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Montréal, June 7, 2007 --- The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission must initiate a systemic investigation into the refusal of Quebec medical faculties to accord equal treatment to international medical graduates (IMG) and who applied for residency positions this year.

This is the formal request submitted by CRARR today to the Commission in the name of the Coalition of Associations of Foreign-Trained Doctors. Last month, the Coalition gave CRARR the mandate to take legal and political action to achieve a sustainable solution to a problem many consider a “national disgrace.”

In May 2007, Quebec media reported that there were 87 vacant residency positions this year due to the departure of Quebec doctors who choose to do their residency outside the province, and that at the same time, more than 100 IMGs saw their applications for admission to the residency program rejected without clear reasons.

When several IMGs sought reasons for their refusal, some were advised that their file “was not competitive”; others learned in the media that their demand was rejected because they did not have clinical skills or that “if they had not been accepted in past years, I do not see why things would be different this year” (according to Dr. Réjean Hebert, Chair of the Council of Deans of Medical Faculties and Dean of the Medical Faculty at Sherbrooke University).

After a study of the selection criteria and procedures for the residency program and interviews with many IMG, CRARR concluded that the process in place contains many elements of direct, indirect and systemic racism. Some examples include:

  • Overtly discriminatory actions and practices: the comments of many doctors who sit on interview committees refer to the “good quality” of the language of candidates or their age; the refusal to give IMGs the chance to apply for the second round, in contrast to the experiences of Quebec doctors;
  • Selection criteria and procedures that appear neutral, but are tainted by cultural prejudices and that have a disproportionately negative effect on IMG and are therefore indirect and systemic forms of discrimination, including gauging “social maturity” and “professional communication skills”; the weight given to publication of scientific research (which few IMGs can achieve due to their lack of access funds for scientific research in Quebec); the quasi-systemic absence of doctors from diverse origins on interview committees; and the quasi-systematic refusal to give observation internships under the direction of a single doctor in a Montreal hospital.
  • In addition to racial discrimination, the current process also has elements of direct and indirect discrimination based on age, given that the IMGs who apply for residency are generally older than Quebec doctors graduating from medical schools. These are:

  • the fact that experiences and expertise acquired by IMGs abroad are not taken into consideration by French Canadian doctors on interview committees, many domestically-trained doctors having themselves less experience than IMGs;
  • the emphasis on “recent training and work experience”, despite the fact that most IMGs cannot gain this experience as they must spend their time in preparatory activities aimed at gaining equivalency in Quebec.
  • According to Mr. Fo Niemi, Executive Director of CRARR, “Faced with our submission regarding the selection criteria, procedures and practices in medicine residency programs, it will be impossible for the Commission to refuse to take the initiative and launch an investigation.”

    For Dr. Comlan Amouzou, spokesperson for the Coalition, “Year after year, medical institutions pass the buck and fall short in their responsibilities to integrate us, who are ready to serve the Quebec population. It is for this reason that we asked CRARR to pass that buck straight to the Commission and eventually to the courts.”

    The request for a systemic investigation is the first action undertaken by CRARR.

    NOTE: As a result of CRARR's request, the Commission has launched a systemic investigation into the situation, citing all four medical schools, the Order of Physicians and the Ministry of Health and Social Services as respondents.