CP-Web. Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Simon Jolin-Barrette speaks at a news conference at the legislature in Quebec City on March 28, 2019 .
Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS
QUEBEC — Immigration hearings got off to a rocky start Monday when a group said the government is ignoring the issue of systemic racism faced by new arrivals even with a series of reforms that have been put in place.And if you add into the mix the requirements of a Quebec values test and plans to give more power to employers to pick their own workers, the future is shaping up to mean most new arrivals will be white francophones from Europe, the group said.The comments were made by representatives of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI), which represents 150 groups across Quebec who aid immigrants and refugees.Refugees and families from diverse countries will be overlooked because they are seen as a burden to society, while others with the right skills won’t stand a chance because of “unconscious ethnic profiling” by employers, they said.With the Quebec business lobby exerting enormous pressure on the government to boost immigration levels to as high as 60,000 a year, the TCRI warned Quebec must not overlook the human side of the equation.As it stands, the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s immigration plan is “simplistic and utilitarian,” light years from the dreams of diversity and so focused on plugging labour shortages it represents a “historic setback” for Quebec’s immigration policies, they said.The TCRI representatives were presenting a brief on the opening day of legislature committee hearings into Quebec’s immigration plan for the next three years.After slapping a reduction on the number of immigrants for the year 2019 at 40,000, Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette shifted gears and is proposing to gradually increase it to 52,500 a year by 2022.But he proposes to increase the percentage of qualified workers from 59 per cent to 65 per cent of the total to meet labour shortages, which has upset immigration groups. There are 120,000 vacant jobs in Quebec.On his way into the hearings, Jolin-Barrette was cautious when asked whether he will boost the numbers as high as Quebec Inc. wants, saying he wants to listen to the views of everyone first.But the TCRI gave the government an earful, saying cutting the number of refugees and candidates in the family unification category is wrong because they actually settle better into Quebec society while workers often move away.“Immigration should not be instrumentalized to respond to economic needs,” Veronica Islas, a member of the group, told the committee.“Immigration needs to be seen in a global sense. Yes, business plays a role. They need workers. But we need to avoid the privatization of immigration access.“If we give business all the power, we could wind up with very homogeneous immigration. An employer could say it’s easier to integrate someone who is already like me.”The group said they doubt Quebec’s much vaunted Arrima system — which matches immigrants with open jobs before they arrive — is the miracle solution, either.It gives more power to employers to select workers, but there is no mention of how Quebec proposes to counter discrimination experienced by candidates with “non-Québécois”-sounding names.That won’t disappear overnight with the new system, they said.“Like it or not, there is a problem that can be qualified as systemic racism,” group member Dominique Lachance said during her testimony.“It’s not so much intended by the employer, but there is a built-in discrimination in the system because people come from foreign countries, don’t know our system and don’t have the network of contacts others do to make their pitch (for work).”The group said employers are completely unprepared to handle such powers.“The TCRI fears that the net result is that we will observe a homogenization of permanent immigrant profiles to be more and more European white francophones,” it says in its brief.“In partially leaving the power of selection of immigrants at the discretion of employers, and the bias of employers in this area is well documented, we can reasonably expect some candidates will never be approached despite their skills due to an unconscious ethnic profiling.”Speaking to reporters later, group spokeswoman Eva Lopez said such discrimination hits the Maghrebian and black communities the most.Some new arrivals even try to change their names to get around the problem of getting a job.Speaking at the committee, Jolin-Barrette countered the comments, saying the Arrima system is based on skills and experience and “not the region of the world they come from,” so everyone has an equal chance of being admitted.The immigration and refugee group is the first of 31 who will appear this week.During the next few days, Jolin-Barrette will face an intense business lobby that will argue Quebec has to open the door to more immigrants than ever before.The minister will present his final plan in November.firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/philipauthierRelated