[lg policy] Canada: English test keeps doctor from taking position on P.E.I.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu May 14 19:25:34 UTC 2015

 English test keeps doctor from taking position on Prince Edward Island
Teresa Wright <http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Author-Teresa-Wright/552/1>

© Web site

P.E.I. College of Physicians and Surgeons of PEI
   An anglophone Canadian physician who trained in the Caribbean says she
feels discriminated against by a policy in Prince Edward Island that
requires her to take an English proficiency test before being granted a
licence to practice in P.E.I.

Dr. Victoria Dawson was seeking employment in Atlantic Canada recently when
the medical recruitment firm she was involved with identified an opening in

She applied to Health P.E.I. for the position and everything was going fine
until her application went to the P.E.I. College of Physicians and
Surgeons, the body responsible for licensing doctors in Prince Edward

The college has a policy requiring all physicians trained in countries
whose first language is not English to take an English language proficiency
test before being granted a licence.

But it was a shortage of medical school seats in Canada that led Dawson to
look abroad for her medical training. She chose the American University of
Integrated Services, St. Maarten School of Medicine in the Caribbean. She
did her residency training in the U.S.

Her schooling was all in English. She is as anglophone as any Prince Edward
Islander or anglo-Canadian without even a hint of a foreign accent.

That’s why both Dawson and her recruiting firm do not understand why she
must take a test to prove she can speak English.

“They would not accept the fact there was a round peg in a square hole and
they should look at this anomaly as being just that and exempt her from the
policy,” said Phil Jost, vice president of operations for CanAm, an
international medical recruitment agency.

Jost was formerly CEO of the West Prince Health Region in P.E.I. from 2002
to 2006.

“(The college) insisted that she do the English proficiency test which, on
principle, is a ridiculous thing to do as far as we’re concerned.”

For her part, Dawson says she feels the policy is discriminatory against
English-speaking Canadians who get their medical degrees abroad.

“There are thousands of Canadians across the world who are going to medical
school abroad because Canada has not opened up enough spots to be
educated,” Dawson said. “If Canada applies these restrictive policies,
you’re going to find people are just not going to bother coming back here.”

That’s why she refused on principle to take the test and decided instead to
take her story public.

With an increasing number of internationally trained Canadian physicians
who already face a number of administrative barriers in getting their
credentials recognized, this is one she believes is unfair and unnecessary.

“I’m sure I would pass the exam with flying colours. That’s not the point,
it’s setting up another hurdle for Canadian citizens who are educated
abroad to come back and work as physicians in Canada,” Dawson said.

Within 48 hours of withdrawing her application to work in P.E.I., Dawson
was approved for a medical licence to work in another Canadian province.

Dawson and Jost did appeal the matter to the P.E.I. College of Physicians
and Surgeons.

But Registrar Dr. Cyril Moyse says the college council ruled in favour of
upholding the language policy.

“To be frank, to avoid criticism, we’re trying to apply it as evenly and
equally as possible,” Moyse said.

Not all Canadian citizens who train abroad speak English, so applying an
exception based on citizenship is problematic, he explained.

But Moyse says he recognizes the policy as it exists now has placed Dawson
and others like her in unusual situation.

This language policy was one developed by the national Federation of
Medical Regulatory Authorities and several other provinces have also
adopted it.

Moyse is a member of the working group of this federation that developed
the policy. He says he plans to raise the concerns Dawson has raised with
the working group at its next meeting.

“The issue comes down initially to patient safety and communication and how
to pick out the people who don’t need the policy and still apply it
evenly,” Moyse said. “To this point it’s just been based on the country of
education and maybe that’s not the only way it should be done.”

twright at theguardian.pe.ca


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