Government urged to fast-track licensing for experienced refugee drivers

By Staff

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) should consider sworn affidavits in lieu of original documents from war-torn countries in order to get experienced drivers working in Canada, Toronto immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

“The way I would approach it if I was a tribunal, or if I was the Ministry of Transportation, is to provide those with refugee status the option to demonstrate their driving experience,” explains Carvajal, a partner with Desloges Law Group.

“And, if they can’t find the appropriate documentation to prove their driving experience, use a sworn affidavit that attests to the fact that those documents are not available and provide evidence of the efforts that they’ve made to obtain them,” he says.

Carvajal, who has experience working with refugee claimants and on human rights tribunal cases, tells the online legal publication that this issue arises with immigration authorities all the time. He says clients are often asked for birth or marriage certificates that may no longer exist and can’t be obtained from the original authorities because the country is in conflict.

In those circumstances, he says, affidavits are used to show that the client has gone through the requisite channels to try and obtain them. He says it makes sense to use the same approach to prove driving experience.

“I don’t see why [MTO] won’t accept that given that it’s sworn evidence in lieu of that document. I think that should be the way to approach it. I think it strikes a fair balance between protecting people, which is obviously something we want to do. We want to protect drivers and other people on the road, but also provide a practical solution to those who can’t get those documents,” he says.

The University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP) is calling on the MTO to allow skilled drivers from war-torn countries to fast track through the one-year waiting period before the final driving test needed to obtain a G licence, reports The Lawyer’s Daily.

The MTO allows new Canadians with prior driving experience to obtain credit toward the graduated G program. Under the Highway Traffic Act, drivers can obtain up to 12 months of credit, but drivers must provide proof of a valid driver’s licence for at least 24 months out of the past three years.

MTO's policy requires written authentication from the originating licensing agency, or from the embassy, consulate or high commissioner's office of the refugee's country of origin, but as the publication notes, refugees often can’t get these documents because the relevant offices may not exist due to war or collapsed governments.

Finding a way around the current requirements is especially important, says Carvajal because of a shortage of long-haul truck drivers in Canada. He says he’s worked on cases for clients who want to bring drivers to Canada to help fill the void.

“Some provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, actually have permanent residence programs for truck drivers. It’s so hard to get them and keep them here that they've specifically opened streams for them. So I think that definitely goes to show that there is short supply,” says Carvajal.

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