Quebec draws on the strengths of foreign countries, including in key sectors such as health, and most often without official invitation. The ambassadors of Morocco and Benin as well as a recruiter abroad wish to send a signal to the Quebec government.
Everyone recognizes that the brain drain, a phenomenon also known as brain drain in English, has existed for a long time. With one difference: today it is governments that engage in recruitment directly, like that of Quebec, without always asking for authorization or offering compensation.
“On the side of governments looking for this workforce, these skills, there should be a certain restraint and reflection,” says the Moroccan ambassador to Canada, Souriya Otmani.
After the terrible earthquake that struck Morocco last September, local media reported that hospitals were short of staff, an already acute shortage made worse by bloodletting of professionals encouraged by recruiting countries.
Three days later, an official page of the Quebec government unabashedly announced an information session for those wishing to immigrate to the province, with jobs in the health sector at stake.
The few human resources “which we urgently need” are “pumped in a somewhat cynical manner by partners who are already much more developed”, indicates the ambassador of the Republic of Benin to Canada and the United States. United, Jean-Claude do Rego.
Health and education are areas of concern for both officials, while other technical professions worry them less. “Yes, there are certain professional categories where there is a surplus, and Morocco seeks to ensure opportunities, including abroad,” explains the Moroccan diplomat.
There are official “completely legal” recruitment channels for these fields, such as the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC) in Morocco. This national agency, however, is careful not to promote exodus in “very sensitive sectors”, such as health, says Mme Otmani. She wishes to clarify that she is only giving her point of view, while admitting that the subject is regularly discussed in several political and economic arenas in the country.
The exodus of nurses, caregivers, doctors and attendants is a “dead loss for a rapidly developing country like ours, which needs all its qualified human resources,” she adds.
Countries in critical situation
Since 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a red list of countries whose health systems are the most vulnerable, in order to alert recruiting countries.
Quebec is directly recruiting people in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Togo and Senegal, countries that appear on the Health Staff Support and Backup List. Failing to be able to prohibit it, the WHO asks recruiting governments to adhere to a certain code of conduct and to enter into agreements with the pools of workers.
Ambassador do Rego does not expressly target Quebec’s efforts in his country of origin, but he believes that the province is well positioned to “find better modalities” so that this type of exchange “can remain compatible with the needs development of the society that lets its talents go,” he explains.
This West African country funds public education, including post-secondary training. However, like the indignation surrounding Quebec doctors who go to practice elsewhere, this “national economic equation is negative”, indicates Yves Legault, executive vice-president of ISA Immigration and Recruitment.
“The political discourse is: “No problem, we will look for nurses abroad.” But we didn’t pay for their education and there is no return mechanism. There is a blatant inequity in this migratory model,” insists Mr. Legault, who is also honorary consul of Benin in Toronto.
Of course, there is no question of preventing international mobility, they all say. “But how can we make tensions less painful” on an already weakened system? asks Mr. do Rego.
People themselves express the desire to live abroad, recognizes Yves Legault, in the “search for a better life for themselves, but especially for their children”. If, however, the conditions were met in their country of origin, “they would not have to expatriate”. The challenge is therefore to help “build opportunities” in their country of origin, at a time when Western countries are showing a certain lack of interest in international cooperation.
“I am not Manichaean. I understand the fundamental reasons why certain countries find this solution to their problems,” says the Ambassador of Benin, who invites us to “find a compromise solution.”
He mentions in particular the desire of his government for several years to obtain a greater number of places at reduced cost in the education system in Quebec. Foreigners pay much higher tuition fees than citizens or permanent residents, but scholarships exist to be exempt. “We only benefit from a quota of ten scholarships, while we have 50 times more applications,” he illustrates.
Reflection has also already been launched in Morocco and Benin to find incentives to stay there, by improving salary conditions.
She gives the example of an agreement with Germany, which provides training for Moroccan workers and a possible return to their country of origin. “No one is going to force them [à rentrer dans leur pays], but we insist from recruitment on the fact that it is a starting condition, so that Morocco also benefits from this training. »