Francophone immigration: Realities and prospects after 10 years of welcoming centres and services!

Some 80 people gathered in the Grand salon of Pavillon Lacerte at Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) on January 26, 2017, to learn about the highlights of the report "Francophone immigration in the territories and western Canada: realities and prospects after 10 years of welcoming centres and services" as part of the first in the "Conférence et dialogue au service de l'intérêt public" series (conference and dialogue in the public interest).

13 February 2017

Started by CSJ's Bureau de recherche (research office), these conferences and dialogues in the public interest have two objectives: to disseminate research and to encourage dialogue with key stakeholders in the community. "The researchers are happy to be able to share the highlights of their study," stated Martine Pellerin, Vice‑Dean of Research and Innovation at CSJ. "It helps further this research by identifying future possibilities."

The study presented on January 26, 2017, is an interprovincial and inter-territorial study, begun in 2015, which was the result of collaborative work by five professors: Senior Researcher Paulin Mulatris (Campus Saint-Jean [CSJ]), Marianne Jacquet (Simon Fraser University at the time of the study and now at CSJ), Lori Wilkinson (University of Manitoba), Mamadou Ka (Université de Saint-Boniface) and Laurie Carlson Berg (University of Regina).

Four of the five researchers were in attendance-only Ms. Wilkinson was absent-to present the results and findings by province. "Francophone communities in Western and Northern Canada have seen a lot of demographic changes over the last 12 years," the researchers note in their study. "Francophone migrants arriving from outside Canada or from other provinces in Canada have chosen to live there, resulting in significant structural demographic changes. The effects of those growing waves of migration have differed depending on where the new arrivals settle."

"This report examines the evolution of beneficiaries' needs and the real impact of the services proposed over the last 12 years in order to better integrate new Francophone immigrants," Senior Researcher Paulin Mulatris emphasized, noting that the information presented will serve to support the development of services that are better suited to the needs and living conditions of those immigrants both in the provinces and respective regions. "Immigration is a fundamental issue in Canadian society," he said.

In carrying out their study, a telephone survey developed in consultation with a few community representatives was used to gather the perspectives of 587 immigrants on various matters, such as the use of French-language services, the nature of their needs, etc. Furthermore, in order to delve further into certain subjects, discussion groups were organized with Francophone immigrants in the provinces and regions in question.

Following are some of the findings observed by the researchers:

Demand among immigrants is greatest for employment services.

35.3% of the immigrants questioned have used a French-language service in their province. The reasons cited for not using them are the fact that they do not find the services necessary because they speak English well enough (40% of immigrants), a lack of information about the existence of such services (15%), a lack of French-language services near their home (7%), and a bad reputation for such services (3%).

Statistically, there is a major difference between economic, family and refugee classes in the use of French-language services. Refugees make the most use of settlement services (45.4%), followed by the economic class (35.7%) and the family class (28.8%). There seems to be a relationship between the level of education, the country of origin, the province of residence, and the type the use of Francophone welcome services.

There are also regional differences in the use of services: More than half of respondents in Manitoba stated that they used French-language settlement services, compared to 38% of respondents in Alberta, 30% in Saskatchewan and 24% in British Columbia.

Francophone immigrants, particularly those of African origin, seem to express a sense of abandonment and confusion regarding the settlement services received to facilitate their integration into society.

In analyzing the results, the researchers identified five main challenges facing new immigrants:

A poor command of English

Access to employment

No recognition of prior learning: "Starting over at zero"

Access to housing

Education of youth and experiencing racism and discrimination


"For these people, the challenges upon arrival are linguistic, economical, sociocultural and structural," they indicate. "Facing these different challenges, immigrants adapt using various strategies: support from a peer network and a return to school in order to integrate into socioeconomic life in Canada. Before arriving in the area, some migrants have also received pre-departure training."

Regarding access to French-language settlement services, "only 35.3% of immigrants state that they have used them. The reasons cited by Francophone immigrants for not using such services are that they did not feel the need (40%) or that they did not know they existed 15%)." They also noted that the use of services also varies significantly from one region to another and participants' assessment of them is mixed.

In general, participants in the provinces and territories use French-language welcome services when they are available. They appreciate the training offered by some French-language welcome organizations in terms of training (English classes, employment workshops, computer workshops, résumé preparation workshops, etc.) and personalized services related to housing searches, accompaniment for doctor's appointments, the possibility of an interpreter in certain situations, or support offered for administrative processes (obtaining health and social insurance cards, opening bank accounts, obtaining a driver's licence, etc.).

However, a certain number of negative points are also raised: the scattered nature and difficulty in finding up-to-date information; the feeling of "just being a number"; the feeling of being abandoned by the Francophone organization once the basic training is completed, as there is no follow-up; the lack of orientation for new immigrants in the job market, a lack of a structured network to help immigrants enter the job market, and services that remain limited in some provinces.

"From a qualitative standpoint, the immigrants questioned appreciated the training offered (English classes, job search, computer workshops) and the personalized accompaniment services," noted the researchers. "However, some complain of a limited welcome service, a lack of follow-up by the organizations, the weak network proposed to ensure their integration into society and the job market, and scattered French-language welcome and information services."

To help the Francophone community improve its position regarding Francophone immigration, the team of researchers proposed a few possibilities:

Create a single-service window to meet the needs of these immigrants while developing a social network to assist with their integration.

Conduct a study among service delivery organizations in order to better assess the nature of the services offered.

Conduct an in-depth study in order to better understand the paths of these immigrants.

In addition to services that meet the primary needs of immigrants, develop services adapted to their level of education. Francophone organizations seem to better meet primary needs and become less effective over the long term.