Young French see opportunity in Canada
Turnout of frustrated work seekers surprises job fair organizers
CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, November 22
PARIS – Hundreds of young French, frustrated with their country's flagging economy, voted with their feet here this week by braving rain and an exasperating transportation strike to attend a two-day Canadian job fair.
France's economic malaise and rigid job market, which President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to repair with the kind of confrontational policies that provoked the strike, are driving many French overseas.
“I know that Canada is an open country, with lots of possibilities and a really dynamic population,” said Miete Fatou, who studied international relations and is considering a move to Saskatchewan.
She said that the French job market is unfair, and said that employers can sometimes be racist.
“The French have an idea that blacks have their place. It's the royalist spirit, the Old World side of France.”
Head organizer Alain Theault, minister counsellor of immigration at the Canadian Embassy, expressed surprise that the turnout was so good, even with rain and the trains at a standstill.
“I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago and I woke up with a nightmare thinking, 'What if we do all this and nobody shows up?' ”
The Canadian government spent $80,000 to put together the event, the fourth of its kind in France since 2004.
The mostly 30-somethings piled into the reception hall, dressed to impress in business attire and carrying paperwork. Of the 6,000 people who sent in resumes online, only 1,200 received invitations.
This was the first time Canadian companies, rather than just provincial representatives, were invited to come and recruit employees directly.
Most of the jobs on offer were low-level service industry jobs, but Theault pointed out that, for the French, experience working in an anglophone country is a big plus on their resumes.
Inside an auditorium, a slide show flashed photos of happy, smiling people working in restaurants and hotels or enjoying leisure activities on horse-drawn sleighs or skiing and skating in winter wonderland forest scenes.
Hubert Llopis, who seeks a career in aeronautics, was there to speak to Penta Aviation of Vancouver.
“It seems in Vancouver they really know how to live well,” he said. “It's anglophone city and I'd like to practise my English. There's a nice climate, there's the mountains, there's the beach so we can even go surfing!”
Most of the employers are here because of the huge labour shortage in Western Canada.
“It's really tight, the economy in Canada is booming and unemployment is at an all-time low,” said Wyatt McMurray of Cache Creek, B.C., who owns several A&W franchises in towns across the province. “The oilfields are sucking up all the workers.”
While the job might not be particularly glamorous for a Parisian, McMurray said many, especially those frustrated by the strike, might find a move to Canada appealing.
“As Canadians we're spoiled in that we have tons of space,” McMurray said. “Our idea of a traffic jam is three minutes. That's the hook: In a small town, you can have a really big apartment at a low price, and you can walk to work.”
Habiba Alimahamat, 29, complained that in France the best jobs are reserved for graduates of the so-called grandes ecoles, the handful of major universities attended by the country's elites.
“In France your degree is all that matters and in the States it's too hard to immigrate. In Canada there is more opportunity and it's your competence, your work experience, that matters,” Alimahamat said.