Few people realize that there is French outside of the Province of Québec. In fact, there are more French speakers in the Province of Ontario than there are English Speakers in the Province of Québec! Yet, Canada has historically struggled to defeat shrinking minority of French speakers in its borders beyond Québec. The Government of Canada has creatively looked into immigration as a means to increase its Francophone population. As of June 2016, foreign nationals, whose habitual language of daily use is French, may be eligible for an exemption from the onerous Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement through the Mobilité Fracophone Program.
The LMIA is one of the many hoops Canadian employers are expected to jump through before they can hire temporary foreign workers to fill gaps in the labour market. With few exceptions, most employers are required to obtain an LMIA before bringing in temporary foreign workers, in order to first establish that there are no Canadians or Permanent Residents of Canada able to do the work. Although, the LMIA is meant to curb exploitative use of temporary foreign workers, obtaining an LMIA can be expensive and time consuming.
LMIA exemptions are usually limited to international agreements such as NAFTA, federal-provincial agreements, or the “Canadian interest” category. The Mobilité Francophone Program falls under the last category. Its purpose is to encourage Canadian employers to hire foreign workers in order to promote francophone immigration in francophone communities, but outside of Québec.
In order to qualify under this program, a foreign work must speak French as their primary language, they must have a job offer, and must intend to live and work in a province other than Québec. The program is only open to skilled workers who qualify under National Occupation Classification codes 0 (Managerial), A (professional), or B (technical/skilled trades). This means only highly skilled and highly educated foreign nationals qualify under this program. Additionally, recruitment must be through a promotional event linked to the Canadian government. The Embassy of Canada in France has made this step accessible by offering both in person and online information sessions that satisfy this requirement.
Employers are expected to follow regular protocol and submit their offer of employment online. Once they receive approval, the foreign worker can apply for a work permit. If the offer of employment is for more than six months, the spouse of the foreign worker can apply for an open work permit and their dependent children can also accompany them and study in Canada.
The provinces are also doing their part to attract francophone immigrants. Under the program, the provinces offer settlement services and information specifically for francophone immigrants. Some provinces, like Ontario, have relatively large French communities, and have established support systems and community groups intended to help newcomers settle in. Other provinces are also working hard to reverse the rapidly declining rates in their francophone communities as well.
The Program grants temporary foreign work permits, however, it is actually intended to be a route to permanent residence for francophone immigrants; workers in this category are encouraged to apply for permanent residence as soon as they are eligible.
Historically, Canada as a whole has struggled to establish a balance between its dual French-English identity. Innovative immigration programs like this one are a creative way to combat the needs of shrinking minority language communities outside Québec.