Quebec pushes immigrants to Gatineau

Crossing the Bridge
Quebec pushes immigrants to Gatineau
Last Updated: Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 5:46 AM ET Comments 41 Recommend 14

CBC News

‘I have my resume, I have everything — even my suitcase,’ said Eric Rakotomena, an immigrant from Madagascar who had never been to the Outaouais before, but liked what he saw. (Kate Porter/CBC)
Quebec has renewed its push to lure immigrants from Montreal to regions with lower unemployment, and that is bringing more newcomers to the Outaouais.

“We face a big challenge in Quebec,” said Robert Mayrand, head of Service intégration travail Outaouais (SITO), noting that the province is trying to boost the population in its regions.

He estimates his group, which offers employment and training services to immigrants, helps 200 people find jobs in the Outaouais every year.

“It means we are contributing in terms of personal revenue to the economy of Outaouais — See, it’s $6 million a year that we push in the system.”

In 2008, 87 per cent of immigrants settled in Montreal, and just 2.7 per cent in Gatineau, Immigration Québec reports. About 1,200 immigrants make their home in Gatineau each year, the province reports.

However, Montreal’s unemployment rate was 9.2 per cent in February 2010 — significantly higher than the 6.1 per cent rate in Gatineau, the most recent Statistics Canada labour force survey shows. Statistics like that have led the Quebec government to work harder to redistribute its immigrants around the province.

Immigrants on the bus trip heard from politicians about the region’s advantages, took a tour of the city, and attended a job fair. (CBC)
One of the province’s initiatives is to fund bus trips that take immigrants to different regions of Quebec to learn about the area and meet local employers. Mayrand said the tour to the Outaouais restarted this year after a short hiatus in the program, which launched in 2002.

Eric Rakotomena, who is originally from Madagascar, was among the 50 immigrants who boarded a bus from Montreal last week to check out the Outaouais and the job opportunities there.

He has already visited Quebec City, Mont Tremblant and Tadoussac, but admits he didn’t know much about Gatineau before his visit. He was impressed by what he learned.

“I want to stay here now,” he said. “It’s quiet and for life, there are fairly a lot of opportunities to do what you want to do and they’re very helpful here in Gatineau.”

Rakotomena and his tour-mates heard from city councillor Joseph De Sylva, who spoke of his own experience coming from an immigrant family. De Sylva, who represents Versant ward, said Gatineau is warm and open, and everyone finds his or her place there. Another city councillor and a Quebec immigration official were also on hand to pitch the community’s advantages.

Afterward, the visitors took part in pre-arranged job interviews before heading to a job fair at Robert-Guertin arena organized by Emploi-Québec and the Gatineau chamber of commerce. They also received a tour of the city.

Rakotomena hoped to find a job as a maitre d’.

“I have my resume, I have everything — even my suitcase,” he said. “As I said, I am ready to remain here today.”

Rakotomena worked as a maitre d’ in Madagascar and Israel before arriving in Montreal four years ago. In Canada, he has been unable to get a job in his field, despite the fact that he speaks five languages, including French and English.

He blamed the fierce competition and high unemployment in Montreal.
‘The need is there’

Mayrand said employers in the Outaouais, meanwhile, are eager to hire, in part due to the stability in the job market provided by the federal government.

Robert Mayrand of SITO acknowledged that while the need for workers benefit immigrants who want to work in areas such as finance, things are more difficult for professionals such as doctors. (CBC)
“The need is there,” he said.

He added that the community is multilingual and multicultural due to its proximity to Ottawa. “This helps to develop a good sense to be open to other people.”

He acknowledged that while the demand for workers may help immigrants in the finance and service industries, things are more difficult for professionals such as doctors, who require accreditation by a regulatory association.

“That’s another ball-game,” he said. “It’s a big big challenge. For us it’s like a wall that we hit every time.”

Hicham Alaoi, who is originally from Morocco, was another hopeful job seeker on the bus tour. Alaoi earned degrees in civil engineering and urban planning in France. He arrived in Montreal in January, and said he is attracted to the Outaouais by the opportunities for skating, cycling and the cultural scene in neighbouring Ottawa. However, Alaoi, who doesn’t speak English, believes there are more job opportunities for him in Gatineau.

“The level of work in Gatineau, the culture in Ottawa — you need both,” he added in French. “One complements the other, in my opinion.”

Alaoi said he will need to pass some exams in order for his skills to be recognized in Canada, and acknowledges that he may have to take a job that is less interesting to him.

Meanwhile, job-ready Rakotomena didn’t manage to land a job on his first visit to Gatineau and had to join the others on the bus back to Montreal.

He said he’d be back soon.

“I’m sure,” he said. “Yes, [that’s] why I come here.”

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