French immigrants find Canada the land of opportunity

posted on August 15, 2014

By Robin Levinson, Ottawa Citizen | Link to Article

By Robin Levinson, Ottawa Citizen | Link to Article

For many Canadians, France is a dream country. Just say the word, and one’s mind is flooded with the fantasy of rain-soaked Paris cobblestones, Monet-like fields of lavender and kisses in the moonlight. Legions of schoolgirls plaster posters of Paris, its most fabled city, on their dorm-room walls, and it has become something of a right-of-passage for young people fresh out of university to stop over as they backpack through Europe.

But 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 is a kind of dream 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, when there were only 25,026. Meanwhile, temporary foreign workers nearly doubled: 78,267 workers entered the country between 2008-12, while only 42,212 made it between 2003-07. French student visas have been issued at a steadier rate, with only an 18-per-cent spike since the market crash. But over the span of a decade, they too have grown in popularity: In 2012, Canada accepted 5,762 students from France, an almost 50 per cent increase from 2003.

Coming to Canada has become so popular that the French magazine, L’Express Reussir publishes a now-annual edition on immigrating to Canada: S’installer au Canada: les clefs du succès (Moving to Canada: the keys to success). Laurence Pivot, once an immigrant herself, has been the editor of this special edition since 2007, after returning to Paris (with her Quebeçois husband in tow) from a decade spent in Montreal where she was an editor at En Route, Air Canada’s bilingual in-flight magazine.

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 immigration process — no small feat for a glossy general-audience magazine, similar to Canada’s Maclean’s or the United States’ Time Magazine.

“We don’t say Canada is a perfect country, we try and be very realistic,” she says. “Canada is a cool country that wants immigrants, but they select them very hardly.”

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