and experiences, struggling beyond comprehension, to secure employment.

The reality is that these individuals (myself included) came to Canada on the anticipation of being needed and wanted for the skills we possess. More importantly, we are passionate and committed to contributing to society. Without sounding cliché, it has made me feel ever-more determined to raise the realities of immigration to Canada and the assets individuals such as myself and my guests on the show possess.

But I am not the first to raise these issues. On the contrary, I urge you to read an article from the Canadian Immigrant publication, titled 'Why Some Immigrants Leave Canada'. Published in 2012, it raises many points that we need to acknowledge relating to highly skilled professional immigrants leaving Canada because of a lack of job opportunities, and the emotional turmoil that goes with the feelings of being unemployable - and dare I say it, overqualified.

Hamilton can be the city that leads the way in recognizing the employment opportunities for immigrants from across the globe, as we have done in the past. We can and must become the beacon of acceptance and help in creating accessibility for people to thrive, and realize the dreams of coming to Canada, and choosing Hamilton as their home.

Daniel Hyams, PhD is the host and community producer of Coming To Hamilton on Cable 14. Episodes air Monday evenings at 5:30 PM an 9:30 PM. Twitter: @DanielAHyams

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