But reputation of provincial program is ‘shot worldwide’: Expert
Quebec immigrants will now receive step-by-step personalized support from an immigration assistant officer through a new integration program announced by the provincial government on Aug. 8.
Newcomers will receive one-on-one coaching throughout the process, including being greeted at the airport and meeting with a designated integration assistance officer shortly thereafter to create an individualized action plan, according to the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government.
“We are convinced that adequate support is crucial to the success of the integration process for immigrants,” said Simon Jolin-Barrette, minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion.
“With this new measure, the government is taking concrete action to promote and ensure the successful integration of immigrants into Quebec society.”
The personalized immigration program will direct newcomers to tailored services through individualized support. The four steps of the program include: arrival; francization; integration into the job market; and community integration.
The program is a cornerstone of the government’s immigration reform. The CAQ will dedicate $20 million to the program annually, while creating 84 new jobs for integration support officers and co-ordinators.
Officers will monitor the progress of each immigrant and adjust strategies to provide services tailored to each applicant’s needs, said the government. Training will be offered in terms of francization, recognition of prior learning and information on all regions of Quebec.
But with the province taking in 50,000 new immigrants each year, on average, the new team of integration support officers may not be able to handle the caseload, says Gerard Zouein, an immigration consultant in Montreal.
“Many of the new immigrants don’t really like to use such services, and when they do, it is usually after arrival,” he says. “All this new program seems to do is announce to the Quebec population that the government is spending $20 million per year to deal with newly arrived immigrants — as if the newcomers are a problem to be dealt with.”
The personalized support program is a smaller portion of the much-wider immigration reforms underway in the province, says Jérémy Little, labour lawyer at OLS-Avocats in Montreal.
“This is not happening in a bubble,” he says. “It’s a piece of a larger issue. The government is really talking about trying to realign immigration into Quebec… to more match the needs of the labour market.”
“This is part of a broad range of reforms that the government has promised to better align — in their assessment — immigration with the needs of Quebec society and Quebec employers.”
The CAQ government passed its controversial immigration Bill 9 on June 16.
Translated as “An Act to increase Quebec's socio-economic prosperity and respond adequately to the needs of the labour market through the successful integration of immigrants” — the bill intends to more effectively match immigrants to Quebec's labour market needs.
The legislation — which terminated nearly 18,000 applicants hoping to immigrate under the Regular Skilled Worker Program — was catastrophic for the province’s reputation, says Zouein.
“The reputation of the Quebec immigration program is shot worldwide,” he says.
The impact of the personalized support program on the marketplace will take time to assess, says Little.
“I don’t anticipate that as a result of this policy, we're going to have a labour shortage that’s going to be fixed overnight, or anything like that,” he says.
“What they’re really aiming to do with this bill is align immigration more with the needs of Quebec employers who are contending with a number of issues, including difficulty in finding manual labour, difficulty in finding skilled workers, various kinds of difficulties.”