Cheikh Diagne thought he would have an advantage in Canada’s job market by having one of Canada’s official languages as his mother tongue.
Instead, the francophone newcomer from Senegal was disappointed few Canadian employers recognize his skills and expertise as a banker and economist, and most see him only fit for jobs in call centres and customer service.
“French is not a real official language in Canada, definitely not outside of Quebec. Although it is my first language, I face as many barriers as other newcomers to integrate and access services,” said Diagne, who immigrated to Canada with his wife and two children in 2014 under the federal skilled worker program.
“Francophone immigrants are an invisible minority within a minority. Our needs are overlooked.”
With changing global migration patterns, Canada has seen a shift in the profile of its francophone immigrants in the last decade as more and more of French-speaking newcomers today are coming from Africa and the Caribbean than from Europe — with a growing number arriving as refugees.
There are now more francophone immigrants born in Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East (almost 45 per cent) than those from Europe (37 per cent), according to the Ontario Office of Francophone Affairs, with more than half of the francophone youth in Toronto now identified as visible minorities.
While the changing demographics bring along more diversity and potential opportunities in trades, they also present new challenges due to ethnocultural differences and racism, as well as in the recognition of education and professional credentials. Francophone visible minorities have an unemployment rate twice the francophone population average in Ontario.
“The visible minority francophone immigrants certainly have more challenges in settling in Canada than the European francophone immigrants,” said Léonie Tchatat, founder of La Passerelle IDE, which offers youth programs and employment-related services for French-speaking newcomers in Toronto.