On November 29, David Nachfolger was invited to Brussels by the European Parliament, along with Me Robert-André Adam,to host a breakfast seminar on the role the public and private sectors can play in the recruitment and integration of immigrants. We had the opportunity to meet with him before his departure to discuss the situation in Quebec and Canada as well as Cain Lamarre’s expertise in immigration and labour law.

You’re a lawyer who specializes in immigration and labour law. Your practice focuses on global mobility and immigration and emigration for multinational corporations in Canada and abroad. What does this involve?

The Cain Lamarre immigration law team is one of the largest in Quebec. Our clients are small- and medium-sized companies that are seeking workers as well as multinational corporations that are facing global mobility challenges. We therefore help companies support their employees in the many processes they will face during temporary and permanent recruitment. Our services are very comprehensive, ranging from permanent residence applications and family sponsorship to temporary residence and work permits, as well as strategic global mobility policy planning.

How does Cain Lamarre stand out in immigration and labour law in the national arena?

I believe that our main strength lies in being able to adapt to the needs and realities of our clients. In major hubs, the demand for highly skilled foreign workers is high, while a large volume of manual labour is sought in outlying areas. In both cases, integration challenges involve many issues. With our experience in this field, we have the expertise to support our clients in these important and sometimes complex cases.

In 2018, Canada welcomed between 290,000 and 330,000 new permanent residents. Between 300,000 and 350,000 are expected in 2019. In the current job market, how can companies take advantage of this wave of newcomers?

First off, these figures need to be divided in half. These Government of Canada statistics include permanent immigrant records, which are not always linked to employment records, such as in the cases of economic and humanitarian refugees. These people aren’t an issue for Canadian companies. However, a large proportion of them apply for two- or three-year temporary residence, after which several will initiate the permanent residence process. In a labour shortage context — which doesn’t seem to be improving — companies have a strong interest in taking advantage of this large pool of potential workers.

While most employers are aware of these immigration challenges, many remain nervous about potential integration challenges. We are well aware that these are sensitive issues, for the company as much as the newcomer. To facilitate the process, we encourage employers to create company francization programs, for example, or to organize activities that foster the integration of their new colleagues, such as company breakfasts and sports activities.

From a more global perspective, we must never forget that, regardless of the context, talking about immigration can become very politicized, and it’s easy to fall into a negative rhetoric. To avoid messy conversations, it’s important to inform Canadians and permanent residents that we need these people.

How do the situations in the EU and Canada compare? How can the EU learn from Canadian practices?

Cain Lamarre is very proud to be one of the largest firms in Quebec. Our professionals speak out and are involved in public policy. We are very proud to show that Quebec companies are making a great effort to welcome immigrant workers in our communities. The European Parliament’s invitation is proof of our firm’s reputation as a national leader.

Traditionally, Canada has always been a welcoming country — a country of immigration. In Europe, they don’t have this tradition. The mentality there is more protectionist. Europe has 27 countries with strong, unique cultures — countries with distinct identities and more rigid historical and political narratives. Their immigration systems aren’t open, and they don’t have points-based programs for welcoming immigrants. When coming from elsewhere, you must either convince an employer to sponsor you or marry a permanent resident.

Let’s look at Syrian refugees in Germany as an example. All these people have entered as refugees, but many of them have talents and know-how that could benefit certain companies. If Europe had had open systems, refugees could have arrived with special statuses and indicated their intention to immigrate to Germany. Obviously, one country can’t accommodate everyone. It’s also necessary to help the countries of origin to improve their situation and nurture their permanent establishment. At the same time, limiting immigration waves is a real challenge in Europe. In Canada, the reality is quite different. Firstly, we live in a country with 35 million people on a very large territory, and we want to increase the population in our regions. Our sights are much more directed outside our borders. Here, employers ask themselves, “What can help us expand? What talents are we looking for?”

I think there is a happy medium between these two realities. Should we focus on the labour market, or do we also have a moral duty to welcome people to improve their futures? After all, we’re lucky to be Canadian, and even more so to have been born here.