It’s tough in Abitibi to recruit foreign workers. Neighboring Ontario, whose immigration process is faster, is recruiting more and more invited and trained employees at the expense of Quebec companies.
Simon Bertrand thought he had recruited the rare gem. A specialist in industrial design from South America finished his internship in a company a few months ago. The employment contract was about to be signed. But “when the time came to hire him, he decided to go to Ontario,” laments the human resources director of Meglab, a company specializing in mining technology.
The question resonated among the five foreign workers already employed by the Val-d’Or company. “Couldn’t I, too, get hired by companies in Ontario? » The salaries are similar, the work is almost identical, and no need to learn French…
And then the wait for permanent residence is much shorter on the other side of the border, a few kilometers away. “They don’t see the moment when they will be able to have this document. And French remains a problem,” summarizes Mr. Bertrand.
The attraction of Ontario can be compared to “a sword of Damocles” for entrepreneurs in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, adds Julie Pelletier, owner of IGA Extra in Val-d’Or. She herself has seen two of her employees from the Philippines move to the West in the last year, attracted by papers that are easier to obtain, despite the French courses offered by her company. “It’s still up in the air. When is the next one to leave for Ontario? »
“Express Entry” in Ontario
Employees who decide to cross the border, “we see that regularly,” confirms Jean-Yves Poitras, the industrial commissioner of Val-d’Or. “Some come for three to six months, and then… “Hello, bye!” »
The exodus is said to be so strong that, among the industrialists that Mr. Poitras represents, “some have opened branches in Timmins or Sudbury” in order to use their own subcontracted workers under more lenient legislation.
This flight of workers is mainly explained by the “express entry” program offered by Ontario. This pathway allows an immigrant who meets labor market requirements to obtain permanent residency in just three months.
In Quebec, to obtain the precious paper allowing you to free yourself from a closed work permit, you must be able to express yourself at an intermediate level of French. In other words, you must be able to conjugate verbs in the conditional, in the imperfect, and “conduct everyday conversations”, according to the government’s formulation. And for certain categories of immigrants, the time to obtain permanent residence can climb up to 25 years, recently revealed The Duty.
Many of these New Quebecers ultimately preferring Ontario come from the wave of Filipinos arriving in the province in recent years. French being often their third language, Doug Ford’s province quickly presented itself as a better destination for them than Quebec.
Up to $20,000 per worker
Éric Beaupré was one of the first entrepreneurs from Abitibi to launch trade missions to the Philippines to recruit labor. Thanks to this pioneering work, it now employs just under thirty foreign workers. “It’s the best deal I’ve ever done,” he says in his office at Technosub, a company specializing in pumping water from underground pipes.
His business is going very well. He won contracts for the Montreal REM, the Paris metro and New York tunnels. However, he says, “my biggest challenge is Ontario”. He must do everything to keep these precious workers in his factory: “It’s worth talking about. There are agencies coming to steal our workers! »
Losing even one of its employees would seriously shake up its figures columns. He estimates having to spend up to $20,000 to recruit, train, Frenchize and properly house a single worker. “There’s even beer in the fridge when they arrive,” says the businessman.
On the floor of the Technosub factory, Filipino Emmanuel Suerte, 51, understands what could push his compatriots to prefer Ontario. Although he says he has never felt racism around him in Quebec, that he speaks correct French and that he loves his colleagues, the fact remains that he cannot invite the rest of his family to a remote region after several years in Abitibi discourages him. “If I could bring my family here, it would make me stay at least 15-20 years longer! »
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.