ICYMI: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace

Once again, contrast between Montreal and the regions:

Mayor Valérie Plante stood in front of 10 red doors inscribed with messages like: “Let’s open doors to employment for them,” “We hold all the keys” and “We can all play a role.”

The life-size doors on display at Complexe Desjardins aim to illustrate the barriers that still face immigrants in the job market and to urge employers to hire them.

“Sixty per cent of immigrants arriving in Quebec choose to settle in Montreal but unfortunately, even today, the doors to employment are still mostly shut rather than open for immigrants,” said Plante, as she launched a month-long public awareness campaign with Shahir Guindi, national co-chair of the Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt law firm and chair of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

While unemployment is at a historic low of five per cent, it is much higher among newcomers, despite the fact that 40 per cent of immigrants are university educated and 10 per cent hold graduate degrees, Plante said.

Montreal ranks fifth among the North American metropolitan regions that attract the most immigrants, according to Canadian and U.S. immigration numbers. However, it lags behind other Canadian cities in helping them integrate and find jobs.

The unemployment rate among newcomers to Montreal was 9.8 per cent in 2016, compared with 5.9 per cent for residents who were born in Canada, according to the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration (CIMI), coordinated by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS).

More than 22 per cent of immigrants in Montreal live below the poverty line, compared with 12 per cent of Canadian-born citizens, it shows.

Overall, the city ranks 30th out of 35 among Canadian cities for immigrants’ economic performance compared to the rest of the population, according to CIMI.

Plante said she met with about 50 business leaders and officials with the provincial immigration department last year to chart a strategy to improve outcomes for newcomers.

The awareness campaign has support from 18 executives at the National Bank, Métro, Deloitte Canada, Mouvement Desjardins, as well as public or non-profit organizations like the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Centraide and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Its French-only website encourages employers to favour diversity in their workforces by making it a company value and requiring managers to implement inclusive policies. It also calls on average Montrealers in the workforce to become aware of their own prejudices and to reach out to immigrants in their work and social circles by sharing contacts and helping them with their CVs.

However, ACS president Jack Jedwab said that while the initiative was praiseworthy, it did not address the negative message the Quebec government has sent by reducing the number of immigrants to Montreal by 24 per cent in 2019 over the previous year.

“We should do what we need to do to encourage and help people to improve their skills, so that they are in line with the needs of the economy,” he said.

“But the bigger messaging from the government isn’t as positive,” Jedwab noted.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s rationale for slashing immigration despite the current labour shortage was that newcomers are not integrating sufficiently into Quebec society, he said.

“You are sending a message that suggests that there is a problem out there,” he said.

Greater Montreal received 28,900 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019, the last period for which numbers are available, compared to 38,315 for the corresponding period in 2018, Jedwab said.

The city received a total of 43,795 newcomers in 2018 and 44,725 in 2017, he said.

In 2019, Vancouver surpassed Montreal for the first time as a destination for newcomers, with 34,095 immigrants from January to October 2019. It received 35,265 immigrants in 2018 and 29,830 immigrants in 2017.

Toronto received 102,965 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019. The number of newcomers was 106,460 in 2018 and 86,580 in 2017.

“Toronto is reaping a lot of the benefits of immigration in terms of its economy,” Jedwab said, noting that immigration “is the single source of growth for our population.”

In Toronto, the unemployment rate among immigrants in 2016 was 7.5 per cent, compared with 7.7 per cent among the Canadian-born population. However, immigrants in Toronto had higher rates of poverty than the native-born population, with 19 per cent of newcomers living below the poverty line compared with 11 per cent of people born in Canada.

Source: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: