Canada is not doing enough with its highly educated immigrants, according to Statistics Canada


Being a doctor is a lifelong dream for 35-year-old Ayman Jabril. He is passionate about caring for patients, clearly explaining medical treatments and tracking them over time. He has trained and worked as a doctor in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but has yet to progress with his training and certification in Canada, although he has passed a host of qualifying exams since arriving in 2017.

He juggled those exams while supporting his young family through a variety of jobs: as a driver for Uber and Amazon, delivering pizzas, and most recently as a medical examiner and educator – advising members. community on COVID-19 and administering vaccines.

« I do a job in medicine. But I’m not a doctor, » said Jabril from Montreal, where he lives with his wife Maram Mohammed – also a foreign-trained doctor – and young daughters Aseel and Leen. .

A steady influx of highly educated immigrants has helped Canada maintain its top spot as the G7 country with the highest percentage (57.5%) of working-age people with college degrees. or academics, according to Statistics Canada census data released Wednesday.

Yet the agency also suggested the country is « leaving talent on the table » by not recognizing the education and qualifications of foreign-trained workers once they are here.

More than 1.3 million new immigrants settled it permanently between 2016 and 2021, according to Statistics Canada, the highest number ever recorded in a Canadian census.

Ayman Jebril, who lives in Montreal with his wife Maram Mohammed and daughters Aseel and Leen, trained and worked as a doctor in Yemen and Saudi Arabia before immigrating to Canada in 2017. (Submitted by Ayman Jebril)

Nearly 60% of new immigrants of working age (ages 25 to 64) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the agency. However, just over 25% of foreign graduates were overqualified for their jobs here; defined as jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.

The « lag » extends to high-demand sectors — like health care — that have come under enormous pressure amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said. The agency found that only 36.5% of internationally educated immigrants in registered nursing worked in that field (or a closely related profession), for example, and 41.1% with foreign medical degrees worked. as doctors.

Over the past few years, Jabril estimates he’s met more than 150 foreign-trained doctors in Montreal alone and says they’ve all had essentially the same story of being stuck there.

« I’ve applied to more than 30 family medicine departments and internal medicine training programs across the country, » he said.

“I applied from coast to coast…Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Prince Edward [Island]. Unfortunately, I have not received any explanation of my weakness or why I am not on the selected list. If I knew the reason, I could improve for the next round. »

« We need to do a better job »

Global data from Statistics Canada confirms the trend that Canada has a highly educated workforce, which is good news for the country as a whole, says Harvey Weingarten, higher education researcher and director of the Michener Institute of Education from the University Health Network of Toronto.

Canada needs to better assess the credentials of immigrants and admit them into their professions in Canada, said Harvey Weingarten, director of the Michener Institute of Education at University Health Network in Toronto. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

However, « we need to do a better job » of assessing immigrants’ credentials, « recognizing them and admitting them into the professions, » he said.

“Should we care about quality? Should we care about evaluating their credentials? Of course we should.

“We should be as efficient and as expert as possible in recognizing credentials, accrediting them to work in Canada if their skills and knowledge are up to the Canadian standard and having a variety of programs that bring them up to the Canadian standard if we find that they are deficient in some respects. »

A woman with long hair in a blue dress stands outdoors in a park.
Canadian immigration policy favors people who are highly skilled in trades or with traditional college degrees, says Prachi Srivastava, associate professor of education and global development at Western University. (Doug Husby/CBC)

That Canada has such a large population of educated immigrants « is intentional, » said Prachi Srivastava, associate professor of education policy and global development at Western University in London, Ont.

Immigration policy has shifted to favor those highly skilled in the trades or with traditional college degrees, she says.

« The paradox is that it is actually very difficult to find a job in this sector. Yes, the often cited example is that of doctors, but [it’s] also nurses. Also the teachers. »

WATCH | Many immigrants struggle to find internships in their chosen professions:

Immigrants help Canada remain the G7 country with the most educated workforce

Highly educated immigrants have helped Canada maintain its rank as the G7 country with the highest proportion of working-age adults with a post-secondary degree, according to new data from Statistics Canada. But a large portion of these immigrants work in jobs for which they are overqualified.

The problem is not just Canadian; it is an international concern that is on UNESCO’s radar, she added. The United Nations education agency presented a global convention in 2019 setting out principles for the recognition of qualifications – to support those pursuing post-secondary education internationally or entering the workforce. The UK and Japan are among 17 countries that ratified the convention last September. Canada did not.

Srivastava sees another UNESCO initiative – a type of passport for refugees or other qualified vulnerable people – as something that accreditation agencies, post-secondary institutions, industry bodies and policy makers could consider so that these immigrants do not spend « years and years and years » trying to requalify and get a job in Canada.

« It’s counterproductive not to allow them to make the most of those opportunities, » she said.

For Jabril, the plan is to stay in medicine — he’s applying for physician assistant jobs across the Prairies and in the North — to increase his experience working with Canadian patients alongside Canadian doctors and nurses, in the goal of having his own practice again.

While administering their COVID shots, Jabril heard from doctors about how stressed and overwhelmed they are right now and everyday people about being on the queue for surgeries or waiting years to find a family doctor.

« ‘Please try to find a position. When you get it, we will be your patients,' » some told him, he said.

“I would like to see people live happily and… [to more easily] access the health system, find a doctor. »


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