logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo
star Bookmark: Tag Tag Tag Tag Tag
Canada

Migrant workers fear further action by CAQ, advocate says

The Quebec government’s retreat on immigration reform Friday was a small victory for the province’s migrant workers, but many fear the Coalition Avenir Québec will come for them again.

Over the past few years, tens of thousands of migrant workers have settled across the province to fill jobs that are sitting vacant. Whether they’re welders in a machine shop in Victoriaville or engineers working on artificial intelligence outside downtown Montreal, the foreign-born workers and students come to Quebec in hopes of one day settling here through the Quebec Experience Program (QEP).

But when the CAQ announced last week it would be cutting 300 fields of study from the QEP’s eligibility list effective immediately, it sent a wave of panic across the migrant communities.

“People were freaking out,” said Mostofa Henaway, a community organizer at the International Workers Centre. “One day, you think you’re on a path toward permanent residency, and the next you might be getting kicked out of the country. It’s extremely worrisome.”

Heneway says his group was organizing protests and an outreach campaign Friday when they learned the CAQ suspended its controversial reform to the QEP. And while the CAQ may have backed off for now, he says many temporary workers feel they still have a target on their back.

“They want to create a mechanism where they just turn off the temporary foreign worker program whenever they want,” Heneway said. “It’s creating a climate of hostility, a climate of xenophobia. It’s not — in any way — a reasonable or humane immigration policy.”

Heneway referenced the CAQ government’s Bill 9 immigration law, which tossed out 18,000 immigration applications involving about 50,000 people — many of whom are already living in Quebec.

Cheolki Yoon, who also works at the workers centre, says immigration is the CAQ’s “war horse” and he doesn’t see things getting much easier for temporary workers and foreign students in Quebec. He says the CAQ’s decision to impose a “values test” on immigrants and bar Muslim teachers from wearing head scarves is part in parcel with its immigration reform.

“The title of Bill 9 is revealing of the CAQ’s intention on immigration,” Yoon said. “They want to match immigration policy and integration to the economic prosperity of Quebec.

“They want cheaper and flexible labour through the temporary foreign workers program. But now they’re applying that logic to permanent immigration. They want the labour of immigrants, they want their minds and their education, but they also want to make their stay in Quebec conditional on the whims of the economy. It’s frightening.”

Both Yoon and Heneway say the CAQ wasn’t swayed by the tearful student protesters who flocked to the National Assembly this week, begging the government to let them stay. It was the pressure from chambers of commerce, universities and Quebec’s business community that forced the CAQ’s immigration flip-flop.

“By far the No. 1 issue for businesspeople across Quebec is the labour shortage,” said Kathy Megyery, vice-president of strategy and economic affairs at the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ).

“Right now, everywhere in Quebec, businesspeople are bending over backward to attract, to retain, to train workers. There’s simply not a sufficient number of Quebecers. There are more leaving the workforce than entering it and the gap is just getting bigger.”

Megyery said the CAQ’s proposal of limiting immigration to roughly 40,000 new arrivals each year is about 20,000 people short of what Quebec needs to keep its economy on track.

“If this is an economic government that wants to see strong growth, it wants to increase exports and foreign investment,” she said. “In order to do that, in order to get people investing in Quebec, you need workers. There are 140,000 unfilled positions in Quebec as we speak. You need to address that.”

ccurtis@postmedia.com

Themes
ICO