The destination was France and Belgium for Destination Canada.

Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly and three staff members from the Centre de services à l’emploi Prescott-Russell/Employment Services Centre of Prescott-Russell (CSEPR/ESCPR) to participate in an event designed to recruit francophones to fill local job vacancies.

Destination Canada is a yearly event held in Europe by the Canadian embassies in Paris and Brussels that interested francophones apply to in order to be interviewed by representatives of Canadian communities where there are significant employment needs.  Hawkesbury was invited to participate earlier in 2019 following its designation as a welcoming francophone community.

“It was very labouring,” said Assaly of the 10 to 12-hour days she worked during the event and the approximately 400 people she spoke with about the advantages of living and working in Hawkesbury.

“Most of the people who were interested in Hawkesbury were couples with two or three children,” said Assaly.  She explained that they were interested in knowing about schools and health care services in town.

Participation for Europeans in Destination Canada is restricted to selected applicants.  Out of 25,000 people who applied, only 4,000 were invited.  All provinces, territories, and various school boards and economic agencies were represented at the event.

Assaly explained that all applications are first reviewed by the embassies and Immigration and Citizenship Canada first, and that the applicants home countries prioritize retaining people needed for labour there.

“We’re not stealing people from there and they’re not stealing our jobs,” said Assaly.

Local employers must prove that they are unable to fill vacancies with Canadians first.

“They have to demonstrate they can’t find anybody,” emphasized Assaly.

Prospective employees and immigrants were not hired on-the-spot at Destination Canada.  The interviews conducted there were only designed to help connect people with jobs in Hawkesbury.  The resumés of applicants were reviewed and then if they were considered eligible, they were told to contact the employers directly, according to Assaly.  All employers must be registered with Immigration and Citizenship Canada. Applicants cannot proceed with the immigration process until they have been hired.

“They have to have an offer from an employer,” Assaly said.

Job candidates are totally responsible for their own paperwork and costs associated with the immigration process.  Assaly said that some of the applicants at Destination Canada had already obtained Permanent Resident status but others had not.  She noted that immigrants are also required to provide a security deposit before arriving in Canada.  For married couples, it is $20,000, and the fee is higher if the couple has children.

“The people who go through the process, it’s because they really want to come to Canada,” said Assaly.

“I was very, very impressed by the quality (of applicants) and education,” she added.

In addition to being responsible for the immigration process, candidates also must contact the appropriate Canadian certification and licensing authorities for their trades and professions.  Assaly noted that some candidates whose qualifications do not meet Canadian requirements could take jobs that are below their qualification levels in order to fill needs here.

Assaly defended the use of municipal funds to cover the cost of her trip to Europe.  The trip cost $5,000 and half of it was covered by the francophone immigration network for Eastern Ontario.  The remaining half was from unused funds in the councillors’ convention budget and did not have any additional financial impact on the municipal budget.