Soccer match, visit to the Valcartier water park, circus show, information sessions: while temporary foreign workers have arrived in large numbers in companies, several activities are in full swing across Quebec.
All initiatives funded by the Government of Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, as part of a call for projects managed by Immigrant Québec. In 2021, more than 23,000 temporary foreign workers set foot on Quebec soil, according to data published by La Presse. Despite their numbers, many live in isolation and have few moments of leisure. Hence the importance of setting up initiatives of fraternization between them, but also of meeting with their host community.
Breaking isolation and bringing communities together
These outings also allow community organizations to create a first point of contact with these newcomers and to inform them about their services. Thus, at the initiative of the Orientation and Integration Service for Immigrants at Work (SOIT), temporary foreign workers were invited to participate in Festi-Cultures. The event, which took place in early July 2022 in the city of Sainte-Marie, featured the different cultures of the world, through music, culinary art and various colorful activities.
Several awareness-raising activities are also on the schedule for the summer months of 2022. For example, the Service du travail l’Appui organizes information sessions every Wednesday evening where workers are available to answer workers’ questions. Other events are also planned, such as an information meeting that will end with a visit to a thrift store.
Similarly, the Consulate of Guatemala organized a mobile awareness activity in Drummondville in early July 2022. And these are just a few examples. Moreover, Immigrant Québec has begun a tour of organizations this summer, during which members of the team will participate in several activities to take the pulse of the field.
Winter in slow motion
While activities resumed this summer, the winter and spring periods were calmer for the organizations supported by the project. This is one of the findings that emerges from the last quarterly meeting organized by Immigrant Québec, on June 21, 2022. Indeed, several workers return to their country during this period, notes Agnès Merlin, manager of the Information and support for workers project. temporary foreigners at Immigrant Québec.
Those who remain work in agricultural greenhouses or in food processing plants, she gives as an example. “We therefore notice that the workers are even more isolated during this period, since there are fewer of them and there are fewer activities. And for many, it is difficult to have access to the network so that they can only participate in virtual activities. »
Because of their limited number, it also becomes more difficult to reach them in the field. Some organizations have also pointed out that the transport offer is reduced during the cold season, which further contributes to isolation. They stressed the importance of offering shared options, such as carpooling, to these workers.
Similarly, psychological distress increases during the winter period, when workers must learn to deal with the cold. “ It is also difficult for them to spend Christmas away from their loved ones ”, observes Agnès Merlin. So many elements to consider for a possible winter program, notes the manager.
The quarterly meeting, which brought together fourteen organizations, as well as the consulates of Mexico and Guatemala, was also an opportunity to share the successes of the various stakeholders. Two organizations thus presented conferences, the content of which could inspire others. This is the case of the organization Actions interculturelles de développement et d’éducation (AIDE), which took over the content of a workshop that the municipal police services presented to workers in its region.
This conference presents the police services of Quebec. Indeed, in several countries, the security services are corrupt. “Often, foreign workers are afraid of the police, and will avoid calling the police altogether if they need to. This is why it is important to make these newcomers aware of the role played by police forces in Quebec, as well as the fact that they have rights… and duties.
For its part, Desjardins also presented the various support services offered to foreigners by this financial institution. A service dedicated to Spanish-speaking temporary foreign agricultural workers was created a few months ago to meet their specific needs, all in Spanish. They thus benefit from adapted services throughout their stay.
The organizations were not only able to stock up on ideas, but also continued to strengthen their ties. Already, the workers are noticing that the mesh is tighter, which improves the ability to transmit cases between them. Another observation: they have a better knowledge of the reality on the ground and the bonds of trust with the workers are established more easily. Certain advantages for the rest of the operations.