by Jacky Habib in Toronto 

Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.

“Instead of walking south, hed walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didnt know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.” 

Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities. 

Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimers and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care. 

The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peters main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule. 

“Its not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.” 

Reverting to native language, reliving trauma 

Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children. 

Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network."[/quote]

“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says. 

The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.  

It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.  

Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia. 

“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.” 

The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese. 

Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma. 

To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of people revert to their first language.”[/quote]

Accessing culturally specific services 

For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern. 

This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians. 

The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients. 

“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize theyre in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel theyre in familiar grounds and dont get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds. 

Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of peoples experiences and expectations. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”[/quote]

“Health-care [in Canada] isnt as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.” 

This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains. 

Caregivers face challenges also 

Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.

Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave. 

Although hes a quiet person who doesnt converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and its tough to handle on her own. 

“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. Ive got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I dont think positive, hell be worse.” 

Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified. 


{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Health
Friday, 18 September 2015 02:22

Pulse: Arab Media Tack Conservative

By Jacky Habib in Toronto

Arab media publications across Canada are providing extensive coverage of the Syrian crisis, often publishing editorials in support of the Conservative Partys approach to fighting ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also called ISIL (ISI and Levant), and the millions of refugees fleeing that country.

Anti-government demonstrations in Syria began as part of the Arab Spring in March 2011. With the governments violent crackdown against Syrians and rebel forces fighting back, it has escalated to an all-out civil war.

Medhat Oweida, Chief Editor of Al Ahram, a bi-weekly Arabic newspaper that is distributed across Canada said the paper has been covering the crisis since it began. The Syrian conflict is one of the issues that has captured Arabsattention,Oweida said. 

In a piece titled “How Canada can Fight ISIS”, Oweida suggests the fight against terrorism will not be successful with air strikes alone, but that Canadian forces should be on the ground as well.

Western countries would have to support and cooperate with Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan Iraqs and Kurdish armies. The armies would lead the war on the ground with the help of international alliances who would help with air strikes and information like what happened in Kobani. Western countries need to learn the lesson and stop assisting the opposition in Syria,the editorial explains.

His paper also carried a poll asking Arab Canadians if they are willing to open their homes to Syrian refugees: 85 per cent of respondents said yes. 

Military solution

The reliance on a military solution was echoed in Good News, an Arabic Christian publication distributed in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The bi-weekly paper chose to highlight Prime Minister Stephen Harpers August visit to St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Markham as its cover story. During the visit, Harper emphasized the need to continue providing military support and air strikes to fight ISIL.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria cannot be solved, cannot even come close to being solved, by refugee policy alone. We must stop ISIS,Harper said during the campaign visit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]His paper also carried a poll asking Arab Canadians if they are willing to open their homes to Syrian refugees: 85 per cent of respondents said yes.[/quote]

Both the NDP and Liberals have expressed concern that Canadian bombings in Syria are helping target attacks. The NDP say they would focus on aid and diplomacy in order to fight ISIS. The Liberals say they would increase the number of Canadian soldiers training local forces who are fighting ISIS militants.

Stop the war

Ebram Maqar, Chief Editor of Good News is cautious about speaking for all Arab Canadians, but notes that Harpers stance on Syria has been well received. We support the Conservatives who want to take military action in addition to humanitarian aid. You cant just treat the victim, you have to stop the war from the source.

Majid Aziza, the Editor-in-Chief of Ninewa Media, an Arabic publication in the GTA and Southwestern Ontario with majority Syrian and Iraqi readership, shares these views. With regards to the elections in October, from what we see in the conversation, the Conservatives are the ones helping in Iraq and Syria,he said.

Trudeau and Mulcair say the Canadian military isnt needed in the Middle East. Of course, this isnt right,Aziza said.

Arab media in Canada has a track record of promoting the Conservative Party through favourable coverage. Conservative MP Costas Menegakis (Richmond Hill) has a regular column in Good News; an opportunity that MPs of other political parties do not have.

A contrary view

Al Bilad, a London-based newspaper presents a different perspective from other Arab publications with regards to Canadas involvement in tackling ISIS in a column titled “Taking Back the Country”.

Columnist Mohamed Amery writes: We are long past being frightened by Harpers ridiculous and unsubstantiated charge that the Canadian society is being threatened by ISIS.

Harpers decision to involve Canada in international wars has negatively impacted the countrys image, according to Amery.

Our involvement in these conflicts gained us new enemies from Russia and Iran to Libya and other countries elsewhere in the Middle East.He urges readers to vote against Harper and his minions and put a merciful end to the ongoing agony this country has been suffering under Stephen Harpers watch– offering a stark contrast with the pro-Conservative messages common in Arab publications.

There are also several newspapers that have not published articles on Canada’s involvement in the Syrian crisis; much of the news has been sourced from wires in the Middle East.

In interviews with New Canadian Media, Mohamad El-Cheikh, editor of Al Forqan and Elie Moujaes, Editor in Chief of Al-Akhbar, both said their focus has been on news, rather than editorials. Neither publication plans to make any endorsements in the upcoming election. 

Party promises

The Conservatives have been criticized for not doing enough to support Syrian refugees or accelerate their entry into Canada. In response, MP and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced the Conservatives will soon release details on its plan to accelerate 20,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees into Canada over the next four years. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Arab media in Canada has a track record of promoting the Conservative Party through favourable coverage.[/quote]

Both the Liberals and NDP plan to accept a higher numbers of refugees, with the Liberals vowing to resettle 25,000 refugees and the NDP to 10,000 by the end of this year alone. "People are picking numbers out of a hat," Kenney said in response to these commitments.  

Over eight million Syrians are internally displaced according to UNHCR figures, and an additional four million are registered refugees, making this the worst refugee crisis in a quarter-century, according to the UNHCR. Most refugees have fled to surrounding countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Death toll estimates range from 140,000 to 330,000.

Editor's Note: This report has been updated to include the comments of editors from Al Forgan and Al-Akhbarnewspapers.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Top Stories

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Mohammad Shahadat Hossain is the kind of person who doesn’t just have a plan B, he has a plan C as well. In 2011, he left his job as a chief consultant at a private hospital in Bangladesh to immigrate to Ottawa. Together with his wife and teenage daughters, Hossain came looking for a better life – and found just that.

“I have a good connection with the community and it’s positive – our social status, my kids’ education and wife’s situation. I just bought a house and we moved in last month,” he shares, excitedly. “The only negative thing is that I’m not getting a job as a physician.”

For years after his move to Canada, Hossain was focused on one thing: obtaining his licence to practise as a physician. It’s a process he’s decided to put on hold after passing two out of four required exams.

A Bleak Picture

Hossain is one of over 15,000 internationally trained doctors who have immigrated to Ontario since 2007, according to estimates by HealthForceOntario.

Approximately 1,500 international medical graduates apply for the 250 residency positions available every year in Ontario. The success rate for internationally trained medical graduates of Canadian origin (Canadians who went overseas to study) was 20 per cent, while the success rate for medical graduates who immigrated to Canada is only six per cent, according to research from St. Michael’s Hospital.

Knowing these statistics, Hossain enrolled in the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which began earlier this year as a pilot project.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]After participating in the program, Hossain says he’s more knowledgeable about the Canadian health field, has increased confidence and is redirecting his career goals.[/quote]

Accepting a position in the program meant he would have to move to attend the daily classes. Hossain said goodbye to his family and rented a house in Toronto to attend the four-month program. “I’m thankful for my family,” Hossain reflects. “They sacrificed a lot for me.” 

After participating in the program, Hossain says he’s more knowledgeable about the Canadian health field, has increased confidence and is redirecting his career goals. 

“I was thinking that if I studied a lot I would be able to pass the exams and get my licence, but in reality, even if I pass all the exams it’s very hard to get a residency,” he says.

The ‘Brain Drain’

A study released in 2014 by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital examined the ‘brain drain’ of doctors who immigrated to Canada, based on a survey of internationally trained doctors.

Respondents overwhelmingly said information on the difficulty of obtaining residency was not clearly communicated, and a substantial number of respondents said they were misinformed about the reality of obtaining residency in Canada. Several respondents indicated regrets of immigrating to Canada.

The study recommended that Canada ensures, “the immigration process clearly outlines the relatively low likelihood of obtaining a career in medicine after immigration … it should be acknowledged that obtaining Canadian experience is a near impossibility …”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Hossain, for one, has redirected his path and is no longer seeking to work as a physician. “I am thinking of switching over from a licencing pathway to a research pathway because I think it’s much easier,” he explains.[/quote]

Thousands of internationally trained doctors find out about this 'near impossibility' too late.

Hossain, for one, has redirected his path and is no longer seeking to work as a physician. “I am thinking of switching over from a licencing pathway to a research pathway because I think it’s much easier,” he explains.

Hossain’s clinical placement through the ITMD bridging program was at St. Michael’s Hospital, where he had opportunities to network, which is largely responsible for landing him a job. He now works remotely as a coder on the Millennium Death Study – an initiative of the Centre for Global Health Research, which is examining causes of death in India over the last 100 years. 

“We look for common causes of death in India. Hypertension is one of the causes of death, so if we find that most people die by this, they will change the system and health policy to focus on how to prevent hypertension,” he shares.

Remaining Optimistic

Hossain was one of three of the ITMD program’s 14 students to receive a job after graduating earlier this month. The work is fulfilling, but part-time, so he continues to seek opportunities to contribute as a research assistant in the areas of global health and non-communicable diseases.

Hossain is hopeful that he will find a job, but has a Plan C just in case. He says he will travel back and forth between working as a gynaecologist in Bangladesh and spending time with his family in Ottawa. The hospital Hossain formerly worked for has an open offer for him to return to his previous job, and he says this security is reassuring.

According to the ‘brain drain’ study, however, significant harm can be done to the health care systems in the home countries of immigrant doctors.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Amongst the study’s recommendations was advice to health care systems in low-income and middle-income countries to offer incentives for physicians to stay in their home countries such as improved working conditions or financial perks for working in rural or underserved areas.[/quote]

“It often means health workers lose their skills and may not be able to perform tasks effectively if they return home to work …” the study reveals.

Amongst the study’s recommendations was advice to health care systems in low-income and middle-income countries to offer incentives for physicians to stay in their home countries such as improved working conditions or financial perks for working in rural or underserved areas.

Although Hossain may have to return to Bangladesh to find work, he remains optimistic. “I’m not at all frustrated,” he says, reflecting on the time he spent studying for his licencing exams in Canada. “I was practising professionally for almost 20 years and I have professional satisfaction.”


This is part two of a series of profiles of graduates of the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors program.

{module NCM Blurb}

 

Published in Education

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Canada is taking a step back on immigration policy, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), released yesterday.

Canada scored 68 out of a possible 100 points for 2014, which is a four-point decline from the score of 72 it received in 2011, and dropped Canada out of the top five countries in integrating immigrants. The report examines if policies provide equal rights, opportunity and support for immigrants.

“Canada has undergone several restrictions in recent years that all together sent Canada in the opposite direction,” the report stated. These restrictions include: greater processing times for permanent resident applications, restrictions and documentation burdens to become Canadian citizens and restrictions on reuniting dependent family members. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Is Canada still a global leader? Certainly . . . but there are worrying changes.” - Thomas Huddleston, Migration Policy Group[/quote]

“It is surprising to see Canada go down [in its score]. If Canada continues to go down this path, we may see a continued score decline, like the U.K.,” said Thomas Huddleston, a policy analyst with Migration Policy Group, the independent European think tank, which released the report. “Canada is still a global leader. The general public has some of the world’s most positive views on immigrants.” 

The Migration Policy Group collaborated with the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement to gather statistics and information on Canadian policies in eight areas including: labour market mobility, family reunion, access to education, health, political participation, long-term residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination. 

“Is Canada still a global leader? Certainly . . . but there are worrying changes,” said Huddleston. “We find that MIPEX scores very strongly relate to public opinion. The higher the score, the likelier it is that public see immigration as a contribution rather than a threat.” 

Labour Market Mobility

Canada scored an 81 on its ability to provide legal residents with the same labour rights as citizens. Indicators include: access to labour market, access to general support and targeted support and workers’ rights. 

“Canada is one of the world leaders in this regard,” Huddleston said. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“While on paper immigrant workers have the same rights, there’s a real difference if you’re a temporary foreign worker.” - Ratna Omidvar, Global Diversity Exchange[/quote]

Although Canada ranks fifth internationally in terms of labour market mobility, there are major discrepancies between policies and the reality on the ground, according to Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange. 

“While on paper immigrant workers have the same rights, there’s a real difference if you’re a temporary foreign worker,” said Omidvar. “There is a real gap between getting the credentials and getting the job. In terms of precarious work, the data shows [people most impacted by this] are immigrants.” 

Canada is advised to look at countries including New Zealand and Australia for ideas on how to utilize people with foreign skills, including developing mentorship and coaching programs for newcomers. 

Family Reunion 

Canada scored a 79 when examining how easily immigrants can reunite with their family members, by bringing them here. The report cited that recent changes have started to undermine the traditional Canadian policies, which welcomed immigrant families. 

Sponsorship of parents and grandparents was frozen in 2012 and reopened in 2014, to be judged on criteria of economic value, rather than dependency. This new process relies on applicants to have 30 per cent more financial income. Applicants should also be able to cover their family’s basic living expenses. 

Furthermore, fees for this process was deemed high in comparison to other countries and the length requirement to sponsor family members has doubled – from 10 years to 20 years. 

“We were surprised to see restrictions,” Huddleston said. “[The federal government] is creating a more select approach so that only people with certain revenues can bring family members.”           

Access to Education 

Canada scored 65 on its education assessment, which looked at access to education, targeting the needs of newcomers and developing opportunities for this group. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Canada recognizes the importance of diversity and what immigrant children bring to the classroom. This is where Canada leads the world.” - Thomas Huddleston[/quote]

The Index also looked at initiatives by the education system to teach students about multiculturalism, modifying curriculum to serve a diverse student body and promoting intercultural and interfaith understanding. 

“Canada recognizes the importance of diversity and what immigrant children bring to the classroom. This is where Canada leads the world,” Huddleston said. 

Health            

On its ability to provide inclusive, accessible and responsive health care to migrants, Canada scored 49, falling behind 17 other countries. The Index stated that health care is an area of weakness in integration policies, with major differences between provinces. 

“Canada’s ranking here is not surprising considering Canada’s treatment of refugees’ health,” said Morton Beiser, founding director and senior scientist of the Toronto-based Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The MIPEX report found that policies in Canadian health care were weak in addressing diverse populations and providing interpretation of health services.[/quote]

In 2012, the federal government made changes to the Interim Federal Health program, taking away access to basic health care from refugee claimants. Eventually it was restored after public pressure and court orders. The government is continuing its appeal of these court orders. 

The MIPEX report found that policies in Canadian health care were weak in addressing diverse populations and providing interpretation of health services. 

“On Citizenship and Immigration’s website, their advice to immigrants is to get a health card and find a doctor,” said Beiser. “But the website says if their paperwork isn’t done correctly, they might be charged for services, but they can receive free care at a hospital. And then we go around and criticize immigrants for overburdening our hospitals.” 

On the positive side, Beiser did point out initiatives around providing health services to immigrant populations, including clinics and doctors who provide pro-bono services. “It’s wonderful, but it’s not sustainable, nor is it just.” 

Political Participation 

Canada received its lowest score – a 48 – on its ability to integrate newcomers into participating politically. The indicators included: electoral rights, political liberties, consultative bodies and implementation policies. 

Canada is one of the few major destinations without voting rights for permanent residents, the report stated, however, it did acknowledge grassroots movements in Canada, which are mobilizing city leaders behind the idea of granting voting rights to newcomers. 

Immigrant groups in Canada do not have the opportunity to inform policy through consultations with government, which was a process found in 27 out of the 38 countries examined in the Index. The report said that consultative processes encourages diversity in political discourse and promotes inclusive policymaking.           

Long-Term Residence 

In Canada, legal residents have the option to apply for permanent residency, which offers security and near-equal rights, although it is a lengthy and expensive process. This landed the nation a score of 62 on the ability of migrant workers, families and refugees to become long-term residents. 

Canada’s eligibility is wide and flexible, according to the report, and in line with that of  Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Nordic countries.     

Access to Nationality 

This time around, Canada’s score dropped four points to a 67, when it came to the ease of permanent residents becoming citizens. This drop was caused by changes in 2012 and 2014, which made the process longer and more bureaucratic to obtain citizenship. 

The report found that eligibility requirements are overall favourable in Canada, however there are increased restrictions including a delayed wait for naturalization – up to four years from three years – as well as the additions of language proof and a good character requirement. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Getting citizenship is a longer process, more difficult to obtain and it’s easier to be taken away.” - John Shields, Ryerson University[/quote]

John Shields, a Ryerson professor and managing editor of the Journal of International Migration and Integration, said these measures have moved Canada in a different direction. 

“Getting citizenship is a longer process, more difficult to obtain and it’s easier to be taken away,” he explained. For example, the federal government now has the ability to revoke citizenship from dual citizens if they are deemed to have committed crimes against the state. 

Processing fees in obtaining citizenship have increased over six-fold, Shields said, at over $500 for an adult. 

“It’s particularly challenging of newcomer families who are working survival jobs.” 

Collectively, these measures don’t fare well for Canada when it comes to integrating newcomers. 

“We are challenging multicultural values and endangering our score to fall further,” Shields said. 

Anti-Discrimination 

According to the report, Canada is soaring in this area, ranking highest of all countries with a score of 92. This is thanks to the strongest laws on discrimination in the developed world, the report said.

Many types of discrimination are clearly defined in Canada, as opposed to countries such as New Zealand and Sweden. People in Canada are protected in all areas of public life and federal, provincial and territorial human rights codes provide protection against many types of discrimination. 

Despite Canada’s number one spot, Omidvar said there are still challenges which the ranking might not reflect. 

“There’s a big difference between what we say and what we do,” she explained. “The presence of a foreign-sounding name impacts your chances of getting [a job] interview.” 

While the report mentioned the government’s federal level employment equity programs as a success, Omidvar suggested stronger policy to regulate workplaces so that they better reflect demographics around them should be implemented.

{module NCM Blurb}

 

 

Published in Top Stories

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Like many immigrants, Sadia Sohail was looking forward to starting a new life in Canada when she moved here with her young family in 2000.

“Pakistan was a troubled country. I didn’t want to raise my children in that political environment,” Sohail says. “Safety was a huge thing for us, and we felt it was important to raise our children in an atmosphere where we could be ourselves, really.”

The family settled in Mississauga, and Sohail planned to continue working as a pediatrician. “I came with an open mind. I’m such a go-getter. I thought I’d get back into medicine as soon as possible,” she says. 

Instead, Sohail received a rude awakening within months of arriving. She was told her medical qualifications were the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree here. Sohail knew the road to practising as a doctor in Canada would be a long one, but she didn’t expect it to have as many bumps as it did.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.[/quote]

Since she needed to provide a secondary income for her household, Sohail enrolled in an ultrasound program at a technical institute and began work as an ultrasound technician. She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.

Now, one final step was needed to complete her equivalency process: residency.

It has proven to be the most challenging aspect. Sohail has been seeking residency since 2013 through the Canadian Resident Matching Service, which opens residency to international doctors twice a year.

“I’ve applied four times and haven’t gotten a single response for an interview. It’s disheartening. You wonder: why is this?” Sohail questions. 

Bridging the Gap

The answer that her mentors told her was that she was missing clinical research, and some experience in this would increase her chances of obtaining residency. To familiarize herself with research, Sohail enrolled in the International Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which launched last December and began earlier this year.

Through the program, Sohail learned the fundamentals of research methodology and familiarized herself with clinical research in Canada. She also participated in a clinical placement at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which helped her begin volunteering on a research project with Toronto Public Health.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal ... Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.[/quote]

“I feel like I’m making a huge difference with the projects I’m working on,” Sohail says. “I’m doing a project now on homeless mothers and their babies, so it’s bringing me back to what I love most.” 

She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal. It’s also made her consider a possible career in clinical research. Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.

Participants from the first cohort of The Chang School’s ITMD bridging program graduated earlier this month. The 14 participants are from 10 countries and have varied backgrounds in the medical profession, as the program targeted internationally trained physicians, dental surgeons and clinical public health professionals.

A Starting Point

The success rate of international medical doctors who wish to pursue a career in medicine is six per cent, according to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“This represents a lost opportunity for our province to benefit from the advanced academic and professional credentials of these highly skilled professionals,” explains Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” - Shafi Bhuiyan, The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services[/quote]

The program was founded to help internationally trained professionals find non-licensed health-care jobs in Ontario. Shafi Bhuiyan, an internationally trained doctor who is a distinguished visiting professor with The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services, initiated the program. According to his research, Toronto has 6,000 internationally trained doctors who are working survival jobs.

“I’m also a newcomer to this country. I don’t have anybody,” says Bhuiyan, who knows the difficulties of navigating professional systems as a newcomer. “Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” 

Bhuiyan says licensing for international doctors is an expensive and lengthy process, with no guarantee of obtaining a residency. Because the medical system is not absorbing these professionals, the ITMD bridging program’s goal is to lead these professionals to non-licensed careers, which are in demand, such as project managers, research managers and analysts in the health-care industry.

“If we can involve [internationally trained doctors] in a non-licensed area of the medical field, they will be happy,” Bhuiyan says. “A bridging program is not the solution. It’s a starting point.”

At The Chang School, a recruitment committee scored applications out of 100 based on the applicant’s letter of intent, health and research experience, academic degrees and qualifications and English communication scores.

“Our plan was to start with 10 people and nearly 180 people applied for the program. We found 36 very strong people who scored well and were interviewed, and from that we offered 14 students to join the program and all of them accepted,” Bhuiyan says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.” - Sadia Sohail[/quote]

The 11-week program, which took place daily in the evenings, included a four-week volunteer clinical placement. Topics covered in the curriculum include: health research, project management, data management in health care, professional communication and workplace culture.

By the completion of the program, three graduates received job offers and six received an extension to their volunteer clinical placements.

Bountrogianni says the next cohort of the ITMD bridging program will begin in fall 2015 and that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for the program’s 15 spots.

Knocking Down Doors

The 15-year journey in pursuing a medical career in Canada has taken a toll on Sohail and her family – and it isn’t over yet.

When Sohail moved to Canada with her young family, she was pregnant and had a two-year-old toddler. Now, her children are teenagers. 

“My children – all they’ve seen growing up is their mother studying,” she says. “My routine has been very hectic and because I work, my evenings are dedicated to studying. My family is extremely supportive, but it seems like there has to be an end to this.” 

Despite being open to relocating and applying for residency positions across the country, Sohail is yet to hear a response, but she maintains her optimism.

“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.”

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Published in Education

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

New Canadians were not left out of Canadas 2015 budget released by the Federal government in late April. The governments focus on newcomers centres on three primary objectives: remove financial barriers to international education accreditation, reduce costs to send money abroad and provide funds to relocate to job markets with more prospects. 

Lowering Costs of Sending Money Abroad

The 2015 budget proposes to provide $6 million over five years to help Canadians access lower-cost remittance services to send money back home. This includes creating a website that will compare service fees by various providers, to help Canadians make informed decisions when sending money.

Monica Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Immigration and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, says this initiative is a feel-good response by the government.

Theyre saying [high remittance fees] are a problem and they care, and will put information on the web, she says. Its to let people know they have choices. Its a nice promise, but we dont know what more theyre going to be doing.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Its really important because most of us come here to support a big family so its necessary to send money home.” - Muhammad Razak[/quote]

Muhammad Razak, who sends money a few times every year to family overseas, has the same concern. When he heard that the government would work to lower the cost of remittance services, his first question was: Whats the procedure?

This is something the government has yet to indicate. Razak says, however, that this should be a priority. Its really important because most of us come here to support a big family so its necessary to send money home.

The EAP report states the government will, “work with financial institutions to evaluate possible collaboration opportunities to expand access to lower-cost remittance services.

Funds for Obtaining Credentials

The government also announced plans to make the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program permanent.

Introduced in 2011, the pilot project provided loans to foreign-trained individuals to help cover the cost of obtaining their credentials in Canada. A total of $9 million was provided over two years to 1,500 recipients across the country, with an average loan amount of $6,000. 

The Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to put $35 million over five years towards making this a permanent initiative.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The impact of providing micro loans to internationally trained professionals is profound.” - Dianne Fehr, Immigrant Access Fund[/quote]

The loans will continue to be provided by community-based organizations like Immigrant Access Fund, a nonprofit in Alberta. Dianne Fehr, the organizations Executive Director says she was thrilled to hear the government is making this program permanent.

The impact of providing micro loans to internationally trained professionals is profound. We knew that [the government] was pretty pleased with this program,” Fehr says.

Immigrant Access Fund received $1.8 million from the government during its pilot program, which initially provided over 300 loans. Fehr explains that the $1.8 million of government funding has since been recycled back into the program 1.5 times as people pay off their loans.

Recipients begin to pay interest as soon as they receive the loan money for up to two years, and then pay 1.5 per cent above the prime rate, a rate set by Immigrant Access Fund. Fehr says the government has been completely hands-off by allowing community organizations to determine participants’ eligibility and interest rates.

Fahad Mughal, who immigrated to Canada in 2011, is one of the organizations loan recipients.

I was looking to upgrade my skills and learned about a business analyst certification program, but there wasnt any government funding for this.

He found out about the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program and took a $5,000 loan to enroll in the certification program. That program led to his current job as a business analyst with the City of Edmonton.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I know immigrants who want to go to Toronto or Vancouver. Ive seen immigrants live in these saturated markets and theyre just doing survival jobs. I didnt move to Canada to do these survival jobs and thats why I moved.” - Fahad Mughal[/quote]

Mughal, who was educated in Pakistan and has a bachelors degree in computer science and a masters degree in business administration, initially immigrated to Brampton. He worked odd jobs for several months before moving to Edmonton.

Since finding professional and steady work, he has convinced five families who planned to live in Ontario, to move to Edmonton instead.

I think thats the main reason why immigrants come to Canada,” Mughal says. They want to have a better life. I know immigrants who want to go to Toronto or Vancouver. Ive seen immigrants live in these saturated markets and theyre just doing survival jobs. I didnt move to Canada to do these survival jobs and thats why I moved.

Funds to Relocate

The government also proposes to allocate $7 million over two years towards programming, which will support youth and immigrants to relocate to areas in Canada where job opportunities exist.

Studies done by Statistics Canada show that immigrants integrate better and faster in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, rather than larger metropolitan cities like Toronto and Montreal.

Boyd says the proposed budget of $7 million to encourage this move is quite low.

Its not a lot of money,” Boyd says. Its simply [the government] saying we are going to focus on things that we think are going to facilitate the life of immigrants in Canada. But theyre not saying much about what exactly theyre doing or how theyre going to do it.

The Minister of Employment and Social Development, Pierre Poilievre, was unavailable for an interview with New Canadian Media before deadline.

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Published in Economy

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