While immigration is seen as a way to alleviate the labor shortage that has hit Quebec’s trucking industry hard, Bill 96 – which promotes the use of French in the province — is causing concern among foreign workers.
“With the new Bill 96, many English-speaking workers are thinking of leaving for other provinces because they are not able to learn French,” said Mélanie Labonté, director of operations at Audet Immigration, in a presentation to the 29th annual Congress of the Association des mandataires en vérification mécanique du Québec .
Employers have begun to receive resignations from foreign workers, including truck drivers and heavy vehicle mechanics, who fear they will be sent back because of the French language requirements within Bill 96. As a result of this trend, employers are turning more to immigrant workers who already speak French.
“Workers are listening to the news like everyone else, and they’re wondering if they’re going to have to leave because they don’t speak French,” says Guillaume Audet, founder of Audet Immigration. “There is this fear, especially on the part of Filipinos who unfortunately do not learn French much. We often have to do damage control.”
The damage control Audet refers to involves reassuring the workforce. “We tell them not to go to Ontario because of this political announcement. We tell them that they can continue to work and that we will put even more effort into francizing them,” he explains.
And “the carrot at the end of the Francization” is the arrival of the worker’s family in Quebec and the obtaining of permanent residency.
The Quebec government must do more to promote francization programs, Audet said. “We need to share more information, promote the language teachers that are available in each region.”
There is no shortage of teachers, it seems. Often, these teachers will go to employer facilities. “There are French teachers who are mobile and will teach small classes at employers’ sites. And it’s all subsidized.”
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