Montreal launches program to break down barriers to hiring immigrants

Valérie Plante

Montreal will launch a public awareness campaign in the fall to encourage employers to hire more newcomers, Mayor Valérie Plante announced on Monday.

The $1.6-million program, funded under an agreement with the provincial immigration department, will bring together 200 business leaders from small, medium and large companies, who will lead the campaign to implement inclusive hiring strategies in the business community.

A 2016 study by the Institut du Québec showed immigrants in Montreal had the highest unemployment rate among newcomers in 17 major North American cities, even though they were more likely to have university degrees than native-born Montrealers.

Plante said her administration is determined to combat prejudices that have shut immigrants out of job opportunities.

“We want to develop an organizational culture across Montreal that is inclusive,” she said.

Despite a booming job market, about 12 per cent of immigrants in Montreal are unemployed, compared to five per cent among the native-born population, Plante  noted.

Victor Piché, a retired professor of demography at the Université de Montréal and a consultant on the awareness campaign, said researchers like himself have been calling for this kind of initiative for 15 years.

“We have to convince employers that diversity is good for their company,” said Piché, who noted that studies have shown that productivity is higher among firms that employ more immigrants.

Besides prejudice, barriers to employment for immigrants include the lack of recognition for university degrees earned abroad and international work experience by professional corporations in Quebec.

Piché said there are several reasons why Quebec has lagged behind other parts of Canada in integrating immigrants into the job market, including a traditionally high level of unemployment and a conception of national identity that excludes non-native-born francophones from the definition of what it means to be a Quebecer.