MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec is not alone in its search for new truck drivers, but the province is less likely than its counterparts to attract immigrants to the driver’s seat — and it’s certainly proving itself to be a distinct society when it comes to countries of origin.
One-third of the tractor-trailer drivers in Canada’s trucking industry are now immigrants, according to Newcom Media’s Changing Face of Trucking research, based on Canada’s national household survey. In Quebec the share is just 14%.
Those who settle in the province are also less likely to have come from South Asia. While 18% of Canada’s truck drivers immigrated from the region, only 4% of Quebec’s drivers can say the same – accounting for just 1,565 drivers overall.
Across the broader transportation sector and looking at more than drivers alone, Camo-route found that 30% of Quebec’s immigrants came from Europe, essentially matching the 31% from Asia.
A distinct language barrier could be the cause.
“In Quebec, the language of work is French. This can make it easier for some groups to find a job, for example in local transportation, if they master the French language,” says Bernard Boulé, general manager of Camo-route, which monitors the industry’s HR issues in the province. And established communities play a role in attracting other immigrants. “Often, people will not arrive alone. If there is no relationship with a community, if there is not a hosting structure and links that are created, it’s more difficult.”
But the French language has opened unique opportunities for those immigrating from Francophonie countries.
“Many French people want to immigrate to Canada. Many tell us that they want to give their children a future. For them, Quebec and Canada is the ideal place,” says Mario Sabourin, vice-president at Recruitment Conseil International (RCI). This year alone it has helped more than 150 French truckers to find work in Quebec.
“There are parts of France that look a lot like us, like Bretagne. When the candidates arrive here, as for working environment, they don’t feel out of place,” he says. “To be a truck driver in Quebec, you have to speak French because you can be asked to go anywhere in the province.”
“Elsewhere in Canada, admission tests will be in English only — the language in which communities like South Asia are more comfortable,” adds Romain Le Mene, a truck driver and president of Quebeca Recrutement International. “When they apply for permanent residence, they do it only at the federal level. Here, we have to apply to both the federal and provincial levels. ”
For its part, the provincial government has entered into reciprocal agreements with France relating to driver’s licences, health insurance, and education.
Andreea Crisan, Andy Transport’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer – who runs the fleet with her father Ilie, a Romanian immigrant – agrees that language certainly plays a role when immigrants choose where to locate.
“Romanian is the only language in Eastern Europe that is of Latin origin, like French. It is therefore easier for Romanians to learn. And Quebec culture is much closer to European culture,” she says. “But, more importantly, it’s that people are inclined to immigrate to where they already have a family, or friends. It’s also easier for them to adapt and integrate. They join a community.”
She counters the rumor that Andy Transport has brought several drivers for Romania, and stresses that none of its workers have come from the country or through the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
“What we have are Romanians who immigrated with their families — especially in the years 2000 to 2007. After that, the wave of Romanian immigration slowed down,” she says.
Most of Andy Transport’s Romanian drivers have university degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates. In their country of origin they were doctors, policemen, veterinarians, lawyers. But their educations were not recognized in Canada, leading them to job opportunities in trucking.
Others, like her father, continued their driving careers that began in Europe.
Hiring more people like him is no small task.
“In recent years, it has been impossible for us to attract drivers from Romania. Europe is also experiencing a shortage, and Romanian drivers are paid the same salary as German or Spanish drivers. They prefer to work in Romania or on the European continent, and to stay close to home,” Crisan says. “It is very difficult for us to convince them to leave their country and their families because, very often, they do not have their permanent residence when they come here, and it is very difficult for them to apply for a permanent residence.”
Once in Quebec, the immigrating employees still need support to integrate into their communities, Sabourin says. “Finding a driver and having him drive a vehicle in Quebec is a pretty easy thing. Getting him into a good work environment where he or she going to get acclimatized is sometimes more difficult.”
The work involves beyond the job itself, including the search for housing, furniture, the paperwork of the immigration process, and even the first trips to a grocery store, he says. “Not all companies are well structured to do that.”
Those who are left to work out such things on their own often give up.
“We end up with candidates who return to France because they are virtually abandoned,” Le Mene says.
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