In this article, the author explores why during the Corona Virus Pandemic that Canada suffers from a shortage of health care professionals, it cannot benefit from its own immigrant professionals who immigrated to Canada as skilled workers? The author briefly reviews the background since December 2019 and elaborates on the barriers which immigrants’ professional doctors encounter, and finally offers some tips in order to see how we can include professional immigrants into the Canadian professional job market instead of rejecting and marginalizing them.
"Since December 2019 China was affected by Covid-19, and gradually the world became affected. Countries across the globe did not imagine that they too would be affected. Businesses have been closed and access to services has been limited. Furthermore, family and friends have been deprived of having a physical gathering and billions of people are in a state of panic. More importantly, Canadian seniors who rely on home-care assistance have been subject to high death ratios. This can primarily be attributed to the lack of staff support and other common issues, including each individual’s health condition. Moreover, indigenous communities and those living in remote areas are in the same precarious positions.
Hospitals and care-homes were/ are in need of more doctors, nurses, and medical-related workers. This current shortage results partially from practitioners being afraid of working in this time of uncertainty, so they do not go to work. As well, some have been directly affected by the virus, being tired from working long days, or having contracted the virus themselves. Regardless, the lack of practitioners is a significant factor since the federal government has consistently called for assistance for care-homes.
To alleviate these stresses, office staffs who work in a hospital and health care offices have been trained to assist with some tasks in the hospitals. As well, in addition to foreign doctors who are trained in Canada being called to register to work, military staff has also given a hand with care-home centers.
Along with this call for help, I would like to raise the ongoing issue that how and why many immigrants with a professional degree and experiences have been rejected in the Canadian workplace? They have been told that they need to obtain Canadian education and experiences or that they are over-qualified. In other words, how many doctors and nurses and all related professionals have obstacles to enter at even the entry-level of their fields after many years of studying and working in their homeland?How many of them that are supporting their families must opt for a job to ensure basic survival needs, alongside studying and taking expensive exams to be qualified as a Canadian health professional?
For example,an immigrant doctor needs to spend at least $6000-$8000for several qualifying examinations. They have to qualify each examination one at a time and then have to wait 6 to 12 months for the next examination.Upon passing these examinations, they also need to undergo residency training for at least2-5 years to obtain a license. In addition, each year, more than 2000 doctors (GPs and Specialists) are expected to come to Canada as federal immigrants. There are also doctors coming to Canada as provincial nominees as well as other immigration programs bringing doctors to Canada. If we consider the existing system and its capacity, only a small number of doctors, that being 5-6%, will be able to enter the system after crossing all the barriers. The question is what will happen to the rest? What will happen to those who have made much effort to come to this country, believing that they will be able to serve the people of Canada and help alleviate the shortage of public health?
We can ask more and more questions regarding this exclusion, marginalization, ignoring and marketization of professionalism in the Canadian context. For example; we can ask: does Canada really care about the knowledge and experiences of foreign professionals or does Canada like to impose its own professional agenda? This domination extends over immigrants and ignores them, instead of trying to integrate their professional abilities into Canadian knowledge production and environments.
In the present pandemic circumstances, I would like to further this discussion to point out that when Canada deprives professional immigrants of entering the Canadian professional market economy, it has lasting effects. The impact of such marginalization and ignoring have resulted in these professionals losing their skills, abilities, expertise, and self-confidence in a larger aspect. From the other side, their knowledge and training could have especially helped Canada during this time of hardship and in need of such expertise. It is evident, that there are a large number of immigrant professionals who can help but have been excluded and left behind.
Thus, instead of rejecting their professional accreditation earned elsewhere, Canada should open the door to them, allowing them to take updated courses and practice. Furthermore, Canada should provide an opportunity for them to work in their related professional positions, at an entry-level, but under the supervision of a Canadian specialist. And also by increasing the capacity beyond 5-6% of professional immigrants who have passed their related exams and allowing them to work on their own. This process is much more productive, cost-efficient, and inclusive. It will also have less of a mental health impact on immigrant professionals. Following this, such individuals will gradually journey to a higher level of their professions, so that when the country experiences difficulties like those of today, they can be part of the solutions and more engaged in Canadian society.
This inclusivity is not rejected in organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Medical professionals from Canada and across the globe can go to any developing country and practice medicine without being qualified in these countries. Why is that? If the concern in Canada is that immigrant professionals may not be qualified, then why is the concern not extended when Canadian doctors practice medicine in other developing countries? Are the lives of those people less important than those of prosperous countries?
As a result, the current pandemic gestures Canada to think globally and act locally by revising its own regulation for immigrant professionals. Canada can establish legislation for all professionals to be involved efficiently in the job market and feel that they can be agents of change and social justice in Canadian society. If a professional immigrant starts her/his job in the related environment, even at an entry-level, it is much more productive and beneficial for Canadian society. As well, we will have a more inclusive society, than shifting them to non-related positions and causing mental health problems, along with social and cultural separation from the rest of society."