Walkabout in the Byward Market

It’s -20 C in the Byward Market and Rodolfo Roman stands alone at his street vendor booth on George Street.

“It’s not too bad if you wear the right things,” he said, gesturing to his thick parka, gloves, scarf, and hat. “You just have to be prepared.”

Roman is 26-years old and says that he moved to Canada one year ago from Mexico to be with his Quebecois girlfriend, whom he met while in Canada on vacation six months earlier. His family was not thrilled at his decision to leave Mexico, but have tried to be supportive as Roman settles into life in Canada, he said.

“My mom didn’t like it too much,” he said, “but I’m 26-years old and need to make my own life.”

“In Mexico I had everything- a job, a life,” Roman said, “but I didn’t have that person to stand beside me.”

Roman is no different from any other man his age, he said, and pointed out that he shares many of the same hopes and dreams as others in his situation.

“I’m going to get married soon,” Roman said. “I want to own a house, and have nice things, just like anyone else wants. I want to bring my girlfriend to Mexico.”

The problem with living out those dreams lies in the difficulty that Roman has faced in trying to find employment, he said.

“In Mexico, I had a job as a software developer,” Roman said, “but I’m having a hard time getting a job here. I send out my resume but I don’t get an answer.”

A friend of his brother in Mexico helped him come up with the idea of selling goods as a street vendor, Roman said. He said that while it’s not much, it’s better than having no job at all.

The unemployment rate in Ontario is one of the worst in Canada at 9.3 per cent, reported Statistics Canada, and as a result the number of people who are self-employed has increased.

“Workers are struggling to generate income through self-employment since jobs are unavailable,” said United Steelworkers economist Erin Weir in an interview with the Toronto Star on January 8.

In November, the federal government announced that it would speed up the recognition of credentials held by foreign-trained workers in an attempt to make better use of newcomers’ skills.

The plan, known as the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, is part of the federal government’s strategy to have the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world, said a press release by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development on November 30, 2009.

Implementation of the plan would affect newcomers like Roman who have skills and experience gained through foreign employment and education programs, but whose degrees and training have yet to be recognized as equivalent to Canadian programs.

Currently, six out of 10 immigrants hold jobs in a field that is different from the field in which they worked while abroad, says Statistics Canada.

“I’ve got to start somewhere,” Roman said, “and hopefully it will all work out.”

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