Canadian Institutes bringing teacher trainers from US

Thomas Wm Schoen said: May 27, 2014
Thomas Wm Schoen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonton, AB
1 posts

A long post from discussions held at the two Canadian sessions at the SAA conference. I would love to hear comments and feedback on this issue.

New regulations by the Canadian government are making it very difficult for Canadian Institutes to access teacher trainers. A perspective from the Alberta Summer Suzuki Institute.

Over the past year the Canadian government has changed the process to bring people to work in Canada in order to more effectively protect Canadian workers, and to pass on the cost of the application process to the hiring organization. These changes have had a major impact on the workload and budget of our institute.
Because there are not many Canadian teacher trainers, especially in smaller instrument areas, we regularly rely on bringing trainers from the US to provide the training we need to offer at our institute.
For all of our previous institute we have applied for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from the Canadian Immigration Department for each non-Canadian faculty member. Once we figured out the procedure it was fairly straight forward and there was no cost involved. Once the LMO was granted we received a document which we sent to the faculty member to present at customs at which point they would purchase a work permit to come into the country to teach for us for the week. On arrival we would reimburse the trainer the cost of the work permit (about $150).

The new process has raised three major issues:

The new process now costs $275 per position for the LMO. The $150 cost of the work permit is now in addition to the $275 cost of the LMO. We are currently hoping to bring 3 teachers from the US to teach at ASSI and have applied for 3 LMOs at a cost of $825. At this point we are still waiting for the results of the LMO to find out whether we will have faculty for our institute in July. If the LMOs are decided in our favour each teacher will also purchase a work permit for $150. The total cost for bringing these 3 teachers will be $1325, which for our institute adds more than $10 to every institute registration.

Institute faculty coming from outside Canada have had a number of different experiences in the past couple of years. At our last institute in 2012 our non-Canadian faculty were told that they didn’t need to get work permits and the customs official didn’t even think that it was necessary for us to have gotten an LMO. A faculty member coming to a different institute on the other side of the country was turned away at the border and not allowed to come into Canada to work. Before starting the LMO process we tried to get more information. Initially we got nowhere with our enquiries to Canadian Immigration. People who replied to our questions were very vague and said it sounded like we shouldn’t need a LMO but they couldn’t say for sure. We pursued the matter with the office of our local member of parliament. Their office worked for a couple of weeks and was finally told that we would have to apply for an LMO for each position. We also discovered another form to fill out and submit to see if we could be exempt from getting the LMO. That came back saying we needed to get the LMO as well.

The other issue here is one of equal access to trainers. If an institute is connected to a university program the university can bring faculty under an agreement in NAFTA allowing exchanges of university faculty to take place. This can happen without a LMO or a work permit. Our institute in Edmonton is not connected with a university and even though we rent facilities from the U of A to hold our institute and offer the same training courses that an institute connected with a university does, we are unable to bring faculty this way.

In addition to the university faculty arrangement, The American Federation of Musicians has several different arrangements for performing musicians to cross the border. Some of these involve work permits and LMOs and others don’t. The Canadian Federation of Musicians website has several letters that can be downloaded and sent to foreign artists coming to Canada to perform. All the artist has to do is to present the letter at the border.

The SAA, as an international professional association, is in a position to be able to consult with employment and immigration experts in both Canada and the US and set up reciprocal agreements for SAA teacher trainers to cross the Canada/US border, in a manner similar to agreements already in place for universities and musician performers who are AFM members.

Even though dealing with this issue may involve some cost, I think that in the long run it would be very helpful to all Canadian Suzuki programs as it would smooth the way for bringing teacher trainers for workshops and institutes. It will also be helpful to Canadian teacher trainers, as it has the potential to create more open opportunities for them to work in the US.

Thomas Schoen
Institute Director
ASSI 2014

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