EDITORIAL: Inclusion in public, exclusion in private

Those in charge of hiring need to park their prejudices at the door

Moving to a new city and country as an immigrant is often a challenging experience in Greater Victoria. Just ask staff and volunteers at the Inter-Cultural Association, who among other things help newcomers get settled and find their feet.

To be sure, the ICA and various other organizations do their best to make the transition smoother for individuals and families who may not have a firm grasp of spoken or written English. But there can still be day to day difficulties that leave families wondering whether they made the right choice for their new home.

One family written up in the 2017 version of Victoria’s Vital Signs, the wonderful community research project undertaken each year by the Victoria Foundation, has endured frustrating times since arriving from Libya in 2003. While we have not spoken to these people, it’s logical to assume they sought to escape the chaotic living conditions under dictator Muammar Gaddafi and build a life in a safer, more inclusive country.

Fairouz Abdullah and her husband, Achmed, who have four children and are Muslim, are well educated with skill sets that would appear to be very transferable. She has a sociology degree, years of teaching experience and speaks English well, but has only been able to find part-time, low-level work. He has a PhD in computer engineering but is underemployed and has yet to find work in his field, even in the emerging tech mini-hub of Victoria.

Why do some companies find it difficult to hire immigrants who, given a chance, could become solid employees and perhaps even help educate fellow employees about other cultures? Is it religious or racial discrimination? Harsh words in our “welcoming” Canada and Victoria. Is it lack of patience or willingness to take a little extra time to train a new immigrant who might still be learning to communicate?

We wonder how often such reasons as, the applicant “doesn’t have the right qualifications” or “isn’t a good fit” for the position are really just code for personal biases. If we are to truly be an inclusive and welcoming community that wants to grow our cultural mosaic, employers need to park their prejudices at the door and base hiring decisions on merits and skills.