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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 5 - Evidence - Meeting of April 7, 2014


OTTAWA, Monday, April 7, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 4 p.m. to continue its study on the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities.

Senator Claudette Tardif (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: I am Senator Claudette Tardif from Alberta, and I am chairing this committee. I would ask the senators to introduce themselves, starting on my left.

Senator Poirier: I am from New Brunswick.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am from Quebec City, Quebec.

Senator McIntyre: I am from New Brunswick.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Welcome to the committee. I represent northern Ontario in the Senate.

Senator Chaput: I am from Manitoba.

The Chair: We are continuing our study on the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities. Today, the senate committee is hearing from immigrants who have been involved directly or indirectly with one of the 13 francophone immigration networks and whose mother tongue is not necessarily French.

The path immigrants take is varied, as is their origin, background, experience and region of residence.

We are pleased to have with us today Ms. Konaté, who lives in Saskatchewan, and Mr. Sow, from northern Ontario. Honourable senators, this part of the meeting will end at 4:50 p.m. to allow the technicians to connect us with Winnipeg for a conference with a second panel, which will start at 5 p.m.

I now turn things over to Ms. Konaté and then Mr. Sow, who will give a five- to seven-minute presentation. Senators will then have an opportunity to ask questions.

Habibatou Konaté, as an individual: Good evening. Indeed, I am from Saskatchewan. I prepared a brief document as an aide memoire that I will read to you. After high school in Morocco, my parents decided to send me here, to Canada. It was not really a choice, but one might say that it was an obligation for university. Being a French-speaker, my choice was certainly focused on Quebec, since it was easier. I had family and friends in Quebec, which made my social integration easier and was good for my psychological well-being, too.

I started my bachelor's degree in sociology in January 2005. Things went fairly well while I was studying at the university, and I did not have too many difficulties. Changes were made in 2007 to the immigration legislation that enabled foreign students to work a little. I did fairly well financially, what with the money my parents gave me and with my work permit that allowed me to work off campus.

I graduated in May 2008, and I began looking for work in sociology or in any field that required a social sciences education. I had no luck. Employers generally told me: ``Madam, you do not speak English. Sure, you have done your studies here, but you have no experience. The experience you have is small jobs you did while you were a student.''

Still, I submitted my application for permanent residence, despite the barriers I was facing. Like the majority of immigrants, I ended up at a Bell Canada call centre. I worked there for one year while I got the experience everyone wanted me to have.

In 2009, I decided to go home, to Mali, to see if I could finally find a job. Things did not go the way I had hoped, so I returned to Quebec in January 2010. In February 2010, I was granted permanent residence in Canada.

The book the federal government gave me outlines the advantages for immigrants who can learn one of Canada's two official languages. Of course, all the provinces were listed in the book. I do not know why, but I was focused on Saskatchewan.

In September 2010, I moved to Saskatchewan. I ended up in a small francophone community called Gravelbourg. I was very warmly welcomed. Once there, I was hired as an early childhood educator, but on the condition that I take English classes, of course, and take courses in early childhood education. I told myself that this would allow me to take my classes, so I went. I learned early on there that the children do not necessarily speak French before they go to school, even though their parents are francophone. This was yet another problem because I could not even communicate with the children. So I began to take English classes that are offered to immigrants. I started at level 0 and ended up at level 3 in the 10 months I was in Saskatchewan.

I gained a little confidence and decided to leave Gravelbourg and go to Regina, a larger city that would certainly offer more opportunities. I got a job there as an employment and settlement counsellor for francophone newcomers to the province. I have been working for that organization for three years now, and I would say that it is going well. I continue to take English classes, and I am now at level 6, even though I am taking courses part time.

The program given to immigrants to learn one of Canada official languages is a good thing that immigration can offer to newcomers because it removes barriers to employment and facilitates the social integration of these people, me included.

I have decided to stay in Saskatchewan for the moment because of the employment opportunities and for the chance to learn English. At the same time, it is a community that I have enjoyed, and I do volunteer work from time to time when I have the chance.

I am also on two committees that help newcomers. One is the RCA, which is the Réseau des communautés d'accueil de Regina. Its mandate is to put in place local welcoming strategies for newcomers within the francophone community in Saskatchewan to encourage their integration in Saskatchewan and give them as much information as possible, guide them and provide them with information on the services available that the community or the province can provide so that they can settle in as smoothly as possible.

The other committee I am on is the Groupe de soutien du centre d'appui à la famille et à l'enfance. It is a favourite place for parents, for young immigrants with families, so that they can break their routine. They have a place where they can play with their children, socialize and get professional advice on health, nutrition, or other issues.

I am currently in the process of applying for citizenship, which I started in November 2012. The strange thing is that I sent my application in October 2012; they received it in early November 2012. In the meantime, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada forms had changed. So they returned my entire application to me so that I could add the proof of language that they were now requiring. Since I did my studies here, it was easy. I simply sent them a photocopy of my diploma and the problem was solved. For the moment, I am waiting for my citizenship, which is being processed.

I have prepared some recommendations that I want to share with you, based on my work and what I see on a daily basis. However, I can say that my journey as an immigrant has gone well. I did not encounter any obstacles, unlike other people I deal with every day.

I have five recommendations, and they are as follows.

The first recommendation would be to also issue work permits for children 18 years and older of skilled workers who come to Canada. Since the children cannot go to school, they would be able to work just like their parents, who have been admitted as skilled workers.

The second recommendation would be to reduce the processing times for family reunification of protected persons in Canada, from the time they are accepted here. Aside from the recent changes, when someone arrives here as a protected person, the processing time is four years before they can obtain residency. However, those people must wait three more years before their families can join them.

My third recommendation would be to maintain the quota of refugees from French-speaking countries, to help the refugees, and for the Government of Canada to promote assistance and support services provided by francophone organizations, which is not currently the case.

My fourth recommendation: urge that CIC be able to accept the skilled workers that our community organizations serve so they can become permanent residents.

And lastly, give spouses with an open work permit access to programs relating to the labour market.

That is all.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Konaté. Mr. Sow?

Daouda Sow, as an individual: Thank you, Madam Chair. Honourable senators, my name is Daouda Sow. I am from Mauritania. I did my studies in France and immigrated here, to Canada, in 2010. I prepared my permanent residency file before even leaving France, where I finished my university studies in law. I have a doctorate in private law from French universities.

I arrived in Montreal in July 2010. Like any immigrant, I had to deal with many organizations when I arrived in Montreal. A person can drown in these organizations. You really need to choose organizations to see which ones are best suited to your needs. There are a wide range of immigration and community organizations and government services as well. Immigrants have access to all these services.

As for determining whether these organizations really could meet my needs, I would say that as any newcomer, the first step is to find a job. Then, the next day, after registering, you have to go and visit the organizations, see where you can find a job, see where to apply and what area suits you. You need to go a local employment centre.

I arrived in Montreal, Quebec, where there are local employment centres. I went to one and the agent I met with asked me what area I was looking for work in. I told him that I was looking for something in law. He asked me what degree I held, and I told him I had a doctorate. He said that he could not do anything for me. I was very surprised by that.

Still, I registered with a job searcher number. Afterwards, I continued to look in my field. He advised me to go to the universities, that the employment centres were not right for my needs. I had plenty of references from other organizations. I went to the university and introduced myself with all the references from other university professors that I had.

Since I my area was private law, I went to see the chair in business law at the Université de Montréal. The doors were not open because to get in as a research assistant, you have to be a member of the student union, you have to be enrolled there or be a returning student. Since my education was already behind me, the search continued.

As I just said, I ended up finding odd jobs. I worked as a cashier at Petro-Canada for a while. I approached legal offices, law firms. I always got calls back. My CV, my background and my work experience interested them, but the only barrier was that I did not have experience in Quebec. That is what they told me. The other barrier was the linguistic one. They wanted someone who was perfectly bilingual, 100 per cent. I do not know at what point someone is considered 100 per cent bilingual. I manage fairly well in English. So my goal was to improve my English to reach this famous 100 per cent I was being asked for.

I decided to go and live in an anglophone community. That is how I got the idea to move from Quebec to northern Ontario. The ministry of education had a program called Odyssée that recruited francophones to promote the francophone culture in anglophone communities, in anglophone schools. I was hired to work for that program. I asked to go to a truly anglophone community.

Coincidentally, there was a woman who had been sent to Terrace Bay, a small community of 1,500 people that has a francophone school and an anglophone school. She found it very remote, but I volunteered to go there. I left Montreal to go and live in Terrace Bay. I stayed there for seven months in an anglophone community.

Afterwards, in Geraldton, I had the opportunity to assume my current position as director general of the adult training centre in Greenstone, where there is a very good francophone community. And so everything is going very well for me. Although I am not working in my field, but in the community field, it interests me and allows me to improve my English in order to achieve my goal of becoming perfectly bilingual so that I can get back to working in my field.

I was asked if I was involved in the community that I live in. Yes, I was quite involved in the community in Montreal. My mother tongue is Fulani. We have a very large community in Montreal, elsewhere in Canada, as well as in France and the United States, and I have always been involved in that community.

I could talk about obstacles. In the area I currently live in, the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association offers services of English classes to francophone immigrants. I have lived in this region for one year, and I asked for this service. Unfortunately, the services people get are not bilingual. My experience has been that there are no francophones in the positions that serve francophones. I contacted them eight months ago, and there was no one. They have a French teacher who can help out from time to time, when they receive francophones, but the service is designated as being bilingual.

I use a number of services in the northern region, in Thunder Bay. I am a member of the AFNOO board of directors. These are partners. We have seen that the Thunder ay Multicultural Association doen't have a francophone in this position to offer services in French, even though the association receives funding for that.

I kept trying for eight months. I tried again and again and, finally, I managed to register. I am waiting for this notorious English course.

The service is there, but the service's effectiveness poses a problem. Why? I am asking myself that question. It is clear there is a problem. Now, where is that problem? I do not know if the problem is organizational or structural. Still, I requested this service eight months ago and I have yet to get it.

I recommend better communication between the people who request the services and the people making the decisions.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Sow. We will now move on to questions.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Welcome to both of you. First of all, I would like to say that your journeys have been remarkable and that, without a doubt, you are good examples of the kind of immigrants that Canada would like to welcome.

Mr. Sow, what led you to immigrate to Canada?

Mr. Sow: After my studies, I worked at a university centre as a researcher in competition law. I enjoyed working in that field, and our centre had a partnership with an international economic law journal. I understood that English was really very important. Most of the articles that were selected were in English.

I saw myself working in university research, and I promised myself that I would go to Canada to learn English after I graduated. It is important to understand that, to the outside, Canada is seen as an anglophone country, aside from Quebec, but I did not realize that when I applied to come to Canada. At immigration services in Paris, the interview was in French. We were told about Quebec and asked for a Quebec selection certificate. I said that I chose Canada so I could improve my English and continue in the research field.

Once I arrived in Montreal, I started working in French. My friends were from France, and we continued to speak French. My plan was not moving forward. My goal fell by the wayside. I told myself that I was going to try again. That is why I decided to go and live in an anglophone environment. My initial goal was to improve my English, and continue in the field of university research.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Could we say that your expectations about the Canadian labour market were consistent with what you thought?

Mr. Sow: Yes. However, I would like to qualify that: there is a real problem within professional bodies. I have a lot of friends in this area, French academics, engineers in solar energy, and so on. In my case, I have a doctorate in private law and I could practise, but if you look at the requirements that these professional bodies put in place, quite frankly, I think it is not justified. The bar is very high and it is not fair. I understand that these are professional bodies, that there are requirements and everything, but at times, the bar is very high. Economically, it is very expensive, and it takes a lot of time. In reality, the balance is not really fair.

There is a real problem with the professional bodies. I do not know what the Department of Immigration can do here, but I pointed it out during our last meeting with the Réseau de soutien à l'immigration francophone pour le Nord de l'Ontario in Sudbury. I was invited to represent my community organization, and I raised the problem with the department officials.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Did you also make recommendations for improving the situation or were those the only recommendations you made to the Department of Immigration?

Mr. Sow: As I said at the beginning, a lot of services are offered. When immigrants arrive, they can be overwhelmed by the number of organizations. A lot of services are offered, but it is important to try to group them to make them more effective. During our meeting in Sudbury, everyone who participated said that they had been trying to have meetings like that for five or six years. Where are all the other suggestions that were made? That shows that there is a problem. I think there is a lack of communication between the doers and the decision-makers.

That is the solution I would like to stress.

Senator Chaput: Thank you both. I completely support the remarks of my colleague, Senator Fortin-Duplessis, when she said that she has a lot of respect for what you are doing.

When you decided to come to Canada — and Mr. Sow, you touched on this — what was your perception of our country? Mr. Sow, you spoke about this, and I would like to know where that perception came from.

When you received assistance to immigrate, were you given an idea of what Canada was like?

Mr. Sow: Yes. Honestly, I discovered that there was a very active francophone community when I approached the Quebec embassy in Paris. The process involved requesting a certificate from Quebec and, once qualified, you apply for a permanent resident visa. However, before seeking out this service, Canada was an anglophone country to me. That is what led me to choose Canada, so I could improve my knowledge of English and continue doing research.

Ms. Konaté: In my case, it was the quality of teaching. Unlike Mr. Sow, I came here as an international student, so things are a little different. Given the information my parents had, it was decided that I would go to Quebec for my studies but, once there, you obviously aspire to other things. Being here now, yes French is there, but economically, in terms of jobs, career development, there are many more opportunities. However, I understand that, outside Canada, there is a service called Destination Canada and people who use the service are told that Canada is a great country. Francophones are told about French, but no one tells them that once they arrive, if they do not speak English, things will not go well. So there is an idealization of Canada, and there are so many expectations that people end up disappointed. That is why we are losing people. Some return to their country and say that they are fed up because no one told them this or that, and the list goes on.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Ms. Konaté and Mr. Sow, thank you for choosing Canada as your adopted country. As my colleagues said, your contribution is truly valuable and your loyalty is clear. Congratulations. I sincerely thank you.

Ms. Konaté, you listed five recommendations. The committee wants to take a step back from the goal of any federal or provincial government to ensure that the means are there so that people who choose Canada as an adopted country are not only appropriate individuals, but that they benefit from the support services needed to facilitate their integration, their adaptation and contribution to society.

Could you please repeat those five recommendations? Because I think they are very important for our study.

Ms. Konaté: I will read them as I wrote them. The first recommendation would be to allow children 18 years and older of skilled workers from the francophone significant benefit — formerly known as Destination Canada — to have a work permit like their parents, given that the children cannot go to school.

The second recommendation would be to reduce family reunification wait times for protected persons in Canada. From the moment it is determined that they cannot return to their own country, the government should at least allow them to be with their families and reduce the wait time of seven years between the time they are granted residency and the time their family joins them.

The third recommendation would be to maintain the quota of refugees from French-speaking countries. With the help of the Government of Canada, it is important to help them be served and guided by a francophone organization so that they can maintain their heritage and continue to communicate in French. Currently, to serve refugees arriving in provinces outside Quebec, CIC has a contract with agencies that are not necessarily francophone. These are people that the francophone network is losing, which is why it is important.

The fourth recommendation would be that CIC take charge of skilled workers in the process of becoming permanent residents who are served by our community agencies. The last recommendation would be to allow access to the labour market program to spouses of individuals admitted through Destination Canada who have open work permits.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Thank you very much. Mr. Sow, what recommendations do you have with respect to the problem you identified? You said that there was a gap between the decision-making level and the operational level when it comes to the integration of immigrants. Do you have any recommendations to make?

Mr. Sow: Yes. This is an observation I made quite recently. I attended a francophone immigration forum on March 21, 2014, in Sudbury.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Who organized the forum?

Mr. Sow: The Réseau du Nord. I was there to see the presentations and listen to the observations. It seems that there is a real gap between what people want and what is being done or between what should be done and what is being done on the ground.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Who was going to make the recommendations collected by the Réseau du Nord?

Mr. Sow: Someone was there from the Department of Immigration. But everyone who participated was a bit upset. It was the first time that I was participating in the forum, but some people there had participated four or five times. The same problems always come up. Therefore, there is a problem.

The other problem that I mentioned from my personal experience is professional bodies. The other problem is the language barrier. But these are things that can be overcome. A person just needs to show some resolve and get involved. A language can be learned.

Senator Charette-Poulin: And what about professional equivalencies?

Mr. Sow: In terms of professional equivalencies, it all lies in how professional bodies are integrated, and the problem is in the barriers to your being admitted. For example, you arrive and you are a chemical engineer. Joining the chemists' association is a real battle. It takes much longer and is more difficult than getting permanent residence, while you are already there and able to work.

Some skills are transferable. Everyone knows that, but quite honestly, it is not justified. I had to speak with the equivalencies commission of the Barreau du Québec. I approached the Law Society of Upper Canada, and they did not justify it.

The university professors I met with said that they are not the ones who established the rules and procedures, but they themselves find them very disproportionate. We should see how this could be improved. We are talking about selective immigration. These are people who were chosen based on their skills, their professional experience and the fact that they can eventually support Canadian society.

When I arrived in Montreal, when I was looking for work, the first course I took was to learn how to make a curriculum vitae for the Canadian market. It is true that the reference system is very different. I took the course over six weeks, and that is all I did.

Afterwards, you are told, ``We are willing to take you, but the only problem is that you do not have Quebec experience.'' Of course, I had just arrived, but I have to start somewhere, so give me a chance to get the experience.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Thank you. I appreciate it very much.

Senator Poirier: If I have understood correctly, you both started your Canadian adventure in Quebec, one at school and the other looking for work. You said that when you started looking for work, one of the things that you had to do to find a job in your field was to be bilingual. Is that correct?

Mr. Sow: No.

Senator Poirier: Do you work only with francophone immigrants arriving in Canada or do you also work with anglophone immigrants?

Ms. Konaté: In my case, I work only with francophone immigrants.

Senator Poirier: When an anglophone immigrant comes to Canada, do you know whether they are also asked to be bilingual when they look for work?

Ms. Konaté: No, and that is the contradiction. Things are easier for anglophones. I had colleagues and classmates who came here and learned French, which was not their mother tongue. We went to university together. When we were done, everyone whose first language was English found a job more easily compared to those people whose first language was French. It is contradictory.

Senator Poirier: Even in the province of Quebec?

Ms. Konaté: Yes. Even more so in the Montreal area, which is becoming increasingly multicultural. When I arrived in Quebec nine years ago, people still spoke French in stores when you asked for service. Now, when you go into a store, when you are initially approached by the store staff, they never say ``bonjour.'' Instead, they say ``hi'' or ``hello.'' Things are changing slowly and, in the Montreal area, English is first.

Senator Poirier: Would you suggest that francophone immigrants who want to come to Canada arrive in Quebec?

Ms. Konaté: Ninety per cent of the people I meet every day in my job have all come through Quebec before moving to another province.

Senator Poirier: Yet there is a francophone university in Moncton, New Brunswick. There are francophone communities in almost every province in Canada. From the time they arrive in Quebec, what draws them to another province? Is it education or work?

Mr. Sow: Indeed, Quebec is sold very well abroad. When you attend a presentation session by immigration services in Paris, the province is well marketed. You sign up right away. They organize open houses to recruit potential immigrants, qualified individuals to immigrate to Quebec, and the presentation they make on the province makes you want to go there. For everyone I met in France, where I grew up and where I did my studies, Quebec is French. When you start planning to immigrate, a country that speaks your language will be the most attractive to you. I think that is why francophone immigrants chose Quebec.

Senator Poirier: Did the province of Quebec make the presentation?

Mr. Sow: Yes.

Senator Poirier: New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province. It did not give a presentation?

Mr. Sow: The place where you go to get the Quebec selection certificate at immigration services is a service representing the province of Quebec, which gives the presentation. You go and get the Quebec selection certificate before moving on to the federal level. They only tell you about Quebec. It is sold very well and makes people want to sign up.

Ms. Konaté: All the provinces are represented in these Destination Canada activities. Every province in Canada goes to Paris to meet with people during these open houses, but Quebec started well before all the other provinces, which means that Quebec had a real head start on the others and more resources. Quebec offers more of this kind of thing than the other provinces, which means that the majority of people who come from France generally go to Quebec. Quebec really does a lot of advertising. Otherwise, all the other provinces are represented.

Senator Poirier: But you are still asked to be bilingual?

Ms. Konaté: At the time, no one tells you that you have to be bilingual. They say, ``Come, you already speak French.'' It is very good. Quebec needs you. As Mr. Sow said, Canada needs you. Selective immigration is very good for Canada, but I cannot understand how a doctor who has done his studies in France, who has 15 years of experience, comes here and is told he cannot practise, even though Canada needs doctors. He has even been educated in a so-called developed country and has experience. I have the impression that the immigration policy and selective immigration are not fitting together properly. There is a huge problem in this area.

Senator McIntyre: I would like to thank both of you for your very interesting presentations.

You both left your countries and ended up in Quebec. You then left Quebec for another Canadian province. Ms. Konaté, you went to Saskatchewan, and Mr. Sow, you went to Ontario.

In Quebec, you encountered linguistic and economic barriers. If I have understood correctly, you are encountering similar barriers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Is that correct?

Ms. Konaté: Right now, yes. A linguistic problem, yes, because when you arrive in Saskatchewan, you are francophone, not anglophone. So to find a job, you need to take English classes full time or find a job with a francophone organization that can hire you, and francophone organizations are not always able to do that. So, yes, there are language barriers. However, it is easier because English courses are offered. It is just one hurdle to clear, and that is very easy to do. Skilled workers are another category of immigrants who often come to Saskatchewan. In the last three years, Saskatchewan has welcomed a large number of them from francophone countries, but they do speak a little English and work for companies or provide services in English.

Mr. Sow: One of the barriers we are currently facing in the labour market up north, compared to the Montreal region, is that there are fewer services for immigrants. As I said, I have been waiting close to eight months to get courses provided to francophone immigrants in Ontario. There are hardly any in the northern part of the province. The only designated organization that receives funding for that is not really taking care of it. It is not working. There is a problem there, as well. There is no oversight. But I have been waiting for eight months, which is an unreasonable amount of time. The going concern principle governs public services, and I see that it has been set aside.

Senator McIntyre: Were you warmly welcomed in your respective communities? How do things go from day to day? Do you feel you have support from the community, the municipality, and the provincial government?

Mr. Sow: Yes. My arrival in Terrace Bay went very well. I do not have any family in Canada, but I found a host family that became like family. I lived with them for seven months. They are a large anglophone family with 6 children and 11 grandchildren, and no one speaks French. I am like a family member, and I often spend my weekends with them now.

Senator McIntyre: Does this anglophone family want to learn French with you?

Mr. Sow: To be honest, they have difficulty with it. The funny thing is that their background is francophone. They come from northern France, but they have lost their French over the years. Their last name is Leblanc. They went back to find their roots in France, but they do not speak a word of French. Living with this family was a very good opportunity for me. I hear English day and night. Personally, it helped me make a lot of progress in learning English.

Senator McIntyre: Let us hope that you do not lose your French.

Mr. Sow: I still work in French. There is nothing to worry about.

Senator McIntyre: Ms. Konaté, how is it going in your community?

Ms. Konaté: It is going very well. I have lived there for four years. It was a little difficult initially because I did not speak a word of English, which was quite strange.

The reception I received from the organization I work for now made me want to work with and help these immigrants who arrive in order to simplify everything they have to go through, everything they have to do and how to do it because the person I met with when I arrived had difficulty. Everything is going well in my daily work. We are organizing more and more services to provide and we listen to these immigrants to improve our services and adapt them to their needs.

We provide services to newcomers, but not without asking them because that will not necessarily correspond with their needs. If we know what their needs are, it is easier to adapt to help them so that they stay in Canada, like I decided to do.

Senator McIntyre: Do you plan to stay where you are or return to Quebec or even return to your home country?

Ms. Konaté: Quebec is not an option right now, and neither is returning to my country. So I am still there.

Senator McIntyre: So you are staying in Saskatchewan?

Ms. Konaté: Absolutely.

Senator McIntyre: Mr. Sow?

Mr. Sow: Me, too. For the moment, I am staying in Ontario.

The Chair: We have five minutes left.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: This will be very brief. You may answer yes or no. Was the inability to find a job in your field in Quebec what led you to leave Quebec for another province, an anglophone province?

Mr. Sow: In my case, every time I submitted my CV, I always received a response. I was looking for work with law firms and in university research. For university research jobs, I was unable to reach an agreement about working arrangements and methods of payment. That is another problem. But the problem with the law firms is that what I was being told was that I had to be perfectly bilingual because they are international law firms with branches in London and elsewhere.

I left Quebec for Ontario just to prepare myself to better make the jump, to improve my English, to perfect it. It is not impossible, but I am staying in Ontario for now.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Ms. Konaté?

Ms. Konaté: I would say yes. That is the simple answer. When you decide to immigrate and stay here, the final goal is to find work and be successful in your economic integration. If you do not have that, Quebec can offer all it wants, but it is not possible to stay. Since Canada is so big, you can certainly move elsewhere to find what you are looking for.

The Chair: Under the new language criteria imposed by the federal government on immigrants arriving in Canada, immigrants will have to know one of Canada's two official languages before they arrive. Do you think that the federal government's decision is a good one?

Mr. Sow: The problem is that I think that knowing one of the official languages has always been the case. We are talking about selective immigration. If someone is selected, he or she must have a mastery of one of the languages. My interview was done in French, and there was a brief supplementary question in English. But you would not have to have taken English classes to answer the questions. It was simple English.

I think that the rules in effect when I arrived were good and perfectly matched selective immigration, the kind of immigration we want to have in Canada. But like I said, what is happening on the ground must go back up to the decision-makers. It is very important.

Ms. Konaté: I would say that all the rules that are in place, including speaking one of the two official languages, are good. Because really, it is not for the principal applicant. When you are the principal applicant and you arrive as a permanent resident, you either speak English or you speak French. That is why you were selected. The rule will apply more to family members who arrive and apply for citizenship. Because they will also come as permanent residents. Yes, it is a good thing.

The Chair: On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to thank you for sharing your personal and professional experiences with us. We thank you for taking the time to be with us today.

Honourable senators, in order to prepare for the next panel, which we will hear from by videoconference, I suspend the meeting until 5 p.m.

(The committee suspended.)

(The committee resumed.)

The Chair: Honourable senators, we are resuming the meeting. Our next witnesses are Chabha Bettoum, by videoconference from Winnipeg. Welcome! We also have Judicaël Moukoumi, who lives in Saskatchewan, and Juan Manuel Toro Lara, from New Brunswick.

Since a vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., I will suspend the meeting around 5:15 p.m., and we will continue our meeting after the vote. I thank our witnesses for their understanding and patience.

I would like to give the floor now to Ms. Bettoum, then to Mr. Moukoumi, followed by Mr. Toro Lara. Questions will follow after that.

Chabha Bettoum, as an individual: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Chabha Bettoum. To give you a bit of information about me, I currently live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I have been here for about a year and a half.

I arrived in December 2012. I am from Algeria, North Africa, and came here through a program called PNP, the Provincial Nominee Program, under the strategic component.

Originally, in Algeria, I was a marketing studies project manager for an international market studies company. I did my post-secondary studies in marketing and business.

Now, in Winnipeg, I am a sales and marketing manager for a Manitoban company. Obviously, this did not happen right away. I had to start in another position as a bilingual customer service clerk. To give you a quick summary of my background, I arrived in December 2012 and, since December is a slow period in terms of employment, my first instinct was to volunteer, specifically in the francophone community. In January, I got my first job as a bilingual customer service clerk, a position that then enabled me to get the job I have now, which is in my field and is almost the same as what I was doing in Algeria.

I chose Manitoba because my cousin lives in Winnipeg. She has been there for over three years. That was one of the factors motivating me, and it is one of the factors that accelerated my integration into Winnipeg and Manitoba in general. I had access right away to a lot of information from her and her entire social network and, in a few weeks, her social network became mine. I would say that I felt at home very quickly.

Otherwise, before getting a job — which was a short period of one month — I spent the time settling in, in the sense that I had to complete all the paperwork related to living in Manitoba: setting up a bank account, getting a health card, social insurance number, and so on.

Obviously, I went through the Manitoba Start program, Entry Program, as it is called, which was a sort of an initiation and orientation to living in Manitoba.

That is basically my experience here. I am very satisfied because I feel that I integrated fairly quickly. I would say that my social status rose fairly quickly as well, given my job, which is in my original field and allows me to travel.

Overall, I am satisfied. That is all for my presentation.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Bettoum.

We will an opportunity to start with Judicaël Moukoumi. We have about 10 minutes.

Judicaël Moukoumi, as an individual: Thank you, honourable senators. It is a real pleasure for me to be here with you this evening and to discuss my experience in Canada. I will not speak just about myself, and you will understand why. Since my arrival in Canada, I have been quite involved in my community and, therefore, what I want to talk to you about today is also a little of what I am doing and what I have done with others in the community.

I am from Gabon, a small country in central Africa, with a population similar to Saskatchewan's, about a million residents. The Gabonese are sedentary and do not go out much. They go out to school and, afterwards, they return home.

I did my university studies in France. I began working in France after I graduated. As is the tradition for researchers, I wanted my post-doctoral experience to be in a different setting, meaning that I had worked with people in Europe and I felt the need to leave the country in order to complete my training. My choice was Canada. I admit that it was not Saskatchewan. Instead, I was thinking about British Columbia or maybe even Ontario, but Saskatchewan made me an offer. I went to the University of Saskatchewan to work as a researcher. We found a small, but dynamic, francophone community there that is very organized, very structured and in the process of discovering a different kind of immigration, meaning that until that point, they were used to francophones arriving, but they were generally people with a European background. Then people with diverse francophone backgrounds began arriving.

In terms of the reception, there was a great willingness to welcome these people, except that no one knew what their needs were. Settlement services did not exist then. I think we were the first ones the settlement services agents dealt with. So it was in the process of being set up, but the challenges were such that we decided with others to implement a structure to help make the link between the francophones with diverse backgrounds who were arriving, who were unknown, and the francophone community that had been established there for some time. We created an association called the Communauté des Africains francophones de la Saskatchewan.

It was initially the Communauté des Africains de Saskatoon, but since the province is large and people do not settle only in Saskatoon, we felt the need to expand it to the entire province, and it became the Communauté des Africains francophones de la Saskatchewan.

The association works basically through volunteers. It does not receive much funding from the usual donor agencies. We receive nothing from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and not for lack of trying. We have tried to obtain funding, but finally we understood that priority was given to established organizations. Despite our willingness to create projects and justify them and seek partners, we did not obtain funding.

The problem is that we have to understand that the francophone community in Saskatchewan is really a minority community. Two per cent of the population has French as their first language; if we include everyone who speaks French, the percentage rises to about 4 per cent.

The French services available are very limited. That means that if someone wants to go to the hospital, for example, and cannot get by in English, that person will not go to the hospital. We have seen this in the community. Therefore, we end up facing needs with limited means, or no means at all, because volunteerism has its limitations.

We are trying to build partnerships and collaborations with other structures, but there are problems when it comes to leadership. Our association is new, and associations that have been around for longer are deemed to be leaders on these matters. So, we said we would work together and see what happened. The problem is that, in terms of observable results in the community, some good things have certainly been done, but a lot of people have had difficulty integrating because there is no fluid co-operation between our association, which brings together Saskatchewan's diverse francophone community, and the other structures that are in place.

We have made significant progress with some structures, such as the Réseau santé en français. We are doing a lot of work with newcomers on healthy living habits. Together, we are seeking funding from Health Canada. That is an organization with which we have already developed working relationships. But that is still to come with the others.

We have put in place a framework to enable others to work with us. The framework is called the newcomers platform. Quickly — perhaps I will expand on it during questions — the newcomers platform indicates that immigration is a shared responsibility and that a single organization, despite all its best intentions, cannot on its own help immigrants settle sustainably and integrate.

We need specialized organizations and ethnocultural groups to work together to achieve this integration. The newcomers platform includes hubs of co-operation among sectors. The first is reception and settlement, meaning that this includes everyone who provides services related to receiving and settling immigrants, and who must work together to facilitate the settlement of newcomers.

The Chair: Mr. Moukoumi, I am sorry; we will have to suspend the meeting. We will come back and continue with the newcomers platform, but for the moment, I have to suspend the meeting.

(The committee suspended.)

(The committee resumed.)

The Chair: Honourable senators, we are resuming our meeting. I invite Mr. Moukoumi to conclude his remarks. He will be followed by Mr. Toro Lara.

Mr. Moukoumi: Before the committee meeting was suspended, I was introducing the newcomers platform. I was saying that we have put this platform in place to favour concerted actions with all the francophone partners that provide services to newcomers. So it is a platform with six hubs of co-operation, which are reception, economic integration, social integration with the rights, duties, socialization.

In Saskatchewan, there is a new trend among newcomers, especially refugees. There are people who arrive as a couple and separate after one or two years. As you know, African families are large families. You can imagine that this can have a serious impact. We end up with single-parent families where the children are in the process of adapting to a new environment and also have to deal with their parents' separation. It really is catastrophic. Another aspect of the platform is education and teaching.

In terms of education, we have young people who arrive and are behind in school, so they cannot be integrated into the Canadian school system right away because they have missed years. Since the Canadian system does not allow students to repeat a year and students are placed according to their age and not their level, we end up with children who, in a way, are sort of condemned to dropping out of the school system without obtaining the qualifications. That is of great concern to us.

Another aspect of the platform is health. In terms of health, when you cannot communicate about an illness, when you cannot have a discussion with a doctor, of course the diagnosis will suffer. There may be other repercussions. We have real cases. Two women arrived and, because of the language barrier, they did not go and see the doctor. They ended up undergoing surgery that was fairly serious.

Another point I would like to make with respect to health is that we welcome a lot of refugees and many arrive with significant psychological trauma. However, there are no services to help them. There are attempted suicides in the community every year and, last year, there was one suicide. A 43-year-old man committed suicide by throwing himself in the Saskatchewan River. So there is a need for resources. The community tries to make arrangements through a francophone immigration network, but we need resources so that things work.

I will quickly go through a few recommendations. We would like Citizenship and Immigration Canada to expand the number of stakeholders who can support newcomers and expand the capacity to obtain funding. We have been around for five years, and we have difficulty getting funding from CIC. I do not know why.

Also, donor agencies should require that there be effective co-operation between the ethnocultural groups and the service providers. Knowing what newcomers need is essential to meeting their needs. You cannot welcome someone from Montreal, someone from Paris and someone from North Kivu, from a small refugee village, in the same way. You need to adapt the services and take the culture into account.

The training of stakeholders is also important. We recommend that as well.

As I said, there are a lot of highly problematic cases in the family reunification program for refugees and it takes a long time to process those files. Some have been waiting for five years. When you are vulnerable and have no one to help you, you can imagine that the trauma is even greater.

In terms of the performance indicators for the organizations that receive funding, we feel that the simple number of participants is not relevant. Just because 100 people or 1,000 people participate in a program does not mean that the program is effective.

People participate in a program because they have just arrived and have no idea what is happening; they attend out of curiosity. However, it would be interesting to see the impact of this program on the integration of newcomers. We recommend that, in addition to the number of people, we also look at the impact of the changes on the integration of newcomers.

The other recommendation is to encourage co-operation with anglophone organizations. It is essential. Francophones from Saskatchewan represent 2 per cent of the population. If we do not work effectively with the majority, newcomers will not be able to integrate into society. We cannot ignore the majority.

Finally, in terms of the funding granted to organizations, I think we have enough challenges to overcome and it is important that the funding match the challenges we are facing. I will end there. I can elaborate later on the initiatives we have taken in the community.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Moukoumi. I would now like to invite Juan Manuel Toro Lara.

Juan Manuel Toro Lara, as an individual: My name is Juan Manuel Toro Lara; I am from Colombia and I came to Canada 14 years ago. As you can hear, I have a very pronounced accent. I learned French here in Canada and I was not able to lose my accent. I think it will stay with me all my life.

I am delighted to be here with you today to tell you a bit about my experience as an individual, but also as a stakeholder in immigration, here in Canada. I define myself as a francophile and a proud ambassador of the Canadian francophonie. I have been living in Edmundston, New Brunswick, for nine years now.

I would first like to say that, unfortunately, my life experience has been thorny and difficult. I am a refugee. In Colombia, I was a member of the Colombian association of university students. I was studying medicine and I was very involved in various areas in my community. Because of that, the paramilitary groups threatened me and said I was a military objective in the 1990s. That is why I had to leave my city, my family and my studies, and start hiding in various places in Colombia.

Since there was no solution to my safety problem in Colombia, I went to several embassies to ask for help and seek asylum. The first embassy I visited was the Canadian embassy in Bogota. I went there and they told me: ``Yes, fill out this form, come back to see us and we will protect you.'' Since I was threatened, I did not believe them. I did not think that was true because it was too easy and I kept visiting other embassies.

Under the circumstances, the only option I had left was to see whether Canada was the real deal or not. I filled out my forms and, six months later, I was accepted in Canada as a refugee. That changed my life forever. As I said earlier, I did not speak the language. I learned it here in Canada.

In June 2000, I arrived in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and that is when I started to have an idea of what Canada meant. I was not really familiar with this country; I knew it was cold here and there were forests and moose, which we did not have back home. Other than that, I did not really know much about Canada.

When I came to Sherbrook, at my first meeting with an officer from Immigration Québec, I was very naïve and asked him whether I could take English classes. I hit a wall, let me tell you. Of course, the officer refused categorically. He told me: ``No, you have to take French courses'' and I had no idea why I had to.

I simply answered that I was going to start my French classes. This shows that, sometimes we immigrants are not aware of the linguistic issues when we come to Canada. Sometimes, we are faced with these linguistic challenges of having to choose between French and English. Sometimes, we are wrongfully identified as being part of the problem when all we need is to be made more aware of and better prepared for Canada's linguistic reality and we could be in a better position in those types of situations.

I learned French in Sherbrooke and, a year later, I started my social work studies at Université de Sherbrooke. In 2002, I started to work in the field as a settlement officer. I was an interpreter and, after my training, I worked for Michèle Vatz-Laaroussi, a social work professor at the university.

Subsequently, love and work brought me to Edmundston, New Brunswick, where I have been living since 2005. I fell in love with a girl from that area and, because of her, I decided to leave Sherbrooke. I was well established in Sherbrooke, but, because of my circumstances, I decided to move to New Brunswick.

I must say that, when I arrived in New Brunswick, there were not a lot of services and centres for immigrants. I am proud to say today that I was able to help set up those services to some extent. I am also proud to say that, contrary to popular belief, being integrated into a rural francophone community is much easier than we think, especially when the conditions are ideal.

One person welcomed me to the region, so I had a social contact and I was able to get in very easily. But I also had a job.

Sometimes, you go to a city, you find a job, but you have no social contacts. Other times, you do not find a job but you have a lot of help socially. It is difficult to balance the two.

Since 2005, I have been participating in the Table de concertation sur l'immigration francophone au Nouveau- Brunswick, which became the Réseau en immigration francophone du Nouveau-Brunswick three years ago. Those organizations are coordinated by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. They are stakeholders who work together to improve settlement services and awareness in the community, and to help immigrants integrate.

I will probably be able to elaborate on this during questions, but since I have been in New Brunswick, I have been able to participate, in co-operation with the provincial government, in missions promoting recruitment abroad, specifically in France and Belgium. I have been there as a participant three times.

My experience has helped me grow as a person and as a stakeholder, because I have been able to meet with refugees, international students and economic immigrants alike. At the same time, through the promotion and recruitment mission, I have been also able to meet with immigration candidates who are interested in moving to a rural area.

The first time I participated in Destination Canada, in Paris, was in 2007. There was Quebec with its booth and there were all the other provinces with their little stands. Last year, I participated in Destination Canada again. Quebec no longer had its own booth. There were only the booths of the provinces and territories.

That is a good thing because recruitment is not a fair fight. I have nothing against the work that is being done in Quebec, but the small provinces like ours have a hard time making themselves known and marketing themselves abroad to increase recruitment opportunities.

In terms of the new immigration regulations, I must say that I err on the side of caution regarding the desire to speed up the processing of applications from abroad, particularly in the case of regulated professions.

Let me explain why. Since 2009, I have been working for the Consortium national de formation en santé, in an integration program for francophone health professionals trained abroad. I work with immigrants and organizations to make the professional transition easier.

That work has enabled us to better understand today all the variables that come into play in professional integration. That is why I said that I err on the side of caution when it comes to the new regulations that seek to speed up the process.

A new system is being set up with a view to assessing immigration candidates faster. The only thing is that, in terms of professional integration, the new regulations do not necessarily guarantee a licence to work for regulated professions. Although the solution might be easier, the problem will be the same.

The immigration system plans to require immigration candidates to provide an assessment of their skills. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has appointed organizations to conduct the assessment, but it does not always require professional bodies to accept the opinion of those organizations. The issue of professional integration still remains to be resolved.

In terms of francophone communities, it is very important to say that we have done a lot of work for francophone immigration in New Brunswick. The provincial government, with the help of federal grants, has been very active over the past few years. Many organizations and specific services have been set up. I can therefore say today that stakeholders are ready to support francophone immigrants and that the will is there. Communities want immigrants and, clearly, we would like to benefit from the new changes to the immigration portfolio. We are very hopeful about the changes. We are very hopeful about the future and we look forward to it.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I would like to thank the witnesses once again for their patience and understanding.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I would like to congratulate all three of you for your tenacity, since your paths have not always been smooth.

Despite the challenges, would you have suggestions to encourage other immigrants, such as yourselves, to come and settle in official language minority communities in Canada?

Mr. Toro Lara: I have participated in promotion and recruitment missions. There are two ways to answer that question. We can say that we participate because we want to attract those immigrants. However, as representatives of francophone communities, we have the responsibility to paint the real picture for those people.

What I have noticed, especially the last time I participated in Destination Canada, is that, when we tell people who come to meet us things that they do not want to hear, that causes friction. Sometimes, they would rather hear only good things about Canada. However, it is very important to let them know that life in Canada is not necessarily easy, that there will be challenges, but that there will always be solutions.

So yes, we advise people to come to Canada, but to have a realistic idea. That is an important piece of advice.

Mr. Moukoumi: What I can say about the issue is that minority francophone communities have an obligation to be honest with those who come to them. I think the communities are willing to open up as more people arrive. There are inclusion problems, but programs are put in place. For instance, in Saskatchewan, a program called Immersion fransaskoise was set up. The program is based on the principle that the future of the Fransaskois community relies on the joint efforts of newcomers and the host community. They must get to know each other and to work together in order to think about the future of the community.

However, there is a major lack of resources. Existing French-language services do not meet the needs of newcomers.

I think communities have an obligation to tell the truth to those who want to settle in Canada. Communities must work with newcomers, but also with anglophone partners to create a win-win situation that is even more appealing to newcomers.

Let me end with this. Of the prairie provinces, Saskatchewan has the lowest newcomer retention rate.

Ms. Bettoum: I completely agree with Mr. Moukoumi and Mr. Toro Lara in terms of our obligation to be honest with newcomers. That is something I have experienced firsthand. When I came here, I already knew some people and had a very realistic picture of what to expect. However, for other people who came here without knowing anyone, the picture they might have had before coming here and the reality once they arrived are completely different. That might have been a handicap from the outset.

So yes, the obligation to tell the truth, to give a realistic picture, whether nice or not, is very important and is something to work on.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Before I entered politics, I was a teacher. You talked about young people who cannot succeed because they were not able to get an education. They come here and they are placed according to their age group. I must say that I am very concerned by that and I find it frightening. I am not sure if the same is true for all the provinces.

Since education is a provincial responsibility, perhaps something should be done. In Quebec, I heard that young people who fail are sent to take an adult education course and they can redo all the years they are missing. I am not familiar with the situation in other provinces, but in Quebec, a lot of people drop out. Boys are the ones who drop out. Hardly any girls drop out.

Perhaps something has to be done. I do not know how, but it is something that needs to be considered.

Mr. Moukoumi: In most of the provinces, there are a number of bridging programs to help young people succeed. Once again, that is a context where people already speak English. For instance, those who come from Nigeria, Kenya or Ghana already speak English. Even though they are years behind, they can be integrated with those programs.

On the francophone side, that does not exist. We are calling for professional programs to be set up in partnership with anglophone entities. We realize that we cannot expect the same level of dedication from a 17-year-old as from a 10-year-old, for instance. It is impossible to re-educate them completely. For those young people, we think it is best if they learn a trade.

In the current French-language education system, we do not provide those services. We try to adapt the services. Based on what we have heard, programs are adapted. That means that young people are in the same class as their friends of the same age, but their programs are tailored to their needs. For instance, even if they are in grade 11, they follow the grade 5 curriculum. The problem is that the years go by quickly. They will therefore complete grade 12 through a modified program. That means that they will not be able to do anything afterward, because modified programs are not recognized; they do not prepare students for university or for learning a specific trade.

Senator McIntyre: You all live in Canada, meaning Saskatchewan, Manitoba or New Brunswick. Welcome to New Brunswick, Mr. Toro Lara. That is my home province and I am proud to hear that you have settled in the northwestern part, in Edmundston.

Your paths as immigrants are different, just like your origins, your backgrounds, your experiences and your regions. I realize that you have dealt with barriers in your experiences as immigrants. Could you tell us whether the barriers have been mainly linguistic, economic or both?

Mr. Toro Lara: At the outset, they are linguistic. As an allophone refugee, I did not really have time to prepare for my arrival in Canada. When I arrived at the Montreal airport, I was faced with a significant language barrier right away. Fortunately, I learned the language quickly, which helped me a great deal.

There are also economic barriers. Even though Canada helped me to settle in, the fact remains that the trip was not planned. I did not want to have the same quality of life I had in Colombia. Instead, I wanted to continue my medical degree.

The third barrier is professional deskilling. It was a bit easier in my case. I was still a student, not a professional, so it was much easier. The fact remains that it was challenging, because I had to mourn for a profession that I wanted to practise. The same is true for many immigrants who come to Canada. Be they refugees, economic immigrants or in the family reunification class, professional deskilling has a snowball effect on all the other aspects of life, including the social and economic aspects.

There are many challenges, but there are also many opportunities. We were able to benefit from a lot of support and programs in Canada. I might say today that I consider myself lucky. I consider myself someone who was able to benefit from support from the different levels of government and from the community. Despite the obstacles, I consider myself successful.

Senator McIntyre: I understand that your daughter came to join you in New Brunswick. Is she happy in Canada?

Mr. Toro Lara: She is very happy. She came here two years ago. She is 18 years old now. She spent most of her life in Colombia.

I must say that, before she moved to Canada, we brought her here to visit and explore. She came three times, in the winter, summer and fall. Then we asked her if she still wanted to move here. We wanted her to make the choice. She said yes, she would move to Edmundston. She visited the school and the university, so she had a good idea of what to expect. She chose to come and she is very happy.

She has a small group of friends in New Brunswick. She has a job. She learned French because she did not speak the language. She also learned English. So it is a success for her as well.

Senator Poirier: My thanks to our three witnesses for being here. It is really instructive listening to you and hearing what you have to say about an issue we care about.

My first questions are for Mr. Toro Lara, from New Brunswick. One of the great challenges with immigration in rural areas, especially in Acadia, is not with retaining the immigrants, but rather with the community itself. It is not like it used to be, but some communities are afraid that the immigrants will take jobs away from them, in light of the economic development and shortage of jobs.

Do you still hear comments like that today, or is the situation better? Do you hear that in northeastern New Brunswick?

Mr. Toro Lara: Recently, the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick did some studies on the community to determine the perceptions of francophone communities in New Brunswick. Diversis, a New Brunswick company, has also conducted studies over the past few years using a tool called iPréparation. They define this as a tool for measuring how prepared communities are to welcome immigrants. They conducted the studies in 2005, 2007 and 2010. We see that communities define themselves as being better prepared to receive immigrants. The data are theoretical in nature.

On the ground, I personally give intercultural training sessions. Since 2009, I have already held about 60 workshops across New Brunswick, French-language workshops that I gave in hospitals and in post-secondary institutions with volunteer organizations.

I can boast that 1 per cent of New Brunswick's population attended the workshops. Those people feel forced to participate when they come to the workshop in the morning, but, at the end of the workshop, they realize that it is very important to be aware of immigration, and they thank me.

I think francophone communities in New Brunswick are more and more prepared, better prepared and more aware of the reality. I also think the environment is good for encouraging francophone immigrants to settle in.

Senator Poirier: I think that is extremely important, considering that the average age of New Brunswick's population is closer to 65 years and families are smaller. It is important to welcome people from abroad.

It is easy to understand why you have chosen the northwest, but what percentage of immigrants settle in that region compared to other regions in New Brunswick?

Mr. Toro Lara: I can say that people tend to think that most francophone immigrants want to go to Moncton. That used to be the trend, but we have recently noticed that a lot of people now go to the Bathurst area, which is not so much francophone as it is bilingual. Some people settle in the Acadian peninsula because of a mentorship program that was set up two years ago. That program makes it easier for francophone immigrants to take over some small businesses. That attracts francophone immigrants.

In Edmundston, there is a large Romanian community, with truck drivers because there was a shortage in that sector. There are many Romanians who come to Edmundston. Some are already Canadian citizens; they bought houses and have good lives in Edmundston. As a result, when other Romanians want to immigrate and have to choose between Edmundston and Tracadie, for instance, we encourage them to come to Edmundston because there is already a big Romanian community there. The situation is pretty balanced in the province.

Senator Poirier: In my region, between Miramichi and Moncton, there are a lot of immigrants from the Philippines and Romania. What francophone countries do francophone immigrants mostly come from?

Mr. Toro Lara: France and Belgium because that is where the province has focused its recruitment efforts.

Let me use your question to turn to a part in my presentation that I did not read. Analysts feel that future immigrants will primarily come from Africa. That is why it is important to determine how we can ease the transition of African immigrants to Canada, particularly in terms of regulated professions, trades, and so on.

Senator Poirier: The witnesses in the first part of our meeting this evening said that one of the challenges to finding work is that many employers require bilingualism. Do you hear that a lot from the immigrants you meet?

Ms. Bettoum: That is the case in Manitoba. Similar to the population in Saskatchewan, the francophone community represents 4 per cent or even less of the population. The concern is the same. You must be bilingual to get a job.

Although I was already bilingual, I was still worried at the beginning. When you come from another country, which is not necessarily anglophone, and you speak French, but your English is average, you are a bit scared. At first, I was a bit scared about the first job I would get in Canada. Ultimately, how would I fit into this anglophone environment?

The first job I got was at a call centre with calls from all over Canada. I had worked in Algeria in English, but I was extremely afraid of not being up to the job I was being offered. That job was really essential for me, knowing that this was the requirement in Canada. I would say that employers are set on the requirement of having your first Canadian experience. If you do not have this first Canadian experience, regardless of what your assets and professional experience are, employers do not trust you.

I think the first challenge you face in getting a job is obtaining your first Canadian experience. If you are not proficient in both languages — I am referring to my province — it is extremely difficult.

Mr. Moukoumi: What I would like to add is that there are very few French-language jobs in the Fransaskois context. There are a limited number of jobs in French, because the only organizations that hire people who speak French are francophone organizations and there are very few of them.

Not only are there very few organizations, but the range of skills is also limited. This means that the organizations are going to need people with general knowledge who can manage projects. For example, people are hired to manage projects, to perform clerical duties or to teach. However, if you go beyond those jobs and you want to work, you have to go out into society at large and work with anglophones.

I think the community has a duty to say that it is not counterproductive for immigrants to learn English. On the contrary, that adds value to their ability to find a job.

Right now, I am getting the feeling that people think that, if we offer courses to immigrants or if they can take courses, they might leave the community. It is not very clear. I think it is a gamble; if we want people to settle in the province where everything is done in English, they must be able to speak English. So they must be able to take courses.

There are no francophone organizations that offer English courses to newcomers. The only ones that have courses offer them to everyone. Whenever francophone organizations try to offer the courses, people have to pay. Imagine when someone arrives with no resources and has to pay for English courses. Between paying the rent and paying for English classes, they will choose to pay the rent.

The Chair: You talked about employers who do not have a lot of work in French in Saskatchewan. Have you noticed whether anglophone employers were interested in hiring francophone immigrants?

Mr. Moukoumi: Let me tell you about an experiment we did when we launched the newcomers program. We organized the newcomers appreciation day. What is that? It is a way to recognize and welcome newcomers to the community. We partnered up with other francophone organizations. We invited anglophone organizations that provide settlement services. Provincial and local authorities participated.

The mayor of the City of Saskatoon attends every year, as does the provincial immigration minister.

Workshops are held on that appreciation day, and employers are invited to attend. We work with the Conseil de la coopération de la Saskatchewan, which is a francophone organization.

The idea is for employers to network, because we know that is not where newcomers will find a job. We must make employers aware that they do not have to be afraid of hiring someone who is francophone and does not have Canadian experience yet. Some newcomers are able to manage in English, to have what I consider to be a professional or technical conversation.

When I got here, I was an instructor and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan. I did not speak English fluently at the time but, in technical terms, I was able to express myself and get my message across to the students. The trick is to make employers aware, so they give newcomers an opportunity. Awareness is one thing, but the most important thing is to establish a program that includes employers. That is what is missing at the moment in Saskatchewan.

The Chair: I would like to come back to the senators who want to ask questions.

Senator Charette-Poulin: You have all mentioned the importance of services in French, the importance of creating realistic expectations and the importance of ethnocultural communities and the appropriate agencies working together.

Do you think that the federal government might have a role to play, using modern marketing tools, in helping with the awareness of employers and of people from the different communities in the country, in order to make sure that francophone immigrants in all provinces and territories get a warmer welcome and a better reception in terms of employment and social integration?

Mr. Toro Lara: Definitely. Any awareness initiative is probably perceived differently if it comes from the government. It would be very worthwhile for employers to be more aware of the importance of hiring immigrants and also to work on keeping them employed.

In my work, I do a lot of work with employers in the area of health for francophones. They tell us that they are finally ready to hire immigrants but they are afraid of whether or not it will last. All those investments to recruit them and put them on the shop floor, are they for the long term? That is why work on intercultural awareness has been done on the ground to bring together both new arrivals and existing employees.

Doing marketing with employers would be ideal, and I am speaking for New Brunswick specifically. A lot of employers are in reactive mode. They are waiting for there actually to be a shortage before they take action to hire immigrants.

Let me go to the area of health, as an example. In New Brunswick, about 45 per cent of the people working in medical laboratories, in medical lab technology, are 45 years of age and older. This is a small profession with about 700 people in it. I use that statistic a lot in hospitals when I tell them that, if they do not get their act together right away, they are going to be confronted with massive retirement in 15 years and the risk that an entire profession could just disappear. That is serious.

Mr. Moukoumi: I will use a specific example because the program already exists; it is Destination Canada. Provinces and employers participate in Destination Canada using recruiters. Communities participate too. In Saskatchewan, at the moment, we have truck drivers who have come through the program. Welders too. When the government takes the initiative to get involved, to provide encouragement, the training capacity is clearly greater than if it started with organizations that need more resources to do so.

Senator Charette-Poulin: But where is Destination Canada marketed? Outside Canada or inside? I am talking about marketing inside Canada.

Mr. Moukoumi: It is done in terms of the labour shortage in Canada. In Canada, in Saskatchewan, there are employers in the trucking industry who have a lot of needs. They cannot find enough drivers in Canada to meet those needs. So they are ready to go and recruit drivers elsewhere.

We have drivers from North Africa. At the moment, most of them come from Tunisia and Morocco. It is the same for welding. The other group is mechanics. Mechanics are in short supply in the heavy trucking industry in Saskatchewan. The province is making it possible to go and recruit them. At the moment, a lot of people are coming from the Philippines through the province's nomination program.

When the government decides it wants to do something, there are immediate results. The problem that arises with newcomers is integration. They arrive, they have a job, but their families have to integrate. They have to integrate themselves.

They have to be able to establish a social network and find their place when they arrive. What we are lacking at that level is more effective consolidation work with communities.

The Chair: Ms. Bettoum?

Ms. Bettoum: Employers must be made more aware about giving newcomers access to employment. That is a basic question today. I have had the experience of seeing people arrive with certain expectations, because they are wanted, and then, once they have arrived, they are completely left to their own devices, because they have to find themselves a job and deal with language difficulties and their lack of experience in Canada. There is no awareness on the part of the employers who shut doors in their faces. I see people struggle so hard for so long to work their way into a job and from there into society, because, really, it all comes down to having a job.

Mr. Toro Lara: As to your question about whether the work is done abroad or in Canada, Destination Canada is one thing. But, for several years, people from the Canadian Embassy in Paris, and now from other francophone embassies, have been coming to Canada for liaison tours organized by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Nouveau-Brunswick in collaboration with the francophone immigration network, the communities and the employers. For employers, it is very worthwhile to take part in those tours because they are able to have direct discussions with immigration officers to see if the possibilities are real, and if the processes are genuine or costly. They take part in order to get information from real people working in the area.

That is one of the new measures that francophone communities can profitably use to increase the number of francophone immigrants.

Senator Chaput: As witnesses, you are explaining the situation that you live in very clearly. The committee needs your testimony in order to be able to make recommendations as part of the study we have undertaken.

A number of factors contribute to successful immigration and a number of people are involved. What are the ingredients for successful immigration? Is it about information and about realistic pictures of Canada? Is it about integration, awareness and retention?

What responsibility would the federal government have? How about the provincial government? How about community responsibility? With your experience, how do you see things, how do you see these responsibilities being divided, if indeed they have to be divided?

Ms. Bettoum: I think that the first role would be to provide information. If I were to speak about my own experience and try to extrapolate it to other people I know, I would say that I have not played such an active role in my community as Mr. Toro Lara and Mr. Moukoumi. I had access to very little information about what was possible in my province. I feel the first shortcoming is in the area of information.

What gave me a clear vision of what I could expect is the fact that I had a family member in Winnipeg. If it had not been for that family member, I think that I might have had more or less the same difficulties and the same path as other people from my country whom I meet now and who have been experiencing extremely difficult situations. As for access to information in our countries and access to information on arrival, I am not aware of the quality of the information in Winnipeg today, because I was in contact with my family member and did not need it. But I feel that it is not enough, if I quickly look at the path that my compatriots have to take. I do not know whether it is first a federal responsibility and then provincial, or first provincial and then federal, but I feel that the situation is as it is today. So that is a fact. And when I say information, I mean comprehensive information and information on what really awaits us when we arrive, employment information, and information on the need to master both languages in order to get a job. So there you are. Frankly, I feel that I am fortunate because I was able to integrate extremely easily, I would say, because I had a family member and a social network already there for me. However, I do not think that is the case for everyone. But I am not in a position to tell you how to divide up the responsibilities between the federal government and the provincial government.

Mr. Toro Lara: Modern immigration is marked by mobility. Earlier, we immigrants went around begging countries to take us. Now countries have to beg immigrants to come. One of the reasons why the Canadian immigration system is being renewed is because of this new dynamic in which there is now an all-out fight to attract the best immigrants.

I concur with my colleague about the issue of information. I feel that we must say yes to modernizing the Canadian immigration system as it is being put in place. But one major thing is missing, one important piece missing from the puzzle. This is a pre-departure program overseas, in French.

There are pre-departure programs in English through the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. Those programs have been given in anglophone countries for several years, but they are conspicuous by their absence in francophone countries. There is a significant imbalance, because francophone candidates for immigration have to either struggle through by themselves or be lucky enough to get the opportunity to take part in promotion and recruitment activities. Not everyone has that opportunity.

Some people turn to information on websites. When I participate in recruiting missions, I am often told that there is Internet information about Canada, but there is too much of it. People say that they have trouble coping with it because there is so much information and they do not know whether they are a nursing assistant or an orderly. People say they get lost in all that information. Then they go to discussion groups, but those are dangerous because they sometimes mislead people by giving bad information. So I feel that implementing a pre-departure program spearheaded by the federal government, with a provincial component for things specific to the provinces, could help people coming to Canada to be better prepared.

The Chair: Mr. Moukoumi.

Mr. Moukoumi: As section 95 of the Constitution says, immigration is a jurisdiction shared between the provinces and the federal government. Provisions exist; I do not know if there is a need to create new ones. When you look at the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, you see right away that sections of it deal with encouraging official language minority communities to maintain their vitality. Other sections say that it is important to establish conditions that will allow immigrants to integrate. That already exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The Official Languages Act recognizes the equal status of French and English. A lot of francophones coming here say: ``I am going to a bilingual country and I will not have any problems there.'' But when they arrive in Saskatchewan, they see that the only French there is being able to talk to one person on the street, and that is it. For everything else, they have to get by in English. The third act is the one on multiculturalism.

If you look at those three acts together, there is reason to think that francophone immigration to minority situations is better. Let me try to illustrate that with a few examples. The federal government is in charge of selection, and a number of obstacles in selection have to be removed. In the current act, there is no quota. There are targets; the target for francophone immigration to minority situations is supposed to be 3 or 4 per cent. Maybe we get there, maybe we do not; it is no big deal. I feel that it is important to do more than to say that we have a target. We have to meet that target. So that is the responsibility of the federal government.

The OECD's 2012 report says that Canada does well with the immigrants that we recruit, that they are better paid than in other OECD countries, and so on. That is one aspect. Today, other countries are also thinking about ways of attracting the best immigrants. Everyone is focusing on qualified immigrants. But Canada's immigration program, as we all know, looks at humanitarian concerns, family reunification and economic benefits.

Sixty per cent of immigrants come for economic reasons. But 40 per cent are not selected through that filter. They do not meet those criteria because they come for the family or because they are refuges whom Canada has accepted. If you look at the people who have many more problems in becoming integrated, even in communities, you see that they come from those two categories.

As for the provinces, I feel that the responsibility of the provinces is rather education and training. Those areas are controlled by provinces and provinces should play a major role. As for the trades on which corporations place most weight, the provinces should discuss that with those corporations.

It is easy to say that degrees will be recognized, I am in a good position to know that the recognition of a degree does not imply automatic acceptance into the profession. They may well recognize your degrees, but that does not mean they are going to hire you.

Provinces have a role to play in that and they must put in place programs with the present structures, the corporations, so that francophones coming can easily find places in the corporations because they have a network in place. If you do not have a network, no one knows you; you do not exist.

Responsibility at community level is more in terms of inclusion. In 2010, we conducted a study in Saskatchewan with the Réseau Santé en français. The study focused on the health needs of francophone immigrants to Saskatchewan. As Health Canada had told us that we had to take a little closer look at mental health, it allowed us to include the determinants of mental health.

The study showed that institutional francophone circles are open to francophone immigrants but that social and private circles are not open; those are things that were easy for us to check. At a birthday party for an immigrant child, the only guests you see are immigrants. That is not normal. In a society that considers itself to be inclusive, you would expect to find both immigrants of various kinds and people from the host community. The responsibilities are clear and everyone should do their part so that the immigration can succeed.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Are you answering my question about the marketing needs of the federal government in order to make Canadian society more welcoming?

Mr. Moukoumi: Absolutely.

[English]

Senator Beyak: Thank you very much for your presentations. Your experiences were very inspirational and heart- warming.

When I was listening to you, Ms. Bettoum, I wrote down ``extremely easy,'' and you just said it in answer to another person's question. I may be wrong, but I think the difference was the family. I know government can never replace family.

I wonder if you could give me your thoughts on how all levels of government could perhaps provide a mentor to each person in your situation. Would that help? Do you think that would have made life a bit easier when you first came?

[Translation]

Mr. Moukoumi: We observed that some families who come here are united, especially in the refugee category. Then, six months or a year later, the couple has problems and they separate. These are families with three to seven children. Consider a 25-year-old woman left alone with seven growing children. She is not going to be able to keep a household going by herself. The children, who already have integration problems at school, now have more difficulties because their parents are separated.

Canada is a country built on laws that we can all adjust to. However, there are fundamental principles. I am uncomfortable when we have to provide awareness to a couple by separating them. That is to say that we steer the woman to a women's organization that makes her aware about integration and her rights. And generally, there are no similar structures to make men aware that there are things that you do not do here. You do not hit your wife, you take care of your children, and so on. There is an imbalance in the fact that assistance is provided to women; as soon as we see an immigrant, we say right away that they must be coming from a country where women are oppressed, so we provide the women with information. We fall all over her telling her that, if something happens with her husband, she must say no, or if something happens in such and such a way, she must go to the police and turn him in. What we forget, is that, culturally, those people come from places where there are different ways of resolving conflicts.

In traditional African society, when there is a problem with the couple, the uncles are brought in, the wife's family and the husband's family, to solve the problem. It does not end up in separation because, when families are united by marriage, it is not just the married couple that is brought together; all the families come together too. Here, people do not have that cultural fallback and we end up with kids in the street because most of those kids will leave school in the next few years.

The Chair:I would like to invite Ms. Bettoum to speak, followed by Mr. Toro Lara.

Ms. Bettoum: If I understand correctly, the question is whether it would help to have a mentor, a family member or an acquaintance, in the host province. Yes, and I speak from personal experience. I concur with what Mr. Toro Lara said earlier about looking for information in blogs. I see a lot of people, future immigrants, these days looking at blogs and trying to find people from their community, their country or their city who are already settled in host provinces in an attempt to find a minimal amount of genuine information. It is happening a lot recently. An awful lot of my compatriots, people from my own country, contact me through blogs when I say that I am from Winnipeg. They ask me for information about how things really are.

I would not say that I act as their mentor; it is rather that I relay information to them. I tell them about my life here and about the opportunities and challenges that then can expect to face when they arrive. Yes, having someone you know already here is a very positive factor.

Mr. Toro Lara: I do not want to repeat what my colleagues have already said, but I would like to mention that, in my case, my sister came to New Brunswick in 2008. When she arrived, she had a family member as a mentor, someone to whom she could relate. She saved herself three or four years of problems. The presence of family is extremely important. Unfortunately, given the cultural nuances that have been explained to us, it is not always possible, but it would be very worthwhile.

The Chair: I would like to sincerely thank our guests this evening. They have all taken most interesting and unique paths. I think I can speak for all my colleagues when I say that we are made richer by your presence in Canada. You have our congratulations and our thanks for having chosen Canada to be your country.

Senators, may I keep you for a couple of extra minutes for an in camera session?

(The committee adjourned.)