For many Canadians, France is a dream country with the name of the country bringing to mind the fantasy of rain-soaked Paris cobblestones, Monet-like fields of lavender and kisses in the moonlight. It has become almost a right-of-passage for young people fresh out of university to stop over as they backpack through Europe.
However, it may come as a surprise that for the French, especially for French youth who’ve grown disenchanted with their country’s brutally competitive job market, Canada has become a dream destination too.
Since the economic meltdown of 2008, French immigration to Canada has exploded. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 34,619 new permanent residents from France to Canada — a 38 per cent increase over the five-year period immediately before the crash. Meanwhile, temporary foreign workers who work in Canada nearly doubled with 78,267 workers entering the country between 2008-12. French student visas to study in Canada have been issued at a steadier rate, with only an 18-per-cent increase since 2008. However, since 2003, Canada has had a 50 percent increase in students from France.
Coming to Canada has become so popular that the French magazine, L’Express Reussir publishes an annual edition on immigrating to Canada: Moving to Canada. Laurence Pivot, once an immigrant herself, has been the editor of this special edition since 2007. The Canada issue of L’Express is part travel brochure, part immigration crash course. Although it paints a pretty rosy picture of Canada as a multicultural haven where individual differences are celebrated, it also offers a fairly exhaustive explanation of the complex immigration process.
Of the more than 30,000 French citizens who applied for Canadian permanent residence and immigrated to Canada in 2012, about 80 per cent settled in Quebec, where French is the predominant spoken language. Although it may be easier for French people to live in Quebec, because of the language laws, many still experience a culture shock. In Quebec, Laurence Pivot says, people speak directly and candidly, while in France, conversations about everything from politics to coffee can quickly develop into long, circuitous arguments.
For many, however, the difference between the two cultures is what makes the province so attractive. Anne-Laure Piaraly and her best friend Lisa Renault moved to Montreal in 2007, hoping to practise their English and enjoy a “friendlier” scene. When asked if Quebecers are more similar to people from Vancouver or France, Renault says: “I think more like people from Canada … I like that. I don’t want to speak badly about my home … but the people are very aggressive, while here they are very friendly,” she says.
Because of the language, many French citizens don’t think about moving to other places, like Toronto or Vancouver. In Ottawa, for example from 2006 – 11, only 305 French immigrants came to the city. In order to encourage francophones from across the world to settle outside Quebec, the federal government created ‘The Francophone Significant Benefit Program’ in 2011. The program aimed to give skilled francophones a fast-track to a temporary work permit if they wanted to settle in cities with francophone minority communities.
Leafing through the l’Express’s pages, peppered with adds for RBC and immigration services, one sees Canada through new eyes. In France’s Canada, economic opportunity, wide open spaces and yes, Rob Ford, all offer French citizens the chance to stretch their legs and be someone new.
Youth unemployment in France is at an all-time high, climbing to 26 per cent in 2013, up about 45 per cent since just before the market crashed in 2008. In Paris people must live in the city’s more affordable suburbs, and commute long distances every day just to stay afloat.
Source: Ottawa Citizen