The Gleaner
Opinions

The challenges of temporary immigration in the Haut-Saint-Laurent

The number of approved work permits linked to employers has more than doubled in the Haut-Saint-Laurent between 2016 and 2023, reaching nearly a thousand in the last three years. Most are in the agricultural sector. Why is temporary immigration so hotly debated?

Let’s take this opportunity to briefly present our perspective as an organization that supports immigrants. In our region, a few key employers make use of this workforce. They dedicate resources to this type of recruitment, and we have accompanied dozens of their employees through the immigration, settlement, and integration process. Together, we’ll talk about the challenges we’re all familiar with: difficult access to housing, daycare, and transportation; bureaucratic complexities; stress and culture shock; etc. Our temporary migrant workers arrive with a limited budget, no credit history, little knowledge of how to look for and find housing or their rights as tenants. Housing is scarce and expensive; they don’t have a vehicle when they arrive, and the public transit offer is inadequate. There are no daycare places, especially not subsidized ones; and they have no access to advance reimbursement of childcare costs if they opt for private childcare. This subjects many working spouses to isolation, especially if they have young children. How do you register for francization programs, get a job, enroll your children in school, obtain a Quebec driver’s licence, get your health insurance card, do your taxes?

At CRESO, we’re there to help them, free of charge, throughout the region. Their employers also don’t count the hours they spend helping new arrivals with these formalities. Beyond that, of course, there’s the precariousness inherent in a temporary status. They leave everything behind in their country of origin: they sell their possessions, leave their loved ones behind, abandon their networks and landmarks, and they try as best they can to build a life here, to travel a little way in our corner of the world, safe and quiet, buoyed by a Quebec promise of a better future. But… there’s an end date to the work permit. They depend on the employer’s goodwill to maintain and renew their status. It’s an inordinate, implacable power. The relationship between employees and employers is distorted by this almost absolute right of control.

As a result, a growing part of our work consists of informing our members of their permanent residency options. Permanent residency is synonymous with freedom, stability, predictability and security, the key to putting down roots – quite the opposite of temporary status, which undermines everyday human dignity. In view of these issues and challenges, immigrant workers in the Haut-Saint-Laurent region can continue to count on CRESO for support.
Thomas Gauvin, CRESO immigration advisor

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