Quebec wants French-speaking immigrants with up-to-date skills that can be put to use immediately in the knowledge economy. Enter Abdelmajid, 35, a Moroccan-born computer-systems technician - fluently French-speaking, young, energetic, motivated to succeed in his new country.
A match made in heaven ? Not for Abdelmajid. Like countless others in his situation, he is still looking for work four months after he arrived here, our Jan Ravensbergen reported this week.
Many others have been here four years, and longer, still trying to get their credentials acknowledged or even to find any kind of work. In the post-9/11 world, immigrants with Arab backgrounds are struggling with an unspoken, unacknowledged reluctance to accept them.
Abdelmajid, who asked that his family name not be published, said he has sent out more than 300 detailed resumés but has been called to only four interviews. Quebec’s unemployment rate for Arabic-speaking immigrants is over 30 per cent.
This waste of manpower is more than an economic inefficiency. It represents a human tragedy that is being played out wherever democracies accept Muslim immigrants. It is no fault of his that terrorists continue to kill in the name of Islam and that as a result it has become common, almost acceptable, to question the loyalty and legitimacy of Arab immigrants to the West.
Last year, an opinion poll for Sun Media found that Canadians held Arab Canadians in the lowest esteem of all minority communities. And as Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, told the Toronto Sun in an interview, when "people have low esteem of an ethnic group, they’re not going to hire them, or socialize with them."
Jobs are of inestimable importance in the process of integration. People left to flounder and fail at the margins of society are not going to integrate. Everyone loses.
In Quebec, the trends are all pointing the wrong way. The unemployment rate among all immigrants has jumped to 17.3 per cent, triple the overall provincial rate.
Immigration Minister Yolande James plans to inject $68 million over three years to help immigrants find work. Well, something has to be done and the money is a start.
But what should it be spent on ? Public reminders to private employers not to let irrational fears stand in the way of all the talent and energy that immigrants offer ? It’s an idea. The government should also look to itself ; its track record in hiring anybody other than old-stock francophones is a disgrace.
If we want to attract skilled, educated people from around the world, Canada owes them fair treatment.
What is required is a sustained, intelligent effort to help such immigrants integrate into the workforce. Once someone has a job, good things tend to follow : social integration, skills upgrading, freedom, self-esteem and participation in the wider community.
These things are worth every cent of that $68 million the government has just devoted to the problem - and more.