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Francophone immigration: “The plan does not work”, says Jean Johnson – Le Franco

FRANCOPRESSE – Francophone minority communities have, in recent years, identified immigration as an essential means of ensuring their survival. In 2003, the federal government adopted a plan to ensure that Francophone immigration outside Quebec reflects the proportion of Francophones in the country, ie 4.4% per year. A file that is dragging its feet, while the government has just reiterated this objective for 2023.

Marc Poirier – Francopresse

In 2019, the rate of new French-speaking permanent residents outside Quebec was 2.8%; far from the target of 4.4%, but a considerable increase from the rate of 1.8% the previous year.

To close the 8e National Francophone Immigration Week, Francopresse spoke with Jean Johnson, President of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada (FCFA). Credit: Courtesy

What explains this jump of 1% is in particular the redefinition of the term “francophone immigrant” by Statistics Canada in 2019. Previously, the organization considered as “francophone immigrant” a new permanent resident whose first language is French, while that from now on the definition “more precise and inclusive” focus instead on the concept of the “first official Canadian language of use”:

“This includes permanent residents who report knowledge of ‘French only’ as their official language; or those who declare knowledge of “French and English” as official languages, as well as French as the language in which they are most comfortable ”, we can read on the website from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The pandemic obviously slowed down these efforts considerably in 2020. To take stock of this issue in this 8e National Francophone Immigration Week, Francopresse spoke with Jean Johnson, President of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada (FCFA).

The FCFA coordinates the 13 Francophone Immigration Networks (RIF) present in the ten provinces and three territories of Canada.

Francopresse: Efforts to attract Francophone immigrants are led on several fronts and by several players: the federal government, the provinces, minority Francophonie organizations, etc. How does it all fit together?

Jean Johnson: The FCFA coordinates the Francophone Immigration Network in Canada, so all the organizations in each province and territory work with the FCFA. We develop strategies together.

These are people who often work in the field. When I prepare our meetings with Minister Mendicino [Marco Mendicino, ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté], or those we had with our predecessor, we do it from conversations we have with that network.

So yes, we coordinate, and by doing that, we ask questions, we listen, we compromise. And when we develop strategies for political action, it led us to have conversations that led Minister Mendicino to take positive measures, for example by adding a higher point system for Francophone immigration. [dans le système d’Entrée express].

Me, I found it absolutely brilliant. At the FCFA, we think it will make a big difference.

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So this decision by the federal government to increase the number of points for francophone and bilingual applicants, is it a result of the FCFA’s efforts?

Yes. A plan that produces 1.8% francophone immigration, revised to 2.82%, while the objective is 4.4%, for me, the plan does not work.

I know that I have offended many inside the public service by saying publicly that there is no plan. But to me, a plan that doesn’t work is not a plan.

If there is a plan and the plan does not work, wouldn’t it be a good idea to look at how, in a structuring way, we are able to influence and make changes to this? plan there? Are there ways for us to make francophone immigration more fluid and more accessible?

We see that there are traffic jams everywhere with regard to francophone immigration, whether in Europe or in African countries. I find this to be an aberration.

There are families who want to bring their parents, brothers, sisters or members of their community who would like to come to Canada and whom they would like to sponsor! It becomes very complex and very difficult.

What I’m saying is that if you take away the factors that stand in the way, you create better opportunities.

1106 Francopresse Immigration francophone Jean Johnson Logo Cr. Courtoisie FCFA
The FCFA coordinates the 13 Réseaux en immigration francophone (RIF) present in the ten provinces and three territories of Canada. Credit: Courtesy FCFA

There is obviously a problem with the retention of immigrants in the Canadian Francophonie, how do you think that is explained?

If we take the example of Alberta, we saw a “secondary” migration: let’s say for example that an immigrant arrives in Quebec, and once in Montreal, he leaves for Alberta because there is someone from his family or a member of his community who lives there.

When he arrives in Alberta, he needs immigration services. He’s only been in Canada for two months.

But it is not supported by the federal government! The provincial agencies in Alberta do a double job with half the money, because Quebec received the money related to this immigrant.

So the communities are rolling up their sleeves and doing everything they can to welcome them, but with pain and misery. It is a flaw in the system that must be addressed.

Recognition of skills is a long-standing problem for immigrants in general, not just for Francophones. Ironically, these are often immigrants who could work in industries where there is a labor shortage. Do you see solutions to this obstacle?

Of course, there are changes, societal values, but all that can be learned. If it takes an update, we shouldn’t ask someone to redo a five or seven year course. It should be a matter of a few months.

It takes good political will, but we are often talking about employment sectors that are controlled by professional orders. I think these immigrants often face systemic racism. Professional orders are closed.