Avoiding the Trap of the Convenience Store

February 2014

Last month the Ottawa Citizen published two articles on convenience store ownership in Ottawa. They describe how convenience stores are losing profit and closing down, because grocery stores are now often open every day for 24 hours.

Unfortunately, since immigrants own many of Ottawa’s convenience stores, they are the primary victims. One of the articles talks about an immigrant couple who have to work long hours at their convenience store, every day from 7am to 10pm. Another convenience store owner explains how he does not have enough time to take English classes due to the long working hours.

Many new immigrants hope to only have to work these long hours for a few years. Sadly, this lifestyle becomes a trap. Immigrants are constantly forced to work long hours to feed their families. Without time for English lessons and educational advancement, it becomes impossible to find a higher paying job. These convenience store owners were often professionals in their home country. They come to Canada for a better life, but less than a quarter of new immigrants find work in their field.

This economic reality has led the Canadian government to create a new program that they will call the “Expression of Interest System” (EOI). The goal of the EOI system will be to match up future Canadian immigrants with vacant jobs in the Canadian market. It will also encourage future immigrants to apply for citizenship if they have the specific skills needed by Canadian employers. After submitting their personal information online, the system will then rank them based on their skills, work experience, education, and language skills. Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) will then use this “pool” to contact the most qualified candidates to apply for citizenship in Canada. This system would help over-educated and overqualified immigrants escape the trap of the convenience store, and would allow them to pursue real in-demand jobs in Canada. The government hopes to have the EOI system in place by January 2015.

The government has tried to improve immigration programs in the past. However, the major issue has always been that applications take a long time to be approved by CIC. How can you look for future work in Canada when it could take years for your application to be approved? The government will have to have enough staff to process EOI applications in order for the system to be effective. Ideally, employers should also be given access to the EOI pool so that they can hire the exact immigrants they need for their businesses. However, the government will need to make sure that employers’ involvement in the EOI system does not slow down the processing of applications.

You can read the Ottawa Citizen articles here:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/observer/Cornered+Hard+times+convenience+store/9449248/story.html

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Cornered+from+their+community/9455642/story.html

You can read what the Canadian government is saying about the EOI system here:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/DEPARTMENT/media/backgrounders/2013/2013-10-28b.asp

 Next month I will be discussing the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act. However, if you have been putting off applying for citizenship, don’t wait for my newsletter. If the proposed amendments become law, it will be much harder to become a citizen. Get your application in now! If you need help with your application, please contact my office.