For the past four years, Fazal Hashmi has spent his workdays watching over Centennial College students at the Ashtonbee campus. He loves his job, but can’t forget his past.
In the halls of Centennial, he’s known as Fazal the security guard, but back in India he’s known as Dr. Hashmi.
“If you have a gold spoon and you eat cereal with it are you utilizing your wealth properly? No, you can take the gold, go to the bank, exchange it for money and start a business,” he said. “The same goes for me and the engineers driving cabs. The (Canadian) government is not utilizing the man power of its citizens.”
Hashmi, 46, came from India 15 years ago with a medical degree and over five years’ experience working as a doctor in the emergency room. He and his wife moved to Canada looking for a better life, but instead faced setbacks.
His story was the subject of a discussion led by Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui at the Ashtonbee campus on Monday afternoon. Teachers and students gathered to discuss the state of multiculturalism and immigration in the country.
Siddiqui said that, internationally, one in 20 people is an immigrant, while in Canada it’s one in 10. He believes it’s an opportunity for Canada to take advantage of its globalized citizenship.
“Every generation changes Canada, but the best part is that Canada allows every generation to change it … There is no official culture of Canada,” he said. “This means that Canada should be the global leader in the world of business.”
Hashmi thinks Canada needs to recognize the abilities of its citizens, even if their skills were learned in a different country.
After becoming a Canadian citizen he tried to transfer his medical skills from India, but the process required him to take a series of tests, complete an internship, write a medical exam and then complete a residency program, without any guarantees.
“Canada has a system in place for medical doctors, but it’s very bureaucratic,” he said. “In 1995, there were only 17 seats available in Ontario for residency for international graduates. And even if you pass the exam, there is no guarantee you will get a placement.”
If an international doctor has to wait for a spot in residency, s/he only has two years before exam scores become invalid.
“I had to make a choice – feed my family or wait to study,” Hashmi said. “Plus studying to be a medical doctor is a full-time job. There is no proper support in place.”
Hashmi believes the system is designed to keep foreigners out of the medical field.
“I think … the Canadian government wants the world to know that we don’t welcome doctors. They don’t want us here. So I tell the 2,000 people back home waiting for my input, not to come here.”
Siddiqui believes it’s not an issue of multiculturalism.
“These people aren’t any less Canadian,” he said. “It’s about people not wanting to deal with the real issues of racism, the real issues of disconnection,” he said. “We need to fight the real issues and real terms to get anywhere.”
Despite the struggle, Hashmi is trying to put his medical knowledge to good use. He’s currently teaching part time weekend courses at Toronto School of Business in courses such as medical office technology and massage therapy.
“I’m still working at trying to use my knowledge … I won’t stop,” he said.