Canada’s broken system punishes high-skilled immigrants

posted on March 30, 2022

By Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun

Opinion: It’s anathema to Canada’s fast-tracking of high skilled immigrants that their progress quickly stalls when they try to get licensed.

Early last Friday, Mariam Tariq, a couple of friends in Toronto and her mother in Pakistan were ready at their computers waiting for the moment that registration opened to get her seat to write the first of three National Dental Examining Board of Canada exams in August.

Tariq managed to get a place on the waiting list. So, she’ll have to keep studying hard … just in case.

By August, the 32-year-old will have been in Vancouver for more than two years and has moved only a tiny step closer to becoming a licensed dentist.

It took 14 months before her academic credentials were accepted, although the NDEB says the average processing time once all the documents are received is 20 weeks.

Then, Tariq joined the throng of close to 1,700 who each year sign up for the “equivalency process,” which entails a total of three exams, including a clinical one. Currently, there are over 10,000 people at various stages of the process.

It’s anathema to how Canada’s immigration system should work.

Canada promises high-skilled professionals and tradespeople from around the world a fast-track to a bright future here. But on arrival, they’re ensnared in a web of national and regional accreditation and licensing bodies.

It can take up to five years or more to qualify and some simply give up and move on to something or somewhere else.

Tariq had been a lecturer in pediatric dentistry at the government-run Ayub College in Abbottabad and presented papers at international dental conventions including in the U.S.

She came here on the fast-track-to-permanent-residency under Canada’s Express Entry program that favours people whose skills are badly needed.

In January 2020, she sent credentials from Pakistan to the NDEB for verification and signed up for online coaching for the first exam — the assessment of fundamental knowledge or AFK.

“I thought it would take a year or a year-and-a-half (to get licensed),” Tariq told me. “But I’ve found out that it usually takes more like three-to-five years.”

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