“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland have repeatedly told Canadians that:
“A Canadian is a Canadian, is a Canadian.”
Prime Minister Trudeau’s vision of Canada is a country where everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed as well.
However, many Canadians, including politicians, know that this is not the case when it comes to refugee and immigrant physicians. We, refugee and immigrant physicians, seek to make these statements into something more than empty words. Currently we are Canadians on paper only.
We have been sought by the Canadian immigration authorities to help with the ongoing shortage of physicians in Canada. However, we are not allowed to practice in Canada because the healthcare regulatory bodies are not really concerned about the consequences of the lack of timely access of patients to qualified physicians. If they were, they would not have put lots of different, endless barriers in front of highly qualified and experienced immigrant physicians who have even passed the Canadian qualifying medical exams.
This happens while these regulatory bodies allow non-immigrant physicians from certain oil-rich Gulf countries (i.e. visa trainees) practice as resident physicians and fellows without passing any Canadian medical exams just because their governments provide financial incentives to the university faculties of medicine and the ministries of health. Allowing visa trainees to practice in Canada not only poses safety risks to the public, but is also an act of discrimination based on national origin.
The regulatory bodies only allow us to apply to about 10% of residency positions in a very limited specialties. Even if we are matched to a residency position, we are required to sign Return of Service (ROS) agreements which mandate us to work in underserviced communities for a period of 2-5 years depending on the province.
ROS agreements forces Immigrant/Refugee Internationally Trained Physicians (IR-ITPs) to work in rural areas when the majority of refugees and immigrants settle in urban areas. First of all, imposing the limitation and responsibility of working in underserviced disciplines and regions breaches the Charter and human rights of refugee and immigrant physicians, but also deprives refugees and immigrants of diverse and culturally sensitive medical care.
None of these apply to Canadian medical graduates (CMGs). Also, about 3 to 5% of CMGs (between 85 and 140 each year) fail a Canadian qualifying medical exam, but they treat the public as resident physicians, nevertheless. We excel in this and an additional exam CMGs never take, but we are denied residency positions (more information and evidence about the discrimination is available here).
The argument of the regulatory bodies that immigrant physicians are a concern to the public safety, and that they are protecting the public is an excuse to achieve their goals in limiting the number of practicing physicians. It is hard to believe that they are acting in the best interest of the public.
This is why we have formed the Canadian On Paper Society of Immigrant Physicians Equality (COPSIPE). We want
- To improve the moral and ethical development of the community by promoting respect for human rights in accordance with the Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, federal and provincial legislation, and relevant international covenants and agreements to which Canada is a signatory, and by informing and educating the public and government officials on human rights issues faced by immigrant physicians and international medical graduates in Canada.
- To uphold the administration and enforcement of human rights laws as specified in the Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, federal and provincial legislation, and relevant international covenants and agreements to which Canada is a signatory, by facilitating legal advice and representation to enforce the human rights of immigrant physicians and international medical graduates in Canada.
- To undertake activities ancillary and incidental to the attainment of the above-mentioned charitable purposes.
The objective of human rights is to foster a society of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights and where there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life in the provinces and territories of Canada.
The purpose of our society is to eliminate systemic barriers so that the dignity and rights of refugees and immigrants are more than just words.
If you share our interests, you are more than welcome to become a member of our society by applying here. Alternatively, if you would like to support us without becoming a member, you may provide us with your information by Clicking Here