(*Some of the immigrant physicians featured in these stories have chosen to remain anonymous because of fear of reprisal from the medical system if they speak out publicly)
My husband and my 8-year-old daughter and I arrived in Montreal in 2014. We left Iran because we wanted to raise our daughter in Canada. We came with our hopes and dreams to settle here and grow our family.
After we arrived my husband who is a General Surgeon did some research and found out about the exams he needed to take. He started studying and at the same time he got a shadowing position with a General Surgeon who was a cancer specialist for two years. He also assisted with surgeries.
He also applied to Doctors without Borders to volunteer as a surgeon during Syria war. At that time, we were permanent resident and didn’t hold Canadian passport. When he was interviewed, he was told that because he didn’t have Canadian passport his safety was a big concern for MSF and they also were looking for a general surgeon who could lead the team and because he was a young, they turned him down.
In the first 4 years of our immigration, I was only working person and my family was dependent financially on me so he could spend most of his time passing the exams and getting Canadian experience. After three years he passed the exams and got 3 recommendation letters from very well-known physicians and surgeons of Montreal and applied for a residency at McGill and got two interviews for family physician and Cardio Surgery; unfortunately, he was not accepted in either of them.
I did pick up some French language and was able to communicate but the language was a barrier and I wanted to get a better job as my family was dependent on me but was not able mainly due to language barrier. We decided to move to Vancouver in 2019 hoping we would find better opportunities for me and my husband.
My husband applied for other jobs in the health care field such as pharmacy assistant but got rejected because he was told he was overqualified. He was prepared to do any job, but they used that excuse because he was a doctor to reject him. Every time he got a rejection it was a rejection for the family. It was a tiring and exhausting process for all of us.
He searched to see if he could apply for BC Medical university to take a residency position. He noticed that only certain programs are open to IMGs not all of them which is available for Canadian graduates. This is another example of barrier or discrimination against IMGs.
There is an evaluation exam for IMGs. You need to register for it. It seems you will be entering to a pool, and I don’t know how the process of selection works. He has registered twice for it and his name has not been drawn yet to take the exam.
In Vancouver, he tried again Doctors without Borders, this time they told him he had become out of practice. This is so unfair as it takes 2- 3 years just to pass the exams and get Canadian experience.
He was told that to get this problem resolved he needs to get back to home country to renew his practice. There is a simple question: Is he considered a Canadian? or not? Why was he granted Canadian Citizenship with limited possibilities?
I know of people who have had to leave their countries for political reasons, and they can’t go back so suggesting this is just another barrier.
After all this, my husband got very depressed and isolated himself. After a year of the depression, he reached out and tried to get some help, but he is not the same person he used to be. He used to be social with everyone, happy and funny, now he prefers to be alone. He now lives alone, and we are separated.
At the beginning of COVID he was contacted by BC Health recruitment, and he was interviewed for a new position (clinical surgical assistant role) which is mostly created for IMG Surgeon who are evaluated and confirmed by Royal College of Canadian Surgeons. They told him they would get back to him ASAP because at that time numerous elective surgeries were delayed. Again after 2 years, it seems nothing has changed and the barriers for deploying IMGs has not been lifted.
He is now working for a food delivery company. He is happy to be seeing people and not stuck at home alone. He is happy to help people, and this is a comfort to him. He is still trying to find a way to get back into medicine. He was interviewed for a program in Ontario where they were deploying IMGs, but nothing came of it.
I wanted people to hear how the discriminatory barriers facing IMGs affects the family. It has been a hard and lengthy process that kills all your hope. There are barriers after barriers. My husband has been trained more than 12 years to save lives, but Canada is discriminatory and not welcoming of IMGs or their families. Canada is a big cemetery for IMGs.