Quebec businesses urged to hire Syrian refugees

The Quebec government is encouraging businesses to take advantage of an existing subsidy program and put Syrian refugees to work.

Quebec program covers up to $15K in wages, training and other needs

Syrian refugee Emad Alhajali, from Kherbet Ghazalah, Syria, sits with his daughter Fatma, 8, his wife Razan and son Mohammand. They were among the Syrians waiting for approval to immigrate to Canada. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Quebec government is encouraging businesses to take advantage of an existing subsidy program and put Syrian refugees to work.

Representatives of Quebec's business community joined Labour Minister Sam Hamad and Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil Tuesday in a joint appeal to the province's employers.

Hamad, himself an immigrant from Syria, said employment is the best way to help the refugees integrate into Quebec society.

"Work is the best way to learn about Quebec's culture, to learn French," he told a news conference.

"They've obtained their visa to liberty, their visa for dreams and ambitions. Now it's up to us to work with them."

Refugees will begin arriving in Canada on Dec.10.

Hamad said employers interested in helping Syrian refugees can take advantage of an existing work placement program that provides new immigrants and Canada-born visible minorities in Quebec with a first job experience.

Quebec's Labour Minister, Sam Hamad, said providing Syrian refugees with work is the best way to help them integrate into Quebec society. (CBC)
The program, known as PRIIME, provides subsidies that help cover an employee's wages, training and other needs up to $15,000.

"It's easy, it's simple. If you are a company, you want to hire a new immigrant or refugee, you want to offer him a first experience, the government is ready to subsidize around $15,000 in salary," Hamad said.

For her part, Weil said the refugees represent diverse talents and have varied levels of skill and work experience.

"Employment is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to integration, especially for parents," Weil said.

"Many are professionals, they understand there's a period of adaptation that they might have to have some schooling to be able to be recognized as an engineer for instance or a pharmacist.

"Others are ready for manual work. The young people are ready for any kind of job."

Employers who hire workers under the PRIIME program enjoy a retention rate of up to 87 per cent, Weil said.

Employers interested in providing Syrian refugees with work are invited to contact Quebec's Ministry of Labour at 1-877-644-4545.

'Facing a humanitarian crisis'

Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Quebec Employer Council, said providing the refugees with their first work experience in Quebec is the business community's "responsibility."

"We are facing a humanitarian crisis, these people are looking for a new place to restart their lives, and they need access to more than just food, clothing and housing — the most important is access to work here to provide for their needs," he said.

Dorval said the business associations around Quebec are already mobilizing to inform their members of ways they can help out.

"We have an extraordinary opportunity to offer these people a new life, and employers have access to workers. It's win-win — and it's a win for society," he said.​

Other updates today

Pierre Elliott Trudeau–Montreal Airport offered a glimpse of its preparations, including a look at the temporary port-of-entry and reception centre that have been established to welcome the Syrians.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also provided an update on the city's plans for receiving the Syrians and helping them integrate into the city.

CFB Valcartier and health care plans

Tuesday afternoon, CFB Valcartier will provide a media tour of temporary accommodations and other facilities that will be put to use to welcome the Syrians if the Government of Canada needs to house them there.

At 3:30 p.m., Quebec's Health and Social Services Minister, Gaétan Barrette, and Rehabilitation, Youth Protection and Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois will provide an update on the province's preparations for receiving the Syrian refugees.

That news conference will be held at Montreal's old Royal Victoria Hospital, where a refugee health clinic has been established.


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