Quebec pre-med student struggling to register for MCAT testing due to Bill 96

"Enforcing the use of a language is different than encouraging the use of a language," says McGill University pre-med student Areeba Ahmed, as she looks to take her MCAT exam outside of Quebec due to Bill 96. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

Bill 96, Quebec’s French language law, has forced medical college admissions test (MCAT) centres to be pulled from the province, as the exams are administered in English only.

Areeba Ahmed, an aspiring doctor and current student at McGill University, says she will now have to take time off during the school year to take the MCAT in Ontario or Vermont.

That’s something she tried and failed to do once already as all slots were filled.

“Initially I wanted to apply for Quebec schools but Bill 96, there was a lot of laws there were enforced, so I was like it’s going to be a little competitive here,” the occupational therapy student said.

“Every medical student would like to apply to as many schools as possible because it’s a very competitive process. So I was like there’s a lot of Canadian schools, there’s a lot of U.S. schools that I see myself applying in and then when I was applying for the MCAT, I looked at the testing centres on the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) website and it was a complete shock for me because at the bottom it said there’s no MCAT testing centres in Quebec.”

Aspiring doctor and McGill University student Areeba Ahmed. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

While medical schools in Quebec do not require an MCAT score for enrollment, most Canadian medical schools outside of the province and in the United States do.

When asked how the Quebec Ministry of Education and Higher Education plans to address the issue they told CityNews: “the Ministry does not have specific information regarding the administration of these tests for admissions to medical programs. … This issue has not been brought to our attention by medical schools.”

“If I had known this before I would have you know planned my MCAT studying because MCAT is a very intensive planning,” said Ahmed.

“Getting testing dates for those locations (Ontario or Vermont), it’s also kind of hard because those residents are also applying.

“They can apply to all the medical schools. So then if I compare myself to an average Canadian, why do I only have four options for the Quebec medical schools?”

The AAMC confirmed to CityNews Bill 96’s French-language requirement is the reason the MCAT is not administered in Quebec.

“To address the policy change in Quebec, we have been monitoring our cap capacity needs in Ottawa, Toronto, and Burlington, Vermont,” Javarro Russell, the senior director of admissions testing services, said in an email. “We have also added an extra test date to our testing calendar to support examinees. The AAMC is committed to supporting our member institutions and aspiring physicians in their journey to medical school.”

As Quebec faces a need for health-care workers, the 19-year-old Ahmed says the impact on patients is also a concern.

“We have seen the shortages of doctors in the health-care system,” Ahmed said. “People are waiting for more than 10 years for a family doctor the ER department. It’s chaos because there’s not a lot of doctors to serve the population.”

Though Areeba says she would ultimately love to practise medicine in Quebec, she has yet to decide whether she will.

“Even though I’m an anglophone, I do speak both languages, but obviously with laws it gets a bit suffocating in terms of when you’re calling the government institutions, they basically have a whole criteria of who can be served in English, who can be served in French. These little things, I feel it just makes it so hard for you to be living in a province like this.

“We had Bill 101 in the past. We have Bill 96 right now and I’m just afraid how are these laws basically going to get more strict.”

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