Quebec party leaders explain what they'd do to help skilled immigrants find work in their field

Following a CBC Montreal Investigates story exploring challenges many skilled immigrants face getting work in their field, we asked the four major political parties what they'd do to improve the situation.

All parties agree province has to make it easier for immigrants to integrate, find jobs

After sharing the story of his struggle to find work as a chemist, Abdul Waheed says he's hopeful Quebec's leaders will try to improve the situation for skilled immigrants. (CBC)

After going public with his struggle to find work in his field, Abdul Waheed says he's feeling optimistic about the future.

"It's good to know I am not the only one having trouble," said Waheed, 39, who immigrated to Quebec five years ago as a skilled worker.

With immigration dominating this election campaign, CBC Montreal Investigates delved into some of the challenges Waheed and other skilled immigrants face in finding suitable employment in Quebec — and what the province could do to make it easier.

The story generated hundreds of comments and emails from people across the country, many of whom related to Waheed's desperate job hunt.

A few interested companies reached out to Abdul Waheed after seeing CBC's story, and he's forwarded them his CV. (CBC)

As CBC recounted, Waheed came to Quebec as a trained chemist and has taken many steps to get a job in his field.

He had one of his two master's degrees in science recognized here.

He's taken French classes.

But the only Canadian work experience on his CV is at a call centre. 

He's now just months away from graduating with a diploma in lab technology and analytical chemistry from Montreal's Dawson College. He hopes with a local certificate, he will finally be able to put his qualifications to work.

A few interested companies also reached out to Waheed after reading his story, and he's forwarded them his CV.

He hopes the issue has gotten the attention of policymakers, regardless who wins on Oct. 1.

"This needs to be resolved," he said.

CBC spoke to Quebec's party leaders or their spokespeople about Waheed's story, and all agreed the situation in Quebec has to improve.

Here are their responses:

Parti Québécois

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée responded at length to CBC's query.

He said it's appalling skilled immigrants are encouraged to come to Quebec, only to be disappointed when their foreign credentials and experience aren't recognized.

"We need to break this cycle," said Lisée on a campaign stop in Abitibi Tuesday. 

He said the PQ would make sure would-be immigrants' academic degrees are recognized before they come to the province, so they understand what training, schooling or internships are needed if they want to find jobs in their profession. 

"It's a real labyrinth for someone who comes to Quebec," said Lisée. He said he's heard stories from new arrivals who say they received contradictory information from job counsellors on what steps to take.

Parti Québecois Leader Jean-François Lisée says skilled immigrants need to know before they come to Quebec what additional training, schooling or internships may be needed to work in their profession. (CBC)

To avoid this, the PQ says it would create one-stop shops to ensure immigrants get the best information.

"It's our duty to make that much easier for them," said Lisée.

Many foreign-trained professionals have problems being certified by Quebec's professional orders — certification which they need in order to continue in their chosen careers.

"The Quebec government has the power to legislate these professional orders if they don't show more openness," said Lisée. 

He said the PQ would introduce "robust" anti-discrimination measures and ensure more visible minorities get jobs in the public service and government agencies such as Hydro-Québec and the SAAQ.

Québec Solidaire

Québec Solidaire echoes the PQ's position on this one, saying it would step up the hiring of visible minorities in the public service until they occupy 13 per cent of the jobs.

Similar to the PQ, the party says it would set up one-stop shops across Quebec to guide newcomers to available resources that could help them find jobs or financial support.

Québec Solidaire's Manon Massé has said expanding Bill 101 to require all companies with 20 employees or more to operate in French would make it easier for employees to pick up French in the workplace. (CBC)

Québec Solidaire also says it would commit $210 million dollars to French-language training for newcomers. 

The party says its plan to broaden the reach of Bill 101, by requiring all companies with 20 or more employees to use French in their operations, would make it easier for employees to pick up French in the workplace.

Right now, the law only applies to companies with 50 or more employees.

Quebec Liberal Party

Like the other three major political parties, the incumbent Liberals have committed to increasing the amount of money for programs to help immigrants learn French and integrate into the workforce.

The Liberals would also like to speed up the way foreign credentials are recognized here.

At a campaign stop in the Eastern Townships, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard pointed out he met with professional orders last year to encourage them to expedite the way foreign credentials are recognized in Quebec. (CBC)

Liberal leader Philippe Couillard points out he sat down with the professional orders last year to encourage them to expedite this.

On the campaign trail Tuesday in the Eastern Townships, Couillard said the government appointed a commissioner last year to make sure admission and access to professional orders is done fairly. The commissioner has the power to investigate complaints and can make recommendations on improvements.

"Is it perfect? No. We still need to make more progress," said Couillard.

"[The professional orders] must run a fair process. If it's not fair, it's going to be seen."

Coalition Avenir Québec

CAQ Leader François Legault said Waheed's story illustrates the failure of the Liberal government's immigration policies.

"Right now, we have to do a lot more to recognize diplomas and experience," Legault said at a campaign stop in Chibougamau. He was hurried away by a handler before CBC could ask what concrete measures the CAQ would take to make this happen.

CAQ Leader François Legault says the challenges many skilled immigrants face finding work in their field reflects the failure of the Liberal government. (CBC)

CAQ spokesperson Ewan Sauves later said that rather than making them repeat their schooling, the CAQ would make sure the Immigration Ministry works with skilled immigrants to help them find work in their profession more quickly.

"We will tackle head on the endless delays newcomers are experiencing," said Sauves in an email.

As for immigrants who are considering Quebec as an option, Sauves said the party would prioritize accepting immigrants who have a job offer from a company in the regions, where the labour shortage is most acute.

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with files from the CBC's Cathy Senay, Elias Abboud and Simon Nakonechny


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