Doctors Without Residency: Why can’t foreign-trained doctors find work in Canada?


This post was written by Aisling Chin-Yee and it also appears on the Work For All website.

Doctors Without Residency, Tetchena Bellange, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Doctors Without Residency is a short documentary exploring the issue of foreign trained doctors being unable to obtain a residency in Canada. All the while, one hundred residency positions remain unfilled every year in Quebec, alone.

It’s hard to understand why these professionals are pushed aside when it’s clear that the health care system is lacking in resources. The situation facing doctors is also a powerful symbol for where our society is heading. We’re confronted with a dichotomy: We are told that the future rests on a workforce with more immigrants and people who identify as visible minorities, but what’s actually being done to move towards this future? When the talents of foreign doctors are ignored and hospital staffing needs are unmet, we all lose out.

Production challenges

It wasn’t just the topic of this film that was difficult to tackle, but the production as well. Tetchena Bellange, who directed the piece, faced a very telling hurdle: not a single doctor she spoke to wanted to appear on camera. And that’s in spite of the fact they clearly had a lot to say about the issue. (You’ll be able to find out more about these challenges over the next few days. We’ll be posting interviews with Tetchena that we shot during the production of her film).

It’s in these instances that we see evidence of systemic racism: The system itself leans in favour of discrimination since there are no outlets for these doctors to voice their concerns. To draw another parallel, the willingness to ignore the problem is similar to the fight to protect the environment: The line “It’s not my problem” becomes discriminatory in and of itself.

“A foreign doctor can help”

A film can also serve as an eye-opener. It’s great to see Dr. Amouzou, of Médecins d’Ailleurs, tell us that “A doctor can be useful in a hospital. There are a lot of overworked doctors… A foreign doctor can help.” Seems obvious, huh? It’s often these simple questions that make us shift perspective. By seeing the faces behind the issues (and the headlines), we become inspired to get involved and take action.

This is the second film in our Work  for All series. The first film, Jaded, is a short mockumentary that turns the tables on racism in the office.