Nfld. & Labrador

Ukrainian vet arriving in Labrador facing years-long wait to be accredited in Canada

Svitlana Botvenko hoped to begin work at Northern Lights Veterinary Clinic in Labrador City but is faced with a challenge that could take years to solve.

Getting creditation could take 3-4 years, says clinic owner

A woman smiles as she holds her small dog, which is wearing a pink hoodie.
Svitlana Botvenko is a fully licensed veterinarian in Ukraine but is unable to transfer her practice in Canada because COVID-19 has caused delays in the licensing process. (Submitted by Svitlana Botvenko)

A veterinarian who recently arrived in Labrador City from Ukraine is unable to fully practise in the community because of a backlog at the national body that would certify her in Canada.

Svitlana Botvenko came to Newfoundland and Labrador after fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine with her three children earlier this year.

She hoped to begin work at Northern Lights Veterinary Clinic on a three-year contract after her arrival but is faced with a challenge that could take years to solve.

Jenine Janes, who owns the clinic, said she is working on getting Botvenko through the accreditation process. 

"Dr. Lana is a fully established, experienced, mature vet in Ukraine. But unfortunately, Ukraine is not a recognized licensing body for the North American licensing that we have here in Newfoundland," Janes told CBC News in a recent interview.

"Even without the backlog with COVID, we're looking at a two-year process."

Janes says it's more likely that process will take three to four years as Botvenko goes through a series of practical exams and other tests done by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association — on top of learning English as a second language.

She estimates there are between 300 and 400 students on the waiting list for testing due to COVID-19.

The first step in becoming a fully licensed vet is getting a restricted licence, Janes said, which would allow Botvenko to do some work under strict supervision.

She says this still isn't the best case scenario, as Botvenko has specialized skills that could greatly benefit the Labrador West region.

Botvenko, left, and clinic owner Jenine James are hoping for changes from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association that would allow vets coming from Ukraine to be fast-tracked through the licensing process. (Darryl Dinn/CBC)

"She has specialty skills for surgicals that we're sending patients out to Montreal or St. John's to see.… We could save owners astronomical amounts of money if we could get her licence faster," Janes said.

The Association for New Canadians in Labrador West is working with Botvenko to get other critical details sorted, including getting an MCP card, transferring her driver's licence and providing English classes.

Bill Soper, the ANC's regional settlement co-ordinator for Labrador West, said he expects more Ukrainians to come to the region over the coming months.

Meanwhile, Janes has sent letters to the CVMA to ask about a potential fast-tracking of accreditation for Ukrainian vets coming into Canada, similar to how immigration can be fast-tracked in some cases by the federal government.

"With the crisis that's going on in the veterinary industry right now … [and] knowing these people have specialized skills, there has to be some type of exemption that they can do," she said.

"We need some major change."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Darryl Dinn

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