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Montreal's black anglophones call for more immigration and help integrating themselves

Monday, 02 February 2015

 QUEBEC — It was a heartfelt plea from one of the province’s oldest minority communities: Help us better integrate and feel like full citizens to stop the exodus.

And in a twist, representatives of Montreal’s black anglophone community came down squarely on the side of more immigration for Quebec, arguing it helps their own youth evolve with the times and feel at home.

“I cannot say that in the eyes of others, in certain situations, I am part of Quebec,” Nadia Rousseau, treasurer of the Round Table on Black History Month, told a legislature committee reviewing Quebec’s immigration laws Thursday.

“The feeling of being a second-zone citizen is still present,” added Michael Farkas, president of the round table, after noting black roots in Quebec date back 400 years.

The presentation illustrated a fresh reality for the committee.

Focused on finding ways to improve the system for newcomers, here was a minority within a minority struggling daily to find its place in the new Quebec.

Farkas and Rousseau painted a sad picture: an older generation of blacks who never learned French that is gradually dying off and a younger one which — faced with a lack of positive black role models and a direction in life — is drifting and suffering from a lack of identity despite having mastered French.

“The problem is grave enough that youth are discouraged enough to leave Quebec in droves,” Farkas told reporters afterward.

“Do you see many (black) waiters in a restaurant in Quebec coming to serve? If they’re working in the restaurant, they’re working in the kitchen.”

“Even though we are a visible minority, we are invisible,” added Rousseau.

The numbers tell the tale.

While the level of unemployment for new arrivals in Quebec is 11.6 per cent, four percentage points higher than that of the rest of population, the unemployment level for anglophone blacks in Quebec is 13.8 per cent (13.7 per cent for francophone blacks).

Farkas called on the government to act on all fronts to improve the quality of life, including relaunching the recently closed Negro Community Centre.

 Immigration Diversity and Inclusion Minister Kathleen Weil, who has noted the anglophone black community faces the greatest number of barriers in Quebec, said she found the message sad.

“We need to keep these young people here,” she said. “The government has a role, all society has a role, business has a role.”

And one day after the Quebec human rights commission told the committee that immigrants and minorities still face discrimination in the workplace, a first business leader appeared to tackle the question.

For Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Conseil du patronat, the province’s largest employer group, much can be explained by a fear of the unknown and change on the part of businesspeople who — by nature — seek stability in their ventures.

He mentioned a study conducted by the Conseil five years ago that concluded 65 per cent of corporate bigwigs saw benefits in hiring immigrants.

“You might say, wow, that’s over 50 per cent,” Dorval said. “The problem is the 35 per cent who did not agree.”

He said there’s work to be done on retaining immigrants. Studies show that among immigrants who arrived here to work between 2003 and 2012, only 75.7 per cent were still living in Quebec in 2014.

The figure is worse in the area of foreign investors, where the retention rate plunges to 30.1 per cent.

Dorval pointed to two factors: the difficulty immigrants have getting their education and skills recognized by professional associations and workplace language laws.

But Diane Legault, president of council representing 45 professional associations, said despite perceptions immigrants are blocked when they try to get skills recognized, of the 5,000 requests they got in 2012-13, only 3.7 per cent of the applicants were refused.

 

Montreal Gazette

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