Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Sow. We will now move on to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
The mayor of the City of Saskatoon attends every year, as does the provincial
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
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
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
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
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
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
Mr. Moukoumi: Absolutely.
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
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?
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
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.
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
Senators, may I keep you for a couple of extra minutes for an in camera
(The committee adjourned.)