Media Releases

Ontario Should Revise Discriminatory Policy Against Refugee Drivers

December 11, 2017

Allow experienced drivers from war-torn countries to skip driving-test waiting period similar to other newcomers in Ontario

Toron­to, ON – Ontario’s Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion should revise its pol­i­cy and allow expe­ri­enced dri­vers from war-torn coun­tries to skip the one-year wait­ing peri­od before their final dri­ving tests — an exemp­tion avail­able to oth­er new­com­ers in Ontario as well as refugees in oth­er provinces, the Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­ul­ty of Law (IHRP) said today.

Under the cur­rent pol­i­cy, the Gov­ern­ment of Ontario is dis­crim­i­nat­ing against refugees from Syr­ia and oth­er con­flict zones by effec­tive­ly exclud­ing them from an exemp­tion to the one-year wait­ing peri­od between a novice driver’s licence (“G2”) and a full grad­u­at­ed licence (“G”) for expe­ri­enced dri­vers.

This week marks the sec­ond anniver­sary of the first plane­load of Syr­i­an refugees arriv­ing on Cana­di­an soil, and Ontario’s gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to pre­vent them from get­ting dri­ving jobs to sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies because of this dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pol­i­cy,” said Samer Mus­cati, direc­tor of the IHRP. “The provin­cial gov­ern­ment needs to step up and imple­ment poli­cies sim­i­lar to oth­er provinces to allow expe­ri­enced refugee dri­vers the abil­i­ty to imme­di­ate­ly test for a full licence.”

The IHRP is pro­vid­ing sup­port to lit­i­ga­tor Has­san Ahmad who has brought a case before the Human Rights Tri­bunal of Ontario on behalf of Shyesh Al-Tur­ki, a Syr­i­an refugee who worked as a truck dri­ver before reset­tling to Cana­da with his wife and chil­dren in 2016. The case, expect­ed to be heard in ear­ly 2018, alleges the Ontario gov­ern­ment has dis­crim­i­nat­ed against Mr. al-Tur­ki by forc­ing him to wait a year before tak­ing his G dri­ving test. He is one of hun­dreds of refugees eager to work but restrict­ed from many jobs by hav­ing to wait an extra year to get a full G licence.  Refugees who can­not work rely on tax­pay­ers through gov­ern­ment assis­tance or the good­will of their spon­sors. G2 licences are also sub­ject to high­er insur­ance pre­mi­ums, cre­at­ing an addi­tion­al finan­cial bur­den.

In Ontario, new dri­vers are required to com­plete the grad­u­at­ed licenc­ing pro­gram, which begins with a writ­ten exam to obtain a G1 licence. To pro­ceed to the G2 licence, a new dri­ver must com­plete a year of super­vised dri­ving expe­ri­ence fol­lowed by a dri­ving exam. Anoth­er year of dri­ving expe­ri­ence is required before being eli­gi­ble for the full G license dri­ving exam.

Ontario recog­nis­es that new­com­ers often have pri­or dri­ving expe­ri­ence, which appli­cants can declare for cred­it toward the grad­u­at­ed pro­gram. Under the High­way Traf­fic Act, appli­cants can obtain up to 12 months of cred­it by pro­vid­ing a self-dec­la­ra­tion of the for­eign-licensed dri­ving expe­ri­ence. For cred­it of more than 12 months, and there­by an exemp­tion to the grad­u­at­ed process, appli­cants are required to pro­vide doc­u­men­tary evi­dence that they held a valid driver’s licence for at least 24 months out of the past three years. All appli­cants must still pass a sec­ond dri­ving exam to get a full G licence.

Under Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion pol­i­cy, doc­u­men­tary evi­dence is lim­it­ed to writ­ten authen­ti­ca­tion from the orig­i­nat­ing licens­ing agency, or from the embassy, con­sulate or high com­mis­sion­er’s office, of the refugee’s coun­try of ori­gin.  Refugees from war-torn coun­tries often can­not access these doc­u­ments. In cas­es of col­lapsed regimes or civ­il war, the rel­e­vant offices may not exist. Refugees also can­not return to their coun­tries of ori­gin for fear of their lives or of los­ing their refugee sta­tus in Cana­da.

Oth­er provinces, includ­ing Alber­ta, Man­i­to­ba, and British Colum­bia, only require doc­u­men­tary evi­dence regard­ing past dri­ving expe­ri­ence where the for­eign driver’s licence lacks req­ui­site infor­ma­tion, such as issue date, pho­to­graph, or date of birth. On the oth­er hand, Ontario requires writ­ten authen­ti­ca­tion that is in many cas­es impos­si­ble to obtain from war zones and coun­tries in con­flict.

The IHRP urges the Ontario gov­ern­ment to remove the require­ment of writ­ten authen­ti­ca­tion of for­eign dri­ving expe­ri­ence for refugees. Instead, it should only require a cer­ti­fied French or Eng­lish trans­la­tion of a valid for­eign driver’s licence.

The Cana­di­an truck­ing indus­try is strug­gling sig­nif­i­cant­ly to attract new dri­ver. Truck­ing HR Cana­da, a non-prof­it that sup­ports the truck­ing indus­try in meet­ing human resources issues, has asked Ontario’s gov­ern­ment to ease restric­tions to allow more dri­vers to become licenced for truck dri­ving and cre­at­ed a set of man­u­als for the indus­try to sup­port the train­ing of Syr­i­an refugee dri­vers. A change in the Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion’s pol­i­cy would fill the gap and pro­vide more job oppor­tu­ni­ties for refugees. The Ontario gov­ern­ment should be proac­tive and revise its dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pol­i­cy now rather than wait for the Human Rights Tri­bunal of Ontario’s deci­sion in Mr. al-Turki’s case.

“Being unable to dri­ve and sup­port my fam­i­ly has been a huge bur­den on me,” says Mr. al-Tur­ki. “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.”


Ontario’s cur­rent pol­i­cy is dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and may be in breach of Canada’s inter­na­tion­al legal oblig­a­tions includ­ing pro­vi­sions in the Inter­na­tion­al Covenant on Civ­il and Polit­i­cal Rights; Inter­na­tion­al Covenant on Eco­nom­ic, Social and Cul­tur­al Rights; Con­ven­tion Relat­ing to the Sta­tus of Refugees, and the Inter­na­tion­al Labour Organization’s Dis­crim­i­na­tion (Employ­ment and Occu­pa­tion) Con­ven­tion.


Samer Mus­cati, IHRP Direc­tor:; +1 416–946-8730
Petra Mol­nar, IHRP Research Asso­ciate:; +1 416–946-8229, 1–647-967‑4954
Has­san Ahmad, lawyer for Mr. Shyesh Al-Tur­ki:; +1 416–595-2097
Omar Khan, refugee advo­cate:; +1 647–773-4112

For more infor­ma­tion and to arrange for inter­views, con­tact:

Kara Nor­ring­ton
Admin­is­tra­tive Assis­tant, IHRP
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Fac­ul­ty of Law
+ 1 416–946-7831

Lucian­na Cic­co­ciop­po
Direc­tor, Exter­nal Rela­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Fac­ul­ty of Law
+1 416–946-0334