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Abstract

Professional labour markets in Ontario, Canada, are culturally regulated to the disadvantage of foreign-born and foreign-trained immigrant practitioners. In this paper we draw on Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of institutionalized cultural capital and habitus to examine processes of distinction between foreign and Canadian-trained professionals. Based on fieldwork investigating Ontario's professional engineering regulatory system as a case study, we interpret institutionalized cultural familiarity in the licensing criteria enforced by regulatory bodies as processes of distinction that undermine immigrants' access to the engineering profession relative to Canadian-born and Canadian-trained applicants. In addition to assessing the value of non-Canadian credentials, regulatory bodies attempt to reproduce the social and cultural integrity of the professional membership by requiring applicants to internalize cultural norms specific to the profession as it is practiced in Canada. Licensing procedures can thus facilitate the cultural exclusion of immigrant practitioners