Refugees living in Ontario face difficult barrier to drive

Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

You’ve just escaped with your life from a brutal, seemingly endless civil war. You’ve dragged your family across the ocean with hope and faith that you will be accepted to a new country. Having arrived, if you speak the language at all, you don’t speak it well. You have no familiarity with the environment from which you now need to derive an income to feed your family.

All the hoops a refugee claimant needs to jump through are behind you. Except now you have to wait a year to drive. It doesn’t matter that you know how to drive, have driven for decades and have a valid license from your home country. Even though immigrant newcomers do not have to wait, or refugees settling in provinces other than Ontario. How do you get to work?

This is an obstacle that the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Law is calling on Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to remove.

Currently, after a refugee passes the test to achieve their G2, they need to wait a year for the full graduated licence or G license.

Ontario is discriminating against refugees, says IHRP director Samer Muscati, whose organization financed a Human Rights Tribunal claim on behalf of Shyesh Al-Turki, a Syrian refugee and former truck driver who came to Canada in 2016 with his family.

“Being unable to drive and support my family has been a huge burden on me,” says Mr. al-Turki in an IHRP press release. “By having to wait a year before taking the test for a full G licence, I am left sitting at home and unable to provide for my wife and children. I want to contribute to Canada and participate fully in society. Right now, I can’t do that.”

The hundreds of others in a similar predicament are forced to rely on charity and government assistance and pay higher insurance premiums with their G2.

Not only is this policy holding back refugee driver but the Canadian trucking industry needs new drivers, and is asking Ontario to change their rules. The Conference Board of Canada says by 2020, Canada’s trucking industry will be short 25,000 drivers.

In 2015, while announcing funding to bring in Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland, Premier Kathleen Wynne said, "The bottom line for me is that all of us across the country need to be doing everything we can to help in this humanitarian crisis."
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