“I was told that I couldn’t wear my veil at work. I was asked intrusive questions regarding my family and they demanded to know my country of origin. I got so tired of this, I changed my name on my CV and I heard back from a lot more employers!” – Najat
Najat is not alone in her observations. Every year, thousands of voices like hers echo the same sentiments regarding this veritable obstacle course that is representative of the professional integration of persons with an immigrant background.
Immigrants find it hard to integrate into the Quebec labour market
While Quebecois take pride in opening their province to the world, statistics indicate that “Immigrants in Quebec have more difficulties finding employment that matches their skills and qualifications […] than anywhere else in North America.”  There are several contributing factors. One is the language barrier. Quite often, getting a job in Montreal requires both French AND English language skills.
The recognition of degrees and diplomas is another factor, directly but not exclusively linked to the requirements of professional organizations. Apparently, we collectively have “an inability to value, accept and recognize degrees, knowledge and competencies that are not […] Quebecois”. 
To add insult to injury, employers from here tend to require Quebec work experience.  Ideally, this work experience must be recent and must have been of sufficient duration… what more do they want?
Immigrant unemployment rate among the highest
Immigrants face challenges integrating into all professional fields. “Montreal immigrants are among the best-educated in North America … [but] … this is where it is hardest for them to find jobs ”.  This is even more the case for women, who experience greater discrimination than men.
“The job market is closed to women who studied abroad. Available jobs are generally minimum wage jobs in the customer service sector. Not having Quebec work experience is held against us, but how can we get this experience if we aren’t first given a chance?” – Anonymous
In summary, all these factors create hiring obstacles for newcomers and female immigrants. Combined with negative prejudices and unconscious bias that causes individuals to seek out, associate with and trust people who look like them, it is easy to understand how finding a job can become an obstacle course.
A region, a journey, and qualities to share
A natural attachment to the region where we were born and grew up tends to heighten our sense of belonging, so much so that we may at times forget about the waves of immigrants (and their personal dramas) that helped forge its history.
Today’s migrants arrive at airports much like our ancestors arrived at train stations and ports, filled with hope and in search of a better life.
For as long as we can remember, women and men upset the established order, changed the socio-cultural landscape and forged the Quebecois identity as we know it.
For as long as we can remember, men and women have exhibited courage, determination, resourcefulness, resilience and an extraordinary ability to adapt throughout their immigration process.
Are all these qualities not essential and applicable to the labour market? An initial opportunity to get in on the action is all that a newcomer needs to integrate socially.
Employers: Overcome your prejudices!
“The interview process is very subjective. I don’t call many people with foreign-sounding names. As an employer, I’m worried that I won’t be able to deal with reasonable accommodations.” – Anonymous
However, a report by the Human Rights Commission indicates that the majority of workplace requests for accommodation are related to physical handicaps. Only 3% of these requests pertain to religion. Incidentally, very few of the employers surveyed confirmed having received any requests for accommodation.
“I’ve always hired people who look like me, and that works well. Why would I change my hiring process? I would have to adjust my practices, and I risk creating conflict within my team. It’s easier to not change anything.” – Anonymous
However, hiring people with an immigrant background has been shown to have numerous benefits. Among others, it is shown that diversified teams have higher workplace satisfaction, exhibit greater creativity and innovation, and are better able to respond to the needs of a diverse clientele. In addition, they are more apt to develop new markets and are shown to have better financial results.
A context that is beneficial to changing attitudes
“The future is now,” goes the saying. The globalization of markets and economic activities, as well as Quebec’s current labour shortage requires that businesses put strategies in place to maintain their competitive edge.
One of these strategies is the hiring and integration of people with an immigrant background. Businesses who make the leap benefit from a workplace that is enriched by a pool of resources with diverse backgrounds in terms of education, training, work and life experience.
Virtual reality as an awareness tool
The “Where are you from?” project, created by the Montreal YWCA, uses virtual reality to raise awareness among employers and their personnel of the difficulties faced by immigrants to integrate into the professional world. In fact, the project seeks to stimulate reflection among key actors in the domain of employment, as well as invite businesses and organizations to improve their practices in terms of ethno-cultural diversity.
Are you looking to improve inclusion and diversity in your workplace?
Book a free screening workshop!
The YWCA offers businesses two different formats:
- The “kiosk” format gives your staff and clientele an immersive experience of what it’s like to be an immigrant looking for work (using virtual reality headsets).
- The “interactive workshop” format seeks to stimulate reflection and discussion on diversity and inclusion among managers and employees involved in the hiring and personnel integration process.
For more information on the immersive Where are you from? experience, contact us!
 Is finding a job in Quebec more difficult for immigrants
 Montréal peine à intégrer ses immigrants au marché du travail (Montreal struggles to integrate its immigrants into the labour market)
 “Canadian Experience” For Immigrants and Newcomers
 Better Educated, But Unemployed: The Montréal Immigration Paradox
Quand on est triplement discriminée (Facing three-fold discrimination)
Peut-on être raciste sans le savoir ? (Can you be unconsciously racist?)
Le roulement de personnel coûte 15 milliards (Employee turnover costs 15 billion)
Les immigrants récents peinent à trouver un emploi (New immigrants have difficulties finding work)