QUEBEC CITY – Bato Redzovic fled his native Bosnia in 1994. He settled in the Outaouais with his wife and three young children. But it wasn’t always easy.
“It’s very difficult to learn the language, find a job and pay rent,” he told the parliamentary commission in charge of updating Quebec’s 25-year-old immigration policy.
Years later, the same kinds of problems persist.
About 50 thousand people move to Quebec every year. Unemployment among Quebec’s new immigrants is around 12 per cent. That is four per cent higher than the general population, despite the fact that the majority of new immigrants are well educated.
“Many many people apply to Quebec, so it can take three years before the person actually arrives. The job market has probably already changed in the meantime. So it’s to have a quicker entry,” said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil.
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Quebec wants to copy Ottawa and focus primarily on filling jobs. Candidates would have to produce a ‘declaration of interest’ highlighting their abilities to meet employers’ needs.
The Parti Quebecois (PQ) argued that Quebec is unique and candidates for immigration should speak French and share common values.
“We did a test,” said Jacques Frémont from Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.
“We sent the same resumes but we changed the names. There was a Tremblay, and a Mohammed whatever, and the Tremblay had 60 per cent more chance of having an interview.”
The Human Rights Commission talked of systemic racism and pointed a finger at the public sector for hiring very few immigrants.
Redzovic agreed that if new immigrants can’t find work, they feel excluded.
“The best integration is economic integration,” he said.
The native Bosnian warned the commission that newcomers will continue to struggle, unless Quebec does more to knock down barriers.
Public hearings continue for the next two weeks, after which, the government promises to produce a new and more modern immigration policy.