In May 2023, the Ontario Court of Appeal rendered a decision in Imperial Oil Limited v. Haseeb. This decision will have positive implications for international students in Canada who are looking for employment and graduating from their post-secondary studies in the near future. International students who have graduated from school can remain in Canada and work through a Post-Graduate Work Permit. The ruling in Haseeb v. Imperial Oil Limited will positively impact international students in Canada who want to work in Canada after they graduate.
In Imperial Oil Limited v. Haseeb, Muhammad Haseeb was an international student from Pakistan who was studying in Canada. He was on track to complete his mechanical engineering degree from McGill University in December 2014. During his final semester, he began searching for a job and applied for an entry-level engineering job with Imperial Oil. Upon graduation, Haseeb would be able to work in Canada through a Post-Graduate Work Permit, which gave him eligibility to work for any employer in Canada for up to three years.
At the time of his application, Imperial Oil had a policy requiring employees to have permanent eligibility to work in Canada. This meant that they would effectively only hire employees who were either Canadian Citizens or permanent residents. Haseeb was offered a job; however, when he disclosed that he held a Post-Graduation Work Permit but was not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, his job offer was rescinded.
When his offer of employment was rescinded, Haseeb filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. He alleged that he had been discriminated against on the basis of citizenship because his job offer had been rescinded.
In Ontario, the Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of citizenship. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that Imperial Oil discriminated against Haseeb on the basis of citizenship by imposing an employment condition of permanent eligibility to work in Canada, which was to be proved through Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status. The Tribunal found this discrimination was directed and that Imperial Oil had not established a bona fide occupational requirement.
Imperial Oil sought reconsideration of the Tribunal decision, and the Tribunal denied the application. Haseeb was awarded monetary damages as a result. Imperial Oil appealed the decision, filing for judicial review to the Divisional Court.
The Divisional Court found the Tribunal’s decision was unreasonable and quashed the Tribunal’s decision. The Divisional Court found that a requirement that a job applicant be able to work in Canada permanently was not discrimination based on citizenship.
The Divisional Court decision was appealed. The Court of Appeal for Ontario found that the Tribunal’s decision was reasonable. The decision from the Court of Appeal for Ontario means that employers in Ontario cannot discriminate against international students who are applying for jobs on Post-Graduate Work Permits. This clarification in the law should open up more work opportunities to international students who hold Post-Graduate Work Permits. Ultimately, employers in Ontario can not restrict employment to those who hold permanent residence or Canadian citizenship.
The immigration program that Haseeb was able to work under is the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program is an immigration initiative that allows international students who have graduated from a designated Canadian learning institution to obtain an open work permit. This program allows the permit holder to gain Canadian work experience. The program also gives the participants flexibility as an open work permit allows the holder to apply for and work in jobs all over Canada and is not restricted like an employer-specific work permit.
Canadian work experience can be valuable for those seeking to make future applications for Canadian permanent residency, as many Canadian permanent residency programs require the applicant to have Canadian work experience. Further, Canadian work experience can be an important factor, even in programs that do not explicitly require Canadian work experience.
Immigration streams for permanent residency under Express Entry, such as the Canadian Experience Class, require Canadian work experience to apply. Even when Canadian work experience is not explicitly required for a permanent residency application, it can be a significant factor in an application. The Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Skilled Trades Program do not require Canadian work experience. Still, Canadian work experience can be beneficial.
The open work permit granted as part of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program is time limited. The amount of time granted for the open work permit depends on the applicant’s length of study in Canada. To participate in the program, applicants must have completed at least an 8-month program at a designated learning institution. Longer programs can yield longer work permits, with work permits of up to three years granted to those who complete programs of two years or longer.
Overall, the Post-Graduation Work Permit is a good option for international students in Canada who want to work in Canada after they complete their studies. The open work permit provided as part of the program allows students flexibility in finding an employer. Further, work experience in Canada can be a crucial factor when applying for permanent residency.
Looking forward, based on the recent decision from the Court of Appeal for Ontario, international students who wish to work in Ontario should have even more options available for post-graduation employment.
Garson Immigration Law is a Toronto-based law firm that helps individuals find tailored solutions for their immigration needs. Our firm’s exclusive focus on immigration law allows us to understand our client’s unique concerns and obstacles. Our experienced immigration lawyers regularly provide advice on various immigration program options, including permanent residence in Canada and overcoming inadmissibility. To speak with a member of our team regarding your questions about immigration to Canada, contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860.
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