The ministers of family and immigration are working together to attract foreign daycare workers to Quebec to tackle the ongoing shortage.
“We estimate we can help 300 daycares,” said Suzanne Roy, Quebec’s minister responsible for families.
The government is investing $7 million over the next five years.
The recruitment will be done by daycares themselves in partnership with Journées Québec, a government-led initiative.
The first round of recruiting will take place in October and will focus on Tunisia, a francophone North African country.
But critics fear it won’t be easy to convince people to immigrate.
“Quebec’s reputation has really shifted in the past few years, specifically because of the PEQ (Programme Experience Quebec) reform in 2020,” said Claire Lunay, who runs Le Quebec C’est Nous Aussi, a non-profit defending the rights of immigrants in Quebec.
The PEQ is a program that serves as a fast track to permanent residency in the province for international students and foreign workers.
“I think we see a lot of people who come have a great time but don’t necessarily want to stay permanently in Quebec because they don’t necessarily feel welcome anymore,” Lunay said.
Lunay says people have found it too difficult and uncertain to immigrate to the province and that has tarnished Quebec’s reputation abroad.
Opposition parties agree. The Liberals say the CAQ needs to work on repairing the damage it has done.
“It takes years to build a good reputation. And it took only a couple of months for the CAQ government to impair Quebec’s reputation,” said Liberal Leader Marc Tanguay.
The PQ argues that before looking to recruit abroad, the government should fix the issues at hand.
The party introduced a motion at the national assembly on Wednesday asking the government to recognize the discrimination African francophone students face when applying for visas.
A recent study from the Institut du Québec found that the federal government refuses two-thirds of African applicants who want to study in Quebec.
“They should, as soon as possible, fix that issue, but it’s been there for a few years now, and we never got clear explanations as to why this occurs — anything convincing, at least,” said Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois.
“That’s why I wish that we would decide by ourselves in an integrated and coherent policy, which is more difficult when you have a federal government that does something else.”
Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette says she’s working on the matter.
“I’m going to meet again with (Canada’s Immigration) Minister (Sean) Fraser in the coming weeks and I want to make sure he clearly understands that we are waiting for important changes,” said Fréchette. “This is a real wealth for Quebec, these African students, and they are crucial for many institutions, especially in the regions. Many of our programs depend on the presence of these students to survive.”
The Immigration Ministry had a change in cap last week, saying it would now welcome 60,000 immigrants and ease eligibility criteria for Quebec’s immigration program for foreign students.
The minister hopes that will be enough to bring Quebec back to the spotlight.
But for Lunay, the road will not be an easy one.
“It’s going to take a lot more time for Quebec to become attractive again, because the messaging has been quite negative for the past few years,” Lunay says.
— with files from Global News’ Alessia Maratta