The Quebec government is working on changes to its immigration policy that will bring it in line with the federal Express Entry program, which aims to match newcomers with employer needs.
In the new system, immigration applicants will present a “declaration of interest” that will help match their skills to the demands of the market place.
The changes come too late for Ndaw Mamadou, who immigrated to Quebec City in June 2014 and now plans to leave for Toronto.
Born in Senegal, Mamadou studied intercultural communications in France before applying to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
“Even if the government tries to facilitate the integration of immigrants, the reality is different,” says Mamadou. “The lack of quebecois experience is the main obstacle.”
Skepticism over changes
Mamadou, who already holds a BA in English literature, says he wants to go to Toronto to improve his English. He is just one of the thousands of immigrants who arrive in Quebec, but soon depart for other parts of Canada.
“Your average business is not even remotely connected to immigrants.”
“Just because the Ministry makes these changes or Citizenship [and Immigration] makes changes at the federal level, doesn’t mean that employers have to accept them,” says Patricia Rimok, president of Immigration Business Network (ib2ib). “Your average business is not even remotely connected to immigrants.”
The Montreal-based ib2ib is an online business resource that provides trading opportunities for immigrants who invest or start businesses in Quebec, Canada, or the U.S.
Rimok also worked for Quebec’s government from 2003 to 2011, first as chief of staff for the Ministry of Immigration and then as President of the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec (Council of Intercultural Relations), an advisory and member board under the Minister of Immigration’s portfolio.
She explains that employers do not have the capacity to evaluate skills that immigrants bring to Quebec from other countries.
“When someone does come from out of the country and applies, the evaluations that are done are quite reductive because immigrants who come in can do five, six, seven times more than what’s asked,” she explains.
Mamadou says that many immigrants who apply for the comparative evaluation of studies also see their international diplomas undervalued, which he says hinders their integration and professional development.
[A] lot more can be done to ensure immigrants don’t lose out on using their full range of skills.
“We would expect that immigrants with higher levels of education would be accessing higher-level jobs because of the skills they bring, but that’s not what happens,” explains Rimok.
She says that while she welcomes the changes, a lot more can be done to ensure immigrants don’t lose out on using their full range of skills.
Changes ‘big on paper’ but not in reality
Quebec’s immigration policy has been in place since 1990.
Under the Canada-Québec Accord Relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens, Quebec can set its own annual immigration targets and select which immigrants settle in the province (with the exception of refugees and family reunification classes).
Every immigration application is processed in chronological order, regardless of whether it meets selection criteria in areas like language, skills and country of origin.
Elsewhere, the federal government determines the number of immigrants admitted and the selection process.
Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced in January that the policy would be updated to bring it in line with national immigration rules, which were reformed in 2014.
Public hearings were held earlier this year from Jan. 28 to Feb. 10, bringing together stakeholders such as immigrants, industry representatives and experts from organizations serving newcomers.
On the first day of public hearings, the commission heard from Jacques Frémont, president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights).
79 per cent of Quebecers are white francophones, yet they hold about 95 per cent of senior management positions in the province’s civil service.
He pointed to the level of representation of racialized persons in the public service to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge the government faces, which he said should serve as a model for other sectors of employment.
Visible minorities and white Quebecers whose mother tongue is not French or English make up about 12 per cent of Quebec’s population, but according to a 2013 CBC investigation only about seven per cent of Quebec government employees belong to these categories.
The same study found that about 79 per cent of Quebecers are white francophones, yet they hold about 95 per cent of senior management positions in the province’s civil service.
“In the media, the government and Minister [Weil] talk about these big changes,” says Stephan Reichhold, director of TCRI, a group of organizations working with refugees, immigrants, and those without status in Quebec. Reichhold represented the group during one of the public hearings.
“The changes are big on paper and in discourse, but in reality, they will not result in big differences.”
Another series of consultations will be held on updating the Immigration Act, resulting in a bill to be presented to Quebec’s legislature, along with the new policy, this fall.
In the spring, all the pieces will come together in a new Immigration Act for the province.