Quebec spending $65M to recruit, train 1,000 foreign nurses

Quebec Minister of Labour Jean Boulet announced selected overseas candidates will get financial incentives, including grants to pay for training at regional CEGEPs, and their spouses will be given open work permits.

Campaign will target 7 regions in province where nursing shortage is most critical

A man wearing glasses in front of a slender microphone.
Quebec Labour and Immigration Minister Jean Boulet announced a recruitment and training plan to attract 1,000 nurses from overseas. Selected candidates will get financial incentives, including paying for training at regional CEGEPs, and their spouses will be given open work permits. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec government is investing $65 million to recruit and train about 1,000 nurses from francophone countries to work in seven regions of the province where the nursing shortage is most acute. 

At a Wednesday news conference, Labour and Immigration Minister Jean Boulet announced the two-year campaign will aim to integrate French-speaking international candidates and accelerate the recognition of their skills and competencies. 

The regions targeted in the first phase of the project are Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Baie James and the Outaouais.

Boulet says the nurses will be encouraged but not forced to stay in the regions. 

Selected candidates will attend a CEGEP in the targeted regions to receive nine to 12 months of training, paid for by the government, leading to the recognition of their skills and clinical experience by the Quebec's Order of Nurses (OIIQ). They will receive a stipend of $500 a week for the duration of their training. 

They will be allowed to work up to 20 hours per week as nurses' aides (known by the French acronym as PABs) during their training and full time during school breaks.

"This is a winning formula for Quebec and for qualified immigrants who wish to enrich our network to the extent of their skills," said Boulet.

He said those recruited by the program will be helped throughout the immigration process and at every step, from finding housing to obtaining a driver's licence and registering their children for school. 

Spouses of nurses will also be offered an open work permit.

Health Minister Christian Dubé, who joined Boulet at the news conference, says this program complements recruitment and retention efforts put into place in the fall of last year. He says the regions, which have been hit hard by the labour shortage, stand to benefit greatly.

"Especially in the regions, a few number of personnel can make a big, big difference," he said. 

The first group of nurses will arrive in the fall of 2022 and early in 2023, to complete their refresher training. Boulet said 344 people have already been selected for recruitment. 

He said once candidates are selected by Quebec, it's up to the federal government to decide whether they will be granted permanent residency in Canada.

The francophone countries targeted by the recruitment of nurses are Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritius.