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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Journées Québec

This weekend the Québec government cordially invited job seekers interested in living and working in that Canadian province to an event called the Journées Québec at the Palais des congrès d’Issy-les-Moulineaux.  This recruitment drive,  organized by the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles and partners (Pole Emploi International, for example), had a very attractive theme:  Vos talents ont une place au Québec (Your talents have a place in Quebec).  This was clearly music to the ears of a very receptive group of highly-qualified potential migrants whose enthusiasm was matched by
that of the many Quebec-based companies who came to personally meet and interview potential employees.

Full disclosure: I was there on Saturday as both an observer and as a participant. I had registered for the event a few weeks ago, selected a few companies that had interesting positions from a list and sent off my CVs and cover letters. Three companies agreed to meet with me and so I set off on a rainy Saturday morning ready and willing to see if a match could be made.

When I arrived there was already a very large number of candidates in the room being interviewed or attending presentations on the first floor. There were separate stands highlighting Montreal and Quebec City. Another area was reserved for anyone with questions about immigration procedures. The atmosphere was serious but fairly relaxed because the Canadians did everything in their power to make us feel welcome and at ease. Entering the hall, I was met with a smile and a warm "Bienvenue, Madame," handed a program, and told to go right on in. When I stopped by the Montréal stand, a very nice gentleman offered me a cup of coffee and patiently answered all my questions about cost of living, average salaries, schools and other mundane matters. At one point a number of us were standing against a wall near the stairs and one recruiter stopped by and talked to each and every one of us and wished us luck with our interviews. It was more than pleasant, I soon found myself falling for this wonderful combination of professionalism and easy unforced charm.

After my interviews I went up to the first floor to attend a presentation about Québec. Here are a few of my notes:

Quebec is a "terre d'immigration" (a place of immigration) and she is actively looking for Francophones. On the Immigration-Quebec website, they say:  "Par sa politique en matière d'immigration et d'intégration, le Québec, unique société de langue française d'Amérique du Nord, encourage la venue d'un grand nombre de francophones sur le territoire québécois." (Through its policy of immigration and integration, Quebec, the unique French speaking society in North America, encourages the arrival of a large number of French-speakers to the territory of Quebec.)

The work environment is very different from that of France. For example:
  • There is more mobility, the hierarchy is more "souple" (flexible), the communication is more direct.
  • People with multiple skills are highly valued.
  • The Grandes Ecoles (France's top and very selective universities) are much less important. "Savoir-faire" (the ability to do) is what counts.
While I waited for my interviews I chatted with some of the other candidates. I met people from Tunisia, Pakistan, France and many other places. Lots of Master's degrees and PhD's in that room. All spoke French, most spoke good English as well. A few mentioned the Circulaire Guéant but most were just eager to learn about what Canada has to offer.

And perhaps what they and I were doing in that room that day is the very best response to the pre-election xenophobia that is sweeping France at this time. We can argue, we can complain but this is just adding more negativity to an already negatively-charged situation. It is very painful to feel that one is being rejected by a place and a people that one has learned to love and whose language and culture have come to occupy a large place in one's heart. But exclusion can also be an opportunity to look farther afield to shores that are a bit friendlier and are every bit as wonderful as this one. I looked out over that room at all that young, bright, eager intelligence and thought to myself that the combined human CPU's in that room would probably make one hell of a high-tech start-up company.

In the end, who really cares where they exercise their talents, just so long as they are given an opportunity to do so. I hope each and every one of those kids gets that opportunity and I pray that Québec turns out to be everything that they have dreamed and worked so hard for.

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