VEQ forum on integrating English-speaking newcomers

VEQ forum.jpg
Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, addressed the forum with a talk on integration as a tool for Quebec City's economic prosperity.

On September 22 at City Hall, the Voice of English-speaking Quebec (VEQ) participated in a forum co-organized by the Ville de Québec and VEQ; the subject was the integration of English-speaking newcomers. Employers and immigrants shared their experiences.

The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, spoke about integration as a tool for Quebec City's economic prosperity. "English is the language of business, science and research," he said. Underscored by "Université Laval's growing international vision, this is also true for employers searching for employees fluent in French and English." Immigrant students and employees must be able to settle here. Citing a recent survey, he said "The Anglophone community welcomes newcomers in a constant renewal, 25% every five years."

"VEQ impacts not only its community, but also the Quebec City region," said VEQ's executive director Jean-Sébastien Jolin-Gignac. "We serve 1.8% of the population or about 14,000 people, with the help of 60 organizations, seven elementary schools, three high schools and one CEGEP." He continued, "When newcomers come to VEQ seeking help integrating, I ask them if they speak French, because it will help them integrate." He said, "We offer many activities and services, in both English and French."

The visibility of VEQ to employers and immigrants was touched on by Alexandra Beaulieu of Beenox, a Quebec City developer of video games. Beaulieu spoke from an employer's point of view on the question. "When we find people elsewhere with very specific video-game skills, we invite them to immigrate, no matter where they're from," said Beaulieu. "Montreal draws many such employees due to its many schools. Unlike other companies, Beenox works in French and we're proud of our culture and language. This means that all our employees must be fluent in French." She continued, "Every new employee is shown the ropes by someone who has already been through the process. When necessary, we offer French courses to newcomers and their partners. This helps them to integrate into the city."

Newcomers Juanita Craig and Ross Kueber then spoke of their own experiences as Anglophones fitting into the city. Craig, an immigrant from New Zealand, chose Quebec City because of its beauty, culture and language, and then fell in love with a local. "After travelling to 35 countries, some more than twice, I chose to settle in Quebec City. I first thought that finding work in some aspect of indigenous culture would be easy with my Bachelor of Arts degree (with honours) in Maori Studies (Culture and Language). It was not." She said, "I was a consultant for the Musée de la Civilisation for their New Zealand exhibit, E Tu Ake. I am currently a journalist for the QCT. I choose to work and live in Quebec." Craig, proudly wearing her 11-month old son in a baby carrier, said "my most important work right now is motherhood. "Learning about VEQ and its community directory opened my eyes to many organizations, easing my transition into life here," she added.

Ross Kueber spoke about his migration from Calgary to Quebec City, from western to French culture. "Twelve years ago, I took a sabbatical to finish a graduate degree here," he said. "After six months, the honeymoon experience faded with the cold, the snow, the language barrier and solitude," he said. "I then found VEQ. The people there help integrate newcomers, especially in finding a job and learning French." He said, "Be proud of yourself and of living in both cultures." He added, "Employers must understand that newcomers can be overwhelmed by the immigration process."

VEQ offers opportunities, activities and programs for the English-speaking community and immigrants, and for French-speaking communities. Newcomers often point out that the organization needs to become better known by the general public. Thanks to VEQ's work with employers and educational institutions, immigrants can access services suited to them. For more information, visit www.veq.ca.