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Canada not doing enough with its highly educated immigrants, StatsCan says

December 21, 2022

By CBC News |

Being a physician has been a lifelong dream for 35-year-old Ayman Jabril. He’s passionate about caring for patients, clearly explaining medical treatments, and following up with them over time. He trained and worked as a physician in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but has yet to make headway getting further training and certification in Canada, despite having completed a host of qualification exams since arriving in 2017.

He’s been juggling those exams while supporting his young family through a variety of jobs: as a driver for Uber and Amazon, delivering pizzas and, more recently, work as a medical screener and educator — advising community members about COVID-19 and administering vaccines.

“I’m doing a job in the field of medicine. But I’m not a physician,” Jabril said from Montreal, where he lives with his wife Maram Mohammed — also a foreign-trained physician — and young daughters Aseel and Leen.

A steady influx of highly educated immigrants has helped Canada keep its top ranking as the G7 nation with the highest percentage (57.5 per cent) of working-age people carrying credentials from college or university, according to Statistics Canada census data released Wednesday.

Nearly 60 per cent of working-age new immigrants (aged 25-64) hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, the agency said. However, a bit over 25 per cent with foreign degrees were overqualified for the jobs they have here; defined as working jobs that required a high school diploma at most.

The “mismatch” extends to high-demand sectors — like health care — which have been under tremendous strain amid the COVID-19 pandemic, StatsCan said. The agency found just 36.5 per cent of immigrants trained abroad in registered nursing were working in that field (or in a closely related occupation), for instance, and 41.1 per cent with foreign medical degrees were working as physicians.

Over the past few years, Jabril estimates he’s met over 150 foreign-trained physicians in Montreal alone and says they’ve all experienced essentially the same story about being stuck in place.

“I applied for more than 30 family medicine departments and internal medicine training programs all over the country,” he said.

“I applied from coast to coast … Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Prince Edward [Island]. Unfortunately I didn’t get any explanation for what is my weakness or why I’m not on the selected list. If I knew the reason, I could improve myself for the next round.”

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