It's a loophole. Or, as Denis Prudhomme calls it, 'un loophole'.
For years, drivers have been in short supply, for Saskatchewan's trucking industry. Transport companies often face waits of over a year, to bring immigrant drivers to the prairies.
Now, Prudhomme, a longtime trucking veteran, has discovered his French roots can fast-track that process. He's hired a certified immigration consultant, and has opened Prudhomme International, a division of his trucking company devoted to recruiting foreign drivers.
"People who speak French, the federal government encourages us to recruit those who'll speak French outside of Quebec," Prudhomme told Radio-Canada.
If a driver coming to Saskatchewan as a temporary foreign worker is bilingual, there's no need to apply to Ottawa for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). Federal processing times for those applications now average 47 days, for companies based in Saskatchewan, the longest wait for any province in Canada. Successful applicants then have to wait longer, as their recruits apply for work visas in their home countries.
That's why Prudhomme started targeting workers from French-speaking countries. He estimated it takes him 12 weeks to get a foreign driver into Saskatchewan.
"Because the rules are less strict for those who speak the minority language, French, the process is faster."
Over the past year, he's brought 100 drivers to the prairies. Several arriving in Saskatoon this week told Radio-Canada they've all spent years driving long-haul routes across Europe.
"As truckers, we're always outside," Ahmed el Haouari told Radio-Canada, as he stepped off his flight in Saskatoon. "We're always on the road. We're used to not being home. And we learned a lot on the job because we did international routes all over Europe."
He grew up in a Moroccan tourist town, and speaks fluent English, French, and German.
"This was a good chance for us," said el Haouari. "I wanted to get this experience and improve my career."
Prudhomme says his drivers are being snapped up by Saskatchewan transport companies. Several of his recruits have also been hired in Manitoba.
"In Morocco, it's hard," said Youcef Zaidi, 30, who landed on the same flight as el Haouari. He hopes to settle in Saskatchewan, apply for permanent residency, then bring his fiancé here.
"In our country it's hard to make a living as a trucker," Zaidi said. "I want a stable life, and a better future."
Prudhomme said he looks to Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, France, and Belgium for potential workers. He said it usually takes a month to get his recruits through licensing exams, before they can begin working.
"The majority of employers didn't know about this rule," Prudhomme told Radio-Canada. "Now, the province is aware of it, and it's is encouraging employers to look in this direction."