Refugees escaping the horrors of war-torn Syria have been least concerned about their personal belongings while running for their lives and Yaser Nadaf was no exception to this. However, Nadaf’s problem was that he forgot one of the most important pieces of his documents, his driving license.
While his Syrian driving license would have been of much importance during his stay in Canada, he couldn’t bring it along while fleeing from the country. This put the shelter seeker down to the queue of those applying and waiting for their G2 license through Ontario’s licensing process, something which took him 8 months with no avail. Luckily, his sister who was still in Syria found his license and sent it to him.
Speaking to CBC news, Canada, Nadaf said, “I had it in my car in Syria. I left it in my car before I left. I trust my sister. I don’t trust anyone else.”
After this ordeal, Nadaf has been informed that he would have to wait for another year to get fully licensed since the process of licensing specifies that a driver need to wait for at least twelve months after getting the G2 license to apply for a G license.
The refugee has taken up the case with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to make sure the issue is addressed and others do not have to pass through the same difficulty he had to go through.
The Ministry of Transportation in Canada has always been more concerned about skill than formalities and thus allows immigrants to apply for driving licenses if they are already experienced elsewhere, thus exempting the waiting period. This is justified because the purpose of the long waiting period is to give the driver enough time to learn the skills. However, if they are licensed and have been driving in another country, it is obvious that they may be trained for the job in Canada as well.
However, with the exception of Ontario, all provinces in Canada require immigrants to have a basic driving license. The only time they actually make it compulsory to re-apply is when the license lacks basic information like date of birth, photograph, name of the issuing authority, or place of issuing.
Ontario is an exception to this system. They specifically need an original letter of authentication which makes clear their experience. Now if an immigrant from a country like India or China migrates to Canada, he/she would have enough time to collect these documents and produce them to the authorities in Ontario, but this is seemingly impossible for refugees coming from war-torn countries. Even if they have their licenses, they might never be able to get any acknowledgement from the issuing authority since the authority offices would probably be damaged or the authorized personnel might not be there.
The licensing process to get a G2 license is pretty tough for anyone including those native to the country. To get an idea, here are a few tips for passing the G2 road test in Canada. They would test how well the driver uses the mirrors and manages blind spots especially while moving in dense traffic, the candidate’s ability to judge how much to slow down the vehicle while nearing a junction, how well the person under test manages the vehicle during maneuvers and his/her patience level while doing so, the candidate’s ability to stop when it has to be done instantly and proving driving skills on an actual route.
A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson was unable to comment on whether they would ease their procedure for these hopeless immigrants but they gave a generalized statement. “The Government of Ontario has been very welcoming with respect to how the government have opened our borders to refugees who have fled very difficult circumstances.”
Interestingly, the Transportation Ministry said that the human rights tribunal didn’t even ask for licenses for refugees. They simply want the authorities to test them directly and shorten the examination process for the needy once they provide the basic documentation they have. If the rest of Canada is fine with that, why can’t Ontario agree to the exemption?
As of present, refugees resettled to Ontario receive financial assistance for a year but many would prefer to start earning earlier. Many might be professional truck drivers or taxi drivers and all they need is a chance to prove themselves.
Nadaf gave a simple solution to the whole case: Let the driver go through the test and if he fails, make him pass through the whole lengthy procedure.
In another similar case, Shyesh Al-Turki, a Syrian refugee who worked as a truck driver in his home country was unable to get a driver’s license in Ontario. He would have to wait until next March to apply for his G2 license without which he cannot earn his bread and butter himself.