David Heurtel, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, spoke before the Chamber on April 13. He discussed with the city’s business community the main challenges when it comes to immigration and possible solutions to tackle them.
A better fit between corporate needs and the profile of immigrants selected
Québec is facing a labour shortage. According to Minister Heurtel, access to talent is a serious issue for local companies, and immigration is part of the solution. His department, which in October adopted an economic mission, plans to be present on the ground in the next few years to understand the needs of companies and propose strategies to help them meet labour needs.
The Minister took advantage of the forum to announce the deployment of 25 regional offices in Québec, particularly in Montréal. The mission of these offices is to support companies in their economic development and facilitate access to skilled labour. They are also responsible for ensuring better alignment with the immigration needs of each region. Emploi-Québec is already working to identify the precise needs of businesses. This inventory from companies and regions will give the Government of Québec a better overview of the situation and issues that need to be addressed.
“We all need labour, but the needs are different. The issues are different. We want an adapted approach, a supportive approach. The support is intended for businesses.”
Conclusion of an agreement with the Ville de Montréal as part of “Réflexe Montréal”
One of the department’s efforts is the conclusion of a three-year agreement on immigration, diversity and inclusiveness, announced on March 23 as part of “Réflexe Montréal.” A $12 million investment was put toward these priorities by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion as part of its Mobilisation-Diversité program. An equal amount will be invested by the Ville de Montréal. The goal of this agreement is to facilitate the integration of recent arrivals to the city, but also to support concrete action for Montréal and initiatives in the boroughs.
Every year, Montréal welcomes 70% of the immigrants who come to Québec. It is therefore essential that all of the city’s players rally around this agreement to build an integrative, consistent plan to meet the city’s specific needs.
“We will not use the same approach in Saint-Michel as in the West Island. They are different realities, so we cannot have a standard approach.”
Give immigrants with degrees faster access to quality jobs
Minister Heurtel said he is dissatisfied with the current system for professional orders recognizing degrees. The process, which can take two to three years, is much too long. Companies have real needs for labour, and many new immigrants are trying to break into the job market. The Minister is therefore planning a different approach to find solutions that suit individual circumstances.
“Last fall we initiated pilot projects with each order to review how we can recognize degrees faster. We also improved the IPOP program, which offers assistance to immigrants and companies. New immigrants can work in their field during the process to have their degrees recognized.”
Ensure immigrant investors who come to Québec stay
The Business Assistance – Immigrant Investor Program allows foreign investors to immigrate to the province, provided they have net assets of at least CAD$1,600,000, intend to settle in Québec and sign an investment agreement with an authorized financial intermediary for $800,000. The $800,000 investment is guaranteed by the Government of Québec, and the income it generates will finance this program, along with the Employment Integration Program for Immigrants and Visible Minorities.
However, there are many immigrant investors who leave Québec for other Canadian provinces. The Minister said he is working on draft regulations to introduce more stringent criteria that will ensure that foreign investors who seek to settle in Québec stay here.
“Among eligibility criteria, financial intermediaries must have a head office in Québec. We want to ensure we have the money, and also that the investors stay in Québec.”
Rapid integration of refugees
From 2012 to 2016, Québec received on average 3,500 applications for asylum each year. In 2017, the number of applications was 25,000. Since January 2018, Québec has already received over 7,500. The Minister alerted the federal government: the Government of Canada must invest more and speed up the processing of applications for asylum. The mechanism for requests for work permits must also be reviewed so that it becomes immediate. Québec is still facing a very high volume of requests, which it must respond to despite its limited resources.
“For the past few months, the Government of Québec has been imploring the federal government to do more. We are swamped. The problem concerns more than just temporary housing. The children have to go to school. There are needs in terms of health care, employability services and access to justice.”
For the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, there can be no doubt: the social and cultural integration of new immigrants and refugees to their host society depends on better integration to the Québec job market.