The optimism of skills-based mobility greets UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi in Toronto

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank.
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank.

Durid is a Maintenance Technician and he and his spouse are working in a Southern Ontario community where their skills are in high demand, and where their daughter can go to school. Anas is a Software Engineer on a Waterloo-based team that has grown four times in size during the pandemic. Kinaz will soon relocate to British Columbia to join a healthcare employer providing critical in-home care. All three were displaced from their homes and careers due to conflict before getting jobs and pursuing skilled visas to Canada. 

These are stories that fill you with optimism, said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at a meeting in Toronto with Durid, Anas, Kinaz and three pioneering companies – ApplyBoard, Ice River Sustainable Solutions, and Scotiabank – behind a skills-based solution to displacement.

The scale of displacement today is unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. There were more than 26 million people living as refugees globally in 2021, before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August and the recent invasion of Ukraine.

Traditional solutions including humanitarian resettlement are essential but inadequate on their own to respond. Additional solutions are needed. Job-backed skilled visa opportunities hold immense promise – including potential to scale. 

Below are highlights from a discussion with High Commissioner Grandi on the promise of this solution. 

A bridge to opportunities

Anas relocated to Canada to join ApplyBoard after the team partnered with TalentLift to find software engineering talent. On his own, when he was living as a refugee in Lebanon, Anas couldn’t get traction in his international job search. It was a challenge getting a foot in the door, and there were other daily problems to face like electricity outages, a plummeting currency, and insecure status in the country. Kinaz faced similar challenges and long working days with little time beyond work and sleep. 

“You don’t have stability in your life that lets you focus on your long-term goals,” Anas said. 

He said the bridge between companies and candidates in displacement needs to widen. Organizations like TalentLift and our partner Talent Beyond Boundaries are part of that important infrastructure.

“I didn’t believe it.” 

When Durid got a call that the manufacturer Ice River Sustainable Solutions wanted to interview him, “I didn’t believe it.” After the interview, when he learned they wanted to hire him, “I still didn’t believe it,” he laughed. As awareness grows among the many thousands of talented people who could use their skills as a pathway out of displacement, more people can start believing it. 

Nearly one million vacancies

There were 915,500 open positions across Canada at the end of 2021. This is the opportunity space for connecting talented candidates in refugee circumstances with the teams and communities that need their skills.

International recruitment is a solution that is not just about workforce needs today but “understanding where the demand is going to be,” said Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank. It’s an investment with enormous payoff for new employees, their families, and the Canadian economy. 

Room to improve: Speed is key

Canada is among a handful of countries pioneering ways to make international recruitment and skilled visas work better for talented people living in refugee circumstances. Equity-based flexibility, like recognizing expired passports and loans instead of savings, is significantly deepening access. But further change is needed to ensure companies can recruit and relocate displaced talent with ease and speed.

The visa timeline remains a challenge, said Jordan Ingster, Senior Legal Advisor with Ice River Sustainable Solutions, which saw demand and operations expand even through the pandemic. The team hired nine trades professionals who were living as refugees and could hire others. 

“We need to make that pathway quick,” said Dan Weber, Senior Director of Innovation and Strategy with ApplyBoard, which recently grew from a team of 400 to 1,600. “We need talent, how can we get it here?”

For that part, TalentLift is here to help. Interested teams can express interest to become part of this impactful hiring solution. 

A discussion with High Commissioner Grandi hosted by Scotiabank in Toronto.
A discussion with High Commissioner Grandi hosted by Scotiabank in Toronto. 

With the support of the Scotiabank ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift has built a talent platform for displaced job seekers to self-register, develop job-readiness, and connect to transformative job and relocation opportunities to Canada. Learn more.

Canada’s swift visa for Ukrainians is open. TalentLift is here to support you.

Canada is welcoming Ukrainians displaced by war through a new and swift visa. Under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), applicants who are Ukrainian nationals may apply for a visitor visa and open work permit, and then relocate to Canada. 

How it works

This visa pathway is open to any Ukrainian national. Applicants apply online for a visitor visa and have the option to apply for an open work permit which will allow them to work for any employer in Canada. CUAET applicants have the following fees waived: Visa application fee, biometric collection fee, and work permit application fee, among others. The visa allows you to travel in and out of Canada and will be processed on a priority basis. Canada will aim to process complete applications in 14 days. 

How TalentLift can support you

TalentLift is ready to assist anyone wishing to rebuild their career and livelihood in Canada. 

We invite Ukrainians interested in pursuing work and relocation to Canada to register with us. If you are eligible, and are displaced by the war, our team will work with you and your family at no cost to seek employment in Canada, to apply for this visa, and to relocate. We will prepare a transition plan to permanent residence to ensure you have a secure future in Canada.

We will support you and your family each step of the way to relocate and begin to rebuild.

Employers wishing to hire can express their interest here: https://www.talentlift.ca/ukraine/

Webinar: Diversify to Include Top Tech Talent from Refugee Sources

Innovative Canadian tech companies are recruiting from the immense tech talent in refugee populations worldwide. Learn about this growing opportunity from the executives of leading companies, and the transformative impacts for candidates and the teams welcoming them to Canada.

Canadian tech companies have an enormous opportunity to lead the world in recruiting from an underleveraged talent pool of tech candidates living as refugees globally. This win-win recruitment initiative helps companies find and retain essential tech skills outside of stretched local markets, while enabling new employees and their families to relocate to Canada and leave refugee circumstances behind.

Join this webinar to hear Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser discuss Canada’s vision to scale this critical solution. Learn firsthand from executives of companies pioneering this transformative hiring initiative – Martin Basiri, CEO of ApplyBoard and Tia Fomenoff, Senior Director of People and Culture with Thinkific – and the gains they see for their teams and culture. We’ll also hear from Anas Jamous on his experience recently relocating to Canada from displacement for a job as a Software Engineer with ApplyBoard.

This webinar is for business leaders with interest in exploring the potential of this impactful model in their companies. The session is hosted by the Tech Talent Welcome Council, a grassroots and growing community of tech teams recruiting displaced talent, alongside TalentLift and CEO-P2P. This movement is just beginning – the Canadian Government aims to support at least 2,000 people to relocate from displacement for jobs in Canada.

We look forward to having you join us to learn more!

Time: Feb 15, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Insights from our practice interview volunteers on supporting candidates in refugee circumstances to put their best foot forward

A woman standing in front of a grey background with a lab coat and head scarf, arms crossed, holding a stethoscope.

Job interviews are hard for everyone. Most Canadians tense up just thinking about the mix of preparation, pressure, hope, and uncertainty they entail.

Now, imagine if a job interview could unlock the chance to move yourself and your family from an extremely difficult place to a new home and future in Canada; if this job meant a life-changing relocation. Imagine too that this remote interview will be in your non-native language. Imagine you’re stressed about the regular electricity outages interrupting your call. Imagine your family is listening in because you all live together in a few rooms. Oh, and you’ve never had a formal interview before.

Each week, TalentLift candidates – all talented individuals living as refugees around the world – head into remote interviews with employers across Canada with constraints on their time, preparedness and wellbeing that are difficult to imagine.

Perhaps the best tool we can provide to help them prepare is a connection to a volunteer in Canada who runs through a practice interview. Our volunteers are human resources professionals, or managers and other team members with internal interview experience, who regularly commit their time to helping candidates in refugee circumstances put their best foot forward in a Canadian interview. They spend 30-60 minutes with a candidate in a simulated interview, and then provide verbal and written feedback including tips to improve before the real thing. 

We asked a handful of our volunteers to share reflections on their experiences in these practice interviews with carpenters, nurses, bakers, developers, and other professionals – many of whom have gone on to receive job offers. They shared some incredible insight on the talent, potential, and aspirations of displaced candidates.

Here are some of their insights: 

Interviewers can help build up confidence and comfort

During practice interviews, Praneeta Patil, a human resources professional in Toronto, reminds candidates about their courage and endurance in getting to this point as a way to build their confidence. “It is wonderful to see them gain their confidence throughout the call which is then reflected in little things like their posture and the way they converse,” she said. “Many of the candidates who are otherwise great at their work just require that boost of confidence.”

During the real thing, interviewers can also help put candidates at ease with smiling, small talk and an explanation of the interview (including what the interviewer wants to learn) at the outset. These techniques can help lower stress and encourage comfort with the interviewer.

Interviewers can avoid testing cultural context by being more aware of differences

Shawn Patterson is an engineering manager in Waterloo and has been struck by differences in team structure. Some candidates have worked in companies around the world that are “very traditional in structure, very hierarchical, so they aren’t used to having an opinion on how teams communicate across the company.” In these workplaces, people “take the work and execute on it” while companies more typical of the Canadian tech scene “are very flat in nature where anyone can really bring up any concern and interact with any team.” 

Being mindful of this contextual difference can help hiring managers probe aptitude rather than experience within a specific cultural setting. See a guide on redesigning the tech hiring process to include displaced talent for more on how to test skills like problem-solving instead of cultural context.

Jane Duffy, a human resources professional in Toronto, identified some additional qualities to keep an eye on in this talent pool: “Give pause and reflect on the candidate you are interviewing. They are likely estranged from their home country and living in very challenging circumstances. This makes them strong, resilient and nimble – all wonderful qualities to have in an employee.”

Interviewers can make simple adjustments to account for differences when interviewing displaced candidates

Michelle Arnold, a policy manager in Toronto, suggested a no-surprises approach: “I’d encourage hiring managers to provide as much information about what they’re looking for to the candidates as possible. These candidates are often living in stressful situations and may or may not be familiar with Canadian industry terms and trends – the focus should be on trying to get a sense of their skills and their capacity and willingness to learn.” Unexpected questions that put someone on the spot usually aren’t the best way to understand skills and potential. 

Praneeta emphasized the importance of overcoming communication barriers. In Praneeta’s experience, “English is not their first language. Many of the candidates listen to a question in English, translate it in their minds to their language, think of an answer in their own language and then translate it to English. Please be patient while they answer.” Shawn too advised care with communication: “Make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand so you get the best response possible from the candidate. If you don’t get the answer you are looking for, it can sometimes be language related so try and ask the question again, in different words. This will help give the candidate the best chance to succeed.”

Candidates can follow these recurring tips

Understand the question. Shawn said, “listen to the question carefully, and ask for clarification when needed before answering. Feel free to take the time you need to come up with a good response.”

Explain why you want to work with this team. Michelle advised, “be specific about why you are interested in working for a particular employer and make clear connections between past work experience and the requirements of the job.” This will help demonstrate that you came prepared and that you appreciate ways that this team and company are unique.  

Be confident. Praneeta said candidates “could be hesitant while talking about their work and often undersell themselves and their achievements.” She emphasized that it’s OK to talk proudly about your work. 

Have good eye contact and smile. “Interviews can be nerve-wracking and this is especially true when interviewing for a role in a different country and language,” Jane said. But these small things help people connect and appreciate the human side of each other. 

Learning and personal growth is a two-way street

As much as they teach and support others, volunteers explained that they take away big personal lessons and value too.  

“Every individual I interview has their own story and is fighting to overcome their own unique struggles and I have nothing but respect for them,” Praneeta said. “I was extremely moved by their strength, fierce zest for life and the willingness to strive and overcome.”

“Hearing how excited candidates are to build a life and career for themselves in Canada has been surprisingly meaningful,” Michelle said. “In one of my interviews, the candidate was talking about all the research she’d done on the city that she was applying to work in, from the geographical characteristics, to the population size, to the major industries and it made me so excited and hopeful about the possibility of having someone that passionate about Canada contribute their skills here.”

Michelle added, “it’s also just really wonderful to talk to passionate, interesting people who are embarking on major shifts in their lives.”

Are you interested in volunteering? TalentLift welcomes new volunteers for practice interview sessions with candidates, with an ideal time commitment of one or two practice sessions each month. Please register your interest here: https://www.talentlift.ca/volunteer-signup/

Canada’s EMPP is open to support skilled immigration by displaced talent

Kinaz is a nurse living in displacement supported by TalentLift who will fill a critical role in healthcare in British Columbia.

Canada’s groundbreaking pilot supporting talented people living as refugees to apply to economic immigration streams is now open. As of today, people living in refugee circumstances can submit job-backed permanent residence applications through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP).

The EMPP extends some flexibility to address administrative and financial requirements that have previously been a barrier to otherwise highly qualified applicants. Skilled immigration is an additional mobility option for those seeking a durable solution outside of traditional humanitarian resettlement. 

Talented candidates in refugee circumstances can now apply through selected economic programs with the following flexibility: 

  • 1 year of work experience accrued anytime (no recency period) under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) or Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) programs;
  • Use of a loan from a trusted microlender to satisfy a settlement funds requirement; 
  • Use of an expired passport or other ID in place of a valid passport; and
  • Waiver of the permanent residence processing fee and biometrics fee. 

These changes apply only to applicants to the provincial nominee programs (PNPs), AIP, and RNIP. 

A skills-based solution to displacement

One candidate whose application will be supported under the pilot is Mulham, hired as a CNC Machinist by a manufacturing firm in Ontario. Mulham and his family are living in refugee circumstances in Libya while they wait for their visas. 

Mulham told us this is a chance “to start a new life, to ensure that my children receive a good education and the right to live in a country that values equality among all people, away from conflicts, insecurity and fear of the future.”

Read more about this family: https://www.talentlift.ca/scotiarise-invests-400000-in-talentlift-to-help-job-seekers-in-refugee-circumstances-find-work-and-settle-in-canada/

Essential improvements for deeper equity

TalentLift has made recommendations for deeper equity and the growth of this important and win-win mobility option to Canada. These recommendations build on our team’s operational knowledge of barriers facing qualified candidates and their prospective employers:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GcjQ6LDnCbsIq4J6LYPEs5VkJYjUk3MkmglzUmBWqOg/edit

TalentLift is excited to support Canadian employers and the talented candidates they hire under  the EMPP. We and our partners across hiring teams, alongside IRCC, provinces and territories, and supporting NGOs, are modelling a scalable, skills-based solution to displacement as a complementary pathway to humanitarian resettlement.

Hack the hiring process to recruit tech talent in refugee circumstances

A new ‘Guide on Redesigning the Tech Hiring Process to Include Displaced Talent’ is a collaboration by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Refugee Action Hub, Na’amal, TalentLift, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, and World Education Services, with sponsorship by World Education Services.

Download the guide. 

The tech sector needs talent, and people living and working in tech within refugee populations need livelihood opportunities. This guide of practical ideas aims to help teams design their hiring process to more successfully recruit displaced talent. 

The talent gap across the tech industry and other industries recruiting for tech is significant. As a Forbes writer quipped, “the pandemic transformed nearly every organization into a tech company.” Canadian companies face a shortage of 200,000 software developers. Nearly 80% of CEOs in the United States are concerned about filling tech roles, and it’s projected to get worse. 

Meanwhile, there are immensely talented people working or trying to work in tech, who are living in refugee and displaced populations around the world, searching for international jobs. They keenly want a place in the talent pipeline. 

Work conditions can be extremely difficult in the countries where they live. Many work for lower pay and longer hours than their non-refugee peers, without job security, and without work rights and other legal protection to rely on. Life at home can be highly stressful because of low incomes and fearing for the safety, health or future prospects of loved ones. Despite all this, people find ways to grow their skills, continue learning, undertake passion projects, and look for new opportunities. Their accomplishments in these circumstances show remarkable perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and drive. 

Pioneering companies are sourcing displaced tech talent as part of their talent acquisition strategies, in recognition of the human potential and the transformative impact of extending a job opportunity in Canada or beyond to someone who’s living displaced. The Tech Talent Welcome Council network of companies across Canada is one example of this growing community. 

As more teams explore this underleveraged talent pool, they may find a design opportunity: Recruitment processes can be adjusted to recognize and overcome some of the challenges facing qualified candidates that are unique to their displaced circumstances. For example, candidates may be unfamiliar with interview formats, and can face cultural differences in representing their experience or their interest in the company. Employers can be unfamiliar with how domestic interviewing norms differ from international ones, lack the flexibility to accommodate scheduling and connectivity challenges, and screen for particular skills that are uncommon in other markets such as software testing automation. 

This guide presents some of the challenges experienced by teams and candidates during the hiring process, and ideas to overcome them. The ideas range from smaller tweaks to larger redesigns towards a more inclusive hiring process. 

The insights and ideas are drawn from a co-design workshop series in September 2021. The workshop convened six tech hiring teams across Canada, candidates who are currently living displaced, and supporting non-profit or training organizations with a goal to explore practical ways to better bridge job and relocation opportunities and the unique circumstances of displaced job seekers.

Why hire displaced tech talent? 

  • Access an underleveraged candidate pool with in-demand tech skills and high potential 
  • Gain knowledge and experience of different cultures, regions, and socio-economic circumstances that will expand diversity of thought on the team
  • Gain creative, agile problem-solvers who have remarkable perseverance and determination
  • Engage your team in a transformative change for peers in refugee or displaced circumstances, and in enriching community-building when new hires can relocate alongside their families from displacement

Excerpts from the ‘Guide on Redesigning the Tech Hiring Process to Include Displaced Talent.’

How hiring teams in Canada can support displaced Afghans


More than 2.6 million Afghans have left the country in search of refuge and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expects this number to grow in the coming months. Many of those who are in refugee circumstances in neighbouring countries are professionals, tradespeople, recent graduates, or parents, all eager for an opportunity to put their skills to use and contribute in a new home community.

Hiring teams across Canada can be part of the solution by extending job and skilled visa opportunities to talented Afghans and others displaced by conflict or persecution globally.

We and our partners at Lifeline Afghanistan, a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, hosted a webinar for hiring teams and other community members to learn how recruitment and relocation from within the displaced talent pool works. 

This unique form of recruitment, supported by the Canadian government and UNHCR through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, is a solution to both skills shortages and displacement. It’s a brilliant way to find talent while helping candidates and their families to relocate from displacement. Skilled immigration is additional and complementary to humanitarian resettlement and is a much-needed mobility option for those who can and want to use their professional skills to relocate.

The webinar recording is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/SrQC2Ma9QGk  

We urge you to watch and consider these actions: 

  1. If you’re part of a team, start hiring with TalentLift.
  2. If you know Afghans who are displaced outside Afghanistan, job-ready and searching for a mobility solution, invite them to seek a job by joining TalentLift.
  3. If you want to engage another way, join Lifeline Afghanistan efforts to support private sponsorship of refugees.

You can also share the webinar recording with colleagues, friends or family and encourage these actions by others.

With the support of the Scotiabank ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift has built a talent platform for displaced job seekers to self-register, develop job-readiness, and connect to transformative job and relocation opportunities to Canada. Learn more

A displaced talent strategy in Canada’s federal party platforms

Photo: Ishmael n. Daro from Toronto, Canada, CC BY 2.0

Canada has an unprecedented opportunity to leverage its full range of immigration options to support displaced talent. We didn’t have the policy tools or supporting infrastructure in place during past humanitarian security crises, like the displacement unfolding from Afghanistan’s borders, that have moved Canadians to contribute. But we do now. 

Canada has pioneered efforts to open skilled visas to applicants living in refugee circumstances under the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP). The pilot helps applicants overcome some of the displacement-related barriers they might face despite their skills and potential, like an expired passport with no safe or affordable way to renew it, and little to no savings to demonstrate their ability to settle. Now, when someone is compelled to leave their country in search of safety, their skills can open doors to Canada that were firmly closed before for no good reason. 

As Canadians of all political stripes search for ways to support Afghans and other displaced people worldwide, Canada’s political parties should share how their future governments would continue and expand the use of skilled visas by talented candidates in displacement – and by the teams across Canada who are eager to hire them. 

We outline below the essential commitments to signal a scalable and inclusive approach to Canada’s displaced talent strategy. 

A commitment to continue Canada’s pioneering efforts to attract displaced talent by: 

  • Expanding access to skilled immigration pathways for applicants living in refugee circumstances, which is a solution to both skills shortages in Canada and displacement worldwide, as an additional and complementary mobility option to humanitarian and resettlement pathways. This solution leverages the immense potential within refugee populations as well as the demand for international talent and the availability of skilled visa pathways. It advances equitable access to opportunities that are available to talent from other backgrounds and circumstances. It does all this while preserving and growing the resettlement program for those most in need. 
  • Adapting work permit criteria to enable access by displaced applicants. Specifically, removing the requirement that applicants living in refugee circumstances demonstrate their ability and willingness to leave Canada, and instead asking them to demonstrate their ability to stay through a transition plan to permanent residence. Work permits are the swiftest and most common route to Canada for international talent, and open additional permanent residence options that require in-Canada work experience. Access to work permits is essential to scale and equity of access, because employers require fast and predictable timelines when they hire international talent.
  • Applying open and flexible eligibility criteria with respect to applicants, so that lengthy refugee determinations and other red tape do not impede recruitment efforts, and with respect to the skilled visa pathways within scope of the pilot. People who are displaced outside their home country and who are in need of international protection should be included, regardless of whether they have yet had an official Refugee Status Determination. All skilled visa pathways should be within scope as a matter of principle and practicality, because displaced talent belongs across the full breadth of the economic stream. 
  • Working with stakeholders to continuously improve. This includes working with the business community, provinces and territories, supporting NGOs, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to embed further flexibility across skilled visa programs that aims to overcome displacement-related barriers for otherwise qualified applicants. These barriers may include administrative, documentary, and financial rules that have nothing to do with skills and potential. 
  • Setting ambitious targets instead of quotas or caps for displaced talent applicants, to enable predictability, scale, and mainstreaming of access by this immense talent pool. 

We’ve gathered the platform commitments in this field by the main parties. We’ll publish updates as new commitments are announced. 

Bloc Québécois:

Skilled immigration – general:

  • Transfer the control of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to Quebec.
  • Reduce processing delays of immigration applications.

EMPP/Skilled immigration – displaced talent:

  • No related commitments at this time.

Conservative Party: 

Skilled immigration – general:

  • Prioritize and streamline immigration that would strengthen the health system including new measures to attract healthcare workers, especially in priority areas and regions. 
  • Rework the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to better align it with domestic needs and to protect workers and create a trusted employer system to prevent companies from continuously re-applying to the program. 
  • Establish clear standards and timelines for Labour Market Impact Assessment processes, including options for fee-based expedited visas when necessary. 
  • Establish a path to permanence for those who enter Canada as lower-skilled workers by allowing employers to sponsor applications for permanent residence. 

EMPP/Skilled immigration – displaced talent:

  • EMPP is not referenced but the platform highlights the importance of filling critical gaps and robustly growing the economy with bold and necessary solutions using our immigration system to meet this objective.

Green Party: 

Skilled immigration – general:

  • Bring more skilled workers and address current inequalities within the existing systems in Canada.
  • Introduce exceptions for permanent residency and citizenship application costs based on household income.
  • Introduce lower barrier, more accessible pathways to permanent residency for temporeign foreign and frontline workers.
  • Develop safe strategies for temporary foreign workers and whistle blowers to report abusive employers without losing their status.

EMPP/Skilled immigration – displaced talent:

  • No related commitments at this time.

Liberal Party: 

Skilled immigration – general:

  • Reform economic immigration programs to expand pathways to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers and former international students through the Express Entry system.
  • Establish a Trusted Employer system to streamline the application process for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortages that cannot be filled by Canadian workers.
  • Grow and improve the Global Talent Stream program by simplifying permit renewals, upholding the 2-week processing time, and establishing an employer hotline, to allow Canadian companies to attract and hire highly-skilled workers.
  • Continue to work with provinces, territories, and regulatory bodies to improve foreign credential recognition.

EMPP/Skilled immigration – displaced talent:

  • Build on theEMPP and work with employers and communities across Canada to welcome 2,000 skilled refugees to fill labour shortages in in-demand sectors such as healthcare.

New Democratic Party (NDP): 

Skilled immigration – general:

  • Ensure that immigration policies and levels meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions, and ties to Canada. 
  • Work with the provinces to address gaps in settlement services and improve foreign credential recognition. 
  • Explore pathways to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers

EMPP/Skilled immigration – displaced talent:

  • No related commitments at this time. 

Contact TalentLift for insights on developing a displaced talent strategy. 

Watch: TalentLift’s Veronica Wilson discusses innovation in immigration practice with the Canadian Bar Association


Good people power good organizations. 

Veronica Wilson, TalentLift’s co-founder and Legal Director, joined Emily Lukaweski in a webinar hosted by the Canadian Bar Association on “TalentLift: Innovation in the Practice of Immigration and Law.”

Veronica spoke about her journey in immigration law that led her to co-founding TalentLift, Canada’s first non-profit talent agency offering in-house visa services that focuses exclusively on supporting employers to recruit and relocate talent from within refugee populations. In just six months of start-up work, Veronica has developed TalentLift into a Civil Society Organization registered with the Law Society of Ontario and is pioneering the use of additional skilled visa pathways under Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Project for employers and candidates across tech, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality sectors. 

She showed us why mission-driven leadership creates value for employers and the candidates they hire. “I really value having the time to get to know clients and work with them on a more personal level,” she said. 

Driving Veronica and the outstanding hiring teams that partner with us is the potential within this unique talent pool. Candidates living in refugee circumstances “have so much to contribute if given the opportunity to use their skills and showcase their talent.” 

Meet Veronica and hear her firsthand leadership journey by watching the video conversation below or on the Canadian Bar Association Facebook page.

Ways to get involved: 

Ontario breaks new ground with refugee-inclusive design in skilled immigration system

Ontario recently updated its intake system for prospective skilled immigrants with a design tweak that enables the province to conduct targeted draws for applicants who are both skilled and living in refugee circumstances. It may be the first example of refugee-inclusive design in the development of a Canadian skilled immigration system. 

The new “expression of interest” (EOI) system in the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, used to nominate people who have skills needed by the Ontario economy, asks all applicants to register a profile to determine eligibility and a points score. Those who meet the human capital and other eligibility requirements of a provincial nominee program, and who earn a competitive points score, receive an invitation to apply. What differentiates Ontario’s EOI system from others across provincial and federal jurisdictions is that it enables applicants to self-identify as someone living in refugee circumstances, who is supported under Canada’s pilot Economic Mobility Pathways Project. The new feature will be released pending further discussion between Ontario and the federal government on overall nomination allocation, but it is ready to launch and signals a new and more inclusive era in talent attraction.

For decades, Canada’s skilled immigration systems were unavailable to the talent present within refugee populations. Requirements across skilled visa pathways have systematically excluded applicants in displacement despite their skills and experience. For example, the requirement to have a valid passport excludes people who have expired passports, with no safe or affordable way to renew them from their home country governments; and the requirement to hold liquid funds in a bank account excludes those with little to no savings, who might also be disenfranchised from banking in host countries where they live. 

Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments set out to better understand the barriers facing talented refugees to existing skilled immigration pathways under the Economic Mobility Pathways Project. Launched in 2018, the pilot was part of Canada’s effort alongside the international community to explore more safe and legal immigration pathways available to the now more than 26 million people living as refugees around the world. 

Ontario, an inaugural member of the pilot and home to the first person who arrived under it, supported the nominations of five candidates and their families who have relocated from displacement for in-demand work across the province in tech, the skilled trades, and hospitality. Many more candidates are in a visa processing pipeline who hold Ontario nominations. These pilot efforts confirmed beyond a doubt that there are immensely talented people living as refugees whose skills are in-demand in Ontario, and who can qualify for skilled visas as long as unfair barriers – mostly administrative – are removed.

Ontario has deepened its leadership in this pioneering work through the new EOI system. In our view, this system has the potential to do several things as it is trialled and refined. It could:  

  • Enable targeted draws to reflect Ontario’s priority to include and attract talent from within refugee populations.
  • Waive certain requirements that disproportionately impact the eligibility of these applicants.
  • Award alternative points for adaptability due to refugee circumstances – perseverance, creativity, reinvention – that offset points awarded for assets refugees cannot yet obtain like Canadian study and work experience.

Through any of these pursuits, Ontario advances the vision that talent lives within refugee populations, and that companies and communities across the province benefit from deliberately including and attracting it. Ontario has created a promising model for governments in Canada and worldwide to follow. 

Ways to get involved: