Immigration matters in health care


More than 1.6 million people work in Canada’s health care sector and many more will be needed in the coming years to ensure continued access to high quality care. Almost 500,000 workers in the health care sector are over the age of 55, and most of these will be retiring in the next decade or so. In addition, there are existing recruitment challenges from everywhere in Canada for nurses, residential care staff and home health care staff. There’s a clear opportunity for immigrants to play an important role in ensuring there are enough people working in the health care sector.

The sustainability and effectiveness of the Canadian health care system depend on an integrated and diverse workforce. We value the important contribution of immigrants to our health care system and welcome them to Canada!

Claire Betker, RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C), President of the Canadian Nurses Association

Impact of immigration

  • Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 health care sector workers.
  • In Canada, immigrants make up
    • 23% of registered nurses
    • 35% of nurse aides and related occupations
    • 37% of pharmacists
    • 36% of physicians
    • 39% of dentists
    • 54% of dental technologists and related occupations
  • More than 40% of newcomers to Canada between 2011 and 2016 who were working in the health care sector were employed in the important areas of nursing and residential care facilities, as well as home health care services.

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

See infographic on the impact of immigration on health care

Famous Canadian immigrants

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui immigrated to Canada from China. He and a team of scientists from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto discovered the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. He’s an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame among many other achievements.

Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra

Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra immigrated to Canada from India. He discovered a new anti-malaria agent through his research at the University Health Network in Toronto. Prof. Kotra now leads an international association with India for the development of drugs targeting malaria. He won numerous awards, including the Province of Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award and the Canadian Society for Pharmaceutical Sciences Young Investigator Award.

Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla

Born in India, Dr. Dhalla is a professor and research scientist focusing on cardiovascular health and heart disease therapy. He’s the promoter and founder of the International Society for Heart Research and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Member of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of Manitoba. He was inducted into the Citizens Hall of Fame in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in London, Ontario.

Dr. Adolfo de Bold

Originally from Argentina, Dr. Adolfo de Bold is Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Ottawa. He’s recognized for his cardiovascular discovery, atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), a breakthrough in heart research and treatment of heart failure. This work was the top research accomplishment funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario in the past 50 years. He’s an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Judith G. Hall

Dr. Hall is an American-Canadian medical doctor recognized for her research in pediatric genetic diseases. She helped clarify the importance of folic acid in reducing birth defects and has described genetic syndromes, including one that bears her name: Pallister-Hall syndrome. Dr. Hall has received more than 50 awards throughout her career and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.

Dr. Tak Wah Mak

Born in China, Dr. Tak Wah Mak has made huge contributions in the field of immunology and cancer research by solving the structure of the T-cell receptor gene. This allows researchers to recognize what fights cancers at the cellular level. He received the Gairdner International Award for Science, the Novartis Prize in Immunology, the Paul Ehrlich Prize and the Sloan Award. He’s an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Julio Montaner

Born in Argentina, Dr. Montaner’s work has had a tremendous impact on stopping the transmission of HIV/AIDS in Canada and globally through his highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) treatment. His honours include the Rx&D Health Research Foundation Medal of Honour and Albert Einstein World of Science Award. Dr. Montaner is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Order of British Columbia and is currently head of the division of AIDS at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Vladimir Hachinski

Ukrainian-Canadian Dr. Vladimir Hachinski is an international authority in the field of stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s research. He has contributed significantly to the treatment and prevention of stroke and dementia and to the development of the Hachinski Ischemic Score (HIS), the standard method of identifying the treatable component of dementia. He became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009.

Immigrant stories in health care

Racing to roll out vaccines

Dr. Victoria Lee, President and CEO of Fraser Health in British Columbia, oversees and mobilizes the largest vaccine rollout in recent history.

Caring for the community in a global crisis

Physician and philanthropist Dr. Joseph Yu Kai Wong raised funds for 700,000 medical masks to help keep the community safe during the pandemic.

Improving emergency care for British Columbians during the pandemic

Paramedics Tim Makrides and Leon Baranowski have worked with their teams to spearhead advancements in paramedical health care during the pandemic.

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