Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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Immigration and languages in Saguenay

(by Marie-Eve Authier)

The Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, situated less than 200 kilometres from Quebec City, extends from north of Lac Saint-Jean to the mouth of the famous Saguenay fjord. Its nearly 300,000 residents are known for their hospitality and joie de vivre. It offers a unique environment that combines city conveniences with the pleasures of nature, as well as having a solid structure for welcoming and supporting entrepreneurs through a wide range of services. Chicoutimi, now known as Saguenay, since 2002 with the fusion of towns nearby, is the most populated area in the region. Nevertheless, it has always been an isolated place. Because of its distance from big cities, immigrants are not familiar with the region. Immigration is not very frequent in Chicoutimi and so the language spoken is mostly French. As it is my birthplace, I thought it would be interesting to do a research on this topic. After gathering information from different sources (Barrette, Riverin), I have built a chart about the most relevant facts found:

 

Birth place of immigrants in Saguenay in January 2004:

 

America: 29,4% (165)     Africa 11,6% (65)

Europe 29,2% (164)        Asia 29,9% (168)

Top ten countries of origin:

 

China 114 (20,3%)         Bosnia-Herzegovina 14 (2,5%)

Columbia 111 (19,8%)   Viet Nam 12 (2,1%)

France 82 (14,6%)          Romania 10 (1,8%)

Congo 34 (6,0%)            Russia 10 (1,8%)

Haiti: 26 (4,6%)             Other countries 134 (23,8%)

Byelorussia: 15 (2,7%)          Total 562 (100%)

Characteristics of the immigrants from 1998 to 2002

Knowledge of French and English at arrival:

 

Neither French nor English: 49%

French only: 16%

French and English: 7%

English only: 5%

Know French slightly: 23 %

The difficulties encountered when integrating with the people in Saguenay:

 

- Prejudice                                           - Do not know the culture

- Unknown experience                          - Speaking French

- Have to create contacts alone              - Hard to find jobs

 

What was least liked:

 

The temperature in February (-30C)

Finding a doctor

Public transportation

Lack of employment

Too many smokers

Lack of cultural activities

The food

How could we get more people to immigrate in Saguenay?

 

Facilitate employment procedures

Recognize studies

Advertisement of the region

Do they have the intention to stay in the region?

 

Yes: - Because husband/wife lives here

        - Like the region

Maybe: - If they get a job

             - If they get help for their family

No: - Their friends are in Montreal

       - They like big cities

 

According to the answers in the chart above, it seems like the new comers are having problems fitting in. However, through different organizations and associations, the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region offers a range of services to help new immigrants integrate and find employment. Several communities are already present in the region. As mentioned earlier, they come from a variety of countries, including France, China, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Colombia, Mexico, Rwanda, Haiti and Vietnam. We can find organizations like SEMO (Service Externe de Main-d’oeuvre du Saguenay), whose objectives are to integrate foreigners into the community and their working environment. SEMO asks special care on behalf of new employers to help them feel as if they belong to the group.

Although the region is trying to get more people to settle there, statistics show that there is a decrease in immigration rates. Statistics Canada recorded 625 international immigrations in 1991-1992 compared to only 211 in 2003-2004. In 1996, the population in Chicoutimi (before the fusion) was 158 850 people and only 1180 were immigrants. This causes a problem for new comers because they do not fit into the “mould” as well as they would like. They are minority groups, with different cultures and are not in the center of society like the majority. They usually have difficulty speaking French too. 99 % of Chicoutimi citizens spoke only French in 1996, according to Statistics Canada again. As for the English population, only 0,6% spoke only English. Even worse, only 0,1% spoke unofficial languages. This means that when foreigners arrive and do not speak French, it is hard to find work/friends and appreciate the different services offered. It is not surprising to see that many want to move somewhere else like in Montreal for example, where they will be able to speak either English or sometimes their mother tongue.

Chicoutimi wants more citizens since the population size is low. Immigration is a very good way to make it happen. There is a lot of work to be done, however, to make sure immigrants do not feel rejected or want to move out again. The region has potential to make it happen. In one of the charts, it says that we should advertise the area, recognise diplomas of foreigners and facilitate employment procedures. Finally, these aspects should be considered and put in action in order to be well prepared when welcoming them.

Sources:

 

Barrette, Valérie and Others. (2004). Bulletin Statistique Régionale, Québec : Institue de la             

            Statistique, www.stat.gouv.qc.ca .

Choisir le Québec. (2005). Québec: Immigration et Communautés culturelles,    

            www.immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca .

 

Riverin, Claude. (2004). L'immigration au Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean: Atlantic Canada at a

            Crossroads. Halifax: Economics Domain Conference, www.atlantic.metropolis.net .

 

 

Faits saillants, (2005).Québec : Institut de la Statistique du Québec

            www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/publications/regional