Immigration: the Chantiers Chibougamau integration model | Elections Quebec 2022

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Immigration: Chantiers Chibougamau’s integration model | &Elections Québec 2022

The themes of immigration and francization are have been imposed since the start of the campaign. The targets of the parties differ, but most agree on the need to regionalize immigration and to redouble efforts in francization. What if Chibougamau had found the winning recipe?

Immigration is essential to the survival of Chantiers Chibougamau. The company relies on immigration from the Philippines.

There are approximately 7,500 souls who live in Chibougamau. Crees, Jamésiens and now Filipinos. The wood processing company Chantiers Chibougamau is one of the main employers in the city. As in the majority of companies in Quebec today, there is a lack of manpower.

Immigration has therefore become essential to the survival of the company and it is mainly Filipinos who come to settle in this northern region, explains Frédéric Verreault, Executive Director of Corporate Development for Chantiers Chibougamau.

They have industrial, manufacturing and technological skills in the Philippines. They also have expertise in forest products and pulp and paper. And an extraordinary demographic pool, explains Mr. Verreault.

However, getting them to this state-of-the-art factory is an uphill battle. Once the employee has been selected from abroad, it can take months before their arrival.

We were absolutely discouraged by the delays and decided to do against bad luck, good heart, agrees the director of corporate development.

After selecting a new employee and while waiting to fill the administrative maze, Chantiers Chibougamau offers an equivalent salary to the worker even if he is still in the Philippines. We will offer him full-time French lessons from Monday to Friday from morning to evening with his full salary to prepare him for his arrival here, for his rooting in the community and in his workplace, adds Frédéric Verreault.

A costly practice for the company that spends tens of thousands of dollars before the employee has even worked a minute within the company. A lesser evil, according to the executive director of corporate development.

“It's demanding, it's long, it's imperfect. And the work is not finished when they arrive here. But at least, we increase the chances of success for their integration into the community. »

— Frédéric Verreault, Executive Director of Corporate Development at Chantiers Chibougamau

Despite the efforts made upstream by the employer and future employees, this is not enough. Some arrive with better French than others, says David Morin, vice-president of the local union of the United Steelworkers.

French lessons therefore continue when Filipinos arrive in the community, in partnership with the company. No question of throwing in the towel. Francization remains a concern. Do we have a magic wand to achieve this? In 6 months? In 18 months? No. It is a long process. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater for these men and women who choose to come and help Quebec, says Frédéric Verreault.

Frédéric Verreault is executive director of corporate development for Chantiers Chibougamau.

While the Québec solidaire caravan was passing through the factory earlier this week, the issue of francization in the workplace was raised. The party wants above all to invest in francizing in the workplace. Frédéric Verreault is not against it. All ideas are valid. The perfect francization instruction book does not exist. We develop it collectively.

The lack of housing is another issue in the election campaign, and Chibougamau is no exception.

In order to succeed in housing workers and their families, Chantiers Chibougamau has decided to build a whole neighborhood. A demographic boom of 50-100 people absolutely unbalances the supply and demand for housing here, says Frédéric Verreault.

Chantiers Chibougamau manufactures and markets wood products. The family business, founded in 1961, is one of Chibougamau's main employers.

We had to find a solution off the beaten track. The Executive Director of Corporate Development explains that about thirty houses, the construction of which should begin in the coming weeks, will be intended to accommodate the families of these workers. Here, we took the bull by the horns to make sure we don't run out of housing, says, delighted, Manon Cyr, mayor of Chibougamau.

Many factory workers are concerned about the delay in renewing work permits. Immigration to Quebec, we add a layer. I think it's heavier than in the other provinces, says union representative David Morin.

It is also this bureaucratic issue that the next government will have to tackle. Chantiers Chibougamau rightly deplores the slowness in repatriating the families of the selected candidates.

“We don't buy robots. We convince people who live thousands of kilometers away to choose to come and support the vitality of the economy in Quebec. It is a choice that is extremely dignified and that we must appreciate in its fair measure. Where it is regrettable is that on day one, we would ask nothing better than the families coming. »

— Frédéric Verreault, Executive Director of Corporate Development at Chantiers Chibougamau

Especially since all these integration initiatives are bearing fruit. For four years, the retention rate for newcomers has been 98%, said Mr. Verreault. Obviously, not all companies can afford to offer so much and there is still a lot to do. Mayor Manon Cyr nevertheless finds that in terms of integration, the example of Chibougamau, although imperfect, is valid.

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