Dashed dreams of new Canadian life

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By Sheila Nykwist

Numeriano Flores had high hopes for his life in Canada.

The promise of job opportunities, free education for his children and health care were what finally convinced Flores last November to give into his wife’s long-held dream of moving to Canada.

He uprooted his family in the Philippines, sold two of his homes and left behind a business he had worked 30 years to own.

But less than a year after moving to Toronto from Imus, Cavite in the Philippines, Flores realizes it was a bigger sacrifice than he anticipated.

Like many immigrant professionals trying to enter the Canadian workforce, he came up against two major obstacles: no Canadian education and no Canadian work experience.

“It’s like starting again from zero,” admits Flores, a 51-year-old continuing education student at Ryerson who’s studying businesses with the goal of taking the certified general accountant’s exam. It’s the Canadian equivalent to a title he has already earned.

The CGA certification is equal to the certified public accountant’s qualification he holds from the Philippines, which is not recognized here in Canada. If it were just a matter of sitting for the exam. Flores would already be well on his way. Unfortunately he is required to hold a Canadian degree before writing the exam.

Without taking breaks in his study, Flores predicts he will be able to sit for the exam in one and a half to two years.

“I want to hit it bigger and the only way to do it is to go back to school.” says Flores.

But it’s not like he just hopped on a plane. Flores and his family looked extensively into the prospects of getting a job at pay rate equivalent to what he was making in the Philippines.

A visit to the Canadian embassy in Manilla assured him that, as a CPA in the Philippines, he was qualified to work in Canada. The embassy even listed a number of available positions in Canada that he could apply for as a financial analyst.

Flores felt secure and confident in knowing he had the necessary skills and available opportunities to pick up in Canada where he left off in the Philippines.

His wife asked friends already living in Canada about the job situation.

“I was told it’s easy to find a job,” Flores says. He even estimated his monthly wage would be $4,000 to $5,000 a month.

However, this was not the case.

He recalls his initial attempt to find work through a temp agency when he arrived in Toronto.

“The first question they asked me was, ‘Do you have Canadian experience?” says Flores with incredulity. He can’t not understand how this criteria can be expected of newcomers to the country.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s web site says, “Employers look for experienced people who will become productive immediately. They may not want to hire someone without Canadian experience or who seems unable to cope with Canadian ways.”

It’s essentially a loophole that allows employers to pick and choose who they want, based on experience they deem relevant. This leaves many immigrants to take up a job outside their trade or profession, usually as servers, manual labourers or cleaners.

Being forced to follow this trend, Flores took a job at Global File, where he made filing cabinets. He continued to hand out resumes to other companies, hoping to find something better.

Last December he gladly accepted a friend’s invitation to a Christmas party where he networked himself into his current job as an accountant for McCann Ericson, a fine craft jeweller.

His pay is still low compared to what he earned in the Philippines.

His career began at the age of 21, with his first accounting job at General Electric Philippines. Over the next 20 years he moved between companies, advancing his career and accruing the experience necessary to finally open his own consultancy company, Numes Consultancy Services. In 1990, he left everything behind and came to Canada.

His plan for a better life in Canada – like any immigrant who wants to work but lacks experience – will be accomplished by sticking to his schedule at Ryerson.

Not that his combined schooling and experience in the Philippines aren’t already sufficient for him to be successful in Canada.

“Business is an international concept,” explains Flores. He believes business practices are similar across the globe out of necessity to communicate effectively on the same terms. He says differences come into play where taxes are concerned.

Canadian tax laws are just part of the material covered in the part-time business program Flores is enrolled in at Ryerson.

Flores ultimately chose Ryerson because it was the least expensive business school. He calculated each course to be $24 less than what he would have to pay elsewhere. Plus he prefers an interactive classroom over a correspondence course on the Internet.

Even though he’s familiar with most of the material covered in his course, he knows CGA certification is his key to breaking into Canadian business.

Despite the expense and time required, Flores maintains a positive attitude.

“It’s like a refresher course,” says Flores with a smile. “And I have a chance to network with other students.”

Although his life has taken a dramatic turn since leaving his home in the Philippines, he shows no signs of letting up. He’s determined to get the certification and get back on top of his career within the next two to three years.

Flores’ calm demeanor masks any frustration and disappointment he feels at having given up his entire livelihood to be met with rejection. But he has no regrets.

Flores’ driving force and inspiration come from his family.

Providing his children with a high level of education has always been Flores’ goal. His three children, who were enrolled in private school in the Philippines, were a little skeptical about leaving their friends for a new life in Canada.

“They didn’t want to leave,” says Flores whose children have already adapted to their new home and are at the top of their classes.

“Education is the best legacy I can give to my children,” says Flores earnestly, who feels satisfaction in knowing his children have limitless opportunities in and will have in Canadian experience to help search for a job in the future.

As for his wife, moving to Canada is a dream come true. From the time her aunt had moved to Canada back in the Seventies, she began hearing stories of Canada’s beauty and wonderful lifestyle.

Canada became her ideal country and now Flores has brought her here.

For everything Canada has to offer his family in the future, Flores now works through a system that attracts, then rejects capable and qualified people from other countries.

“I can’t do it for them and I can do it for myself,” says Flores.

In the meantime, Flores can think of one thing that Canada’s got over the Philippines. “Well,” he replies with thought,” the weather is good.”


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