Speaking the same language again

Employers glad feds revived francophone program


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An immigration program killed by the Conservatives, then brought back to life by the Liberal government, is good for business and the calibre of croissants in Manitoba, says employer Larissa Webster.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/06/2016 (2311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

An immigration program killed by the Conservatives, then brought back to life by the Liberal government, is good for business and the calibre of croissants in Manitoba, says employer Larissa Webster.

The program allowed employers to bring in French-speaking temporary foreign workers, such as pastry chef Emmanuel Battaglia from France.

“His croissants are the best in the city,” said Webster, who owns FrenchWay Café and Bakery and hired Battaglia. The baker arrived in Canada through a program that allowed employers to hire skilled francophones from abroad who want to work in French-speaking communities outside Quebec without having to go through a costly labour market impact assessment. It made it easier for employers to hire them and put the foreign workers on a path to immigration. That program was abruptly cancelled in the fall of 2014 but brought back by the new government Wednesday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FrenchWay Café and Bakery pastry chef Emmanuel Battaglia with the café’s owner, Larissa Webster.

“I’m glad the program is back,” said Webster. It allowed her to hire a pastry chef with skills and experience that have raised the bar for baked goods in the city, she said. “He’s learned from a lot of great pastry chefs,” said Webster. “It is ‘old-school,’ and he wants to pass it on,” she said. “Am I going to find that calibre here in Winnipeg? I don’t think so.”

Battaglia said his day starts as early as 2 a.m. and is a far cry from cooking shows on TV. “It’s tough. It’s hard work,” said Battaglia, whose father was a pastry chef in France. When he skipped school at age eight because he wanted to bake with his dad, his father had him haul 50 kilograms of flour and make his first big batch of bread. The point of the lesson was to stay in school, but what Battaglia said he got out of it was perseverance. “Do what you do best and never give up,” he said.

The pastry chef said he was fed up with the economy and politics in France. “I was mad at my country, and I wanted to travel somewhere I can speak English.” He jumped at the chance to work in Canada.

“You are free to do whatever here,” said Battaglia, adding he feels at home in Winnipeg with his wife and four-year-old son, who joined him. He arrived in Canada through the francophone temporary foreign worker program, which is now called Mobilité Francophone, cutting through red tape and expense for employers and giving people working in Canada enough time to acquire work experience that helps them qualify for permanent residence.

“The majority of them, after working for six months, want to stay and start the immigration process through the Provincial Nominee Program,” said Brigitte Léger, immigration co-ordinator for World Trade Centre Winnipeg.

The trade centre that provides support to Manitoba companies looking to grow their business had helped to arrange 30 to 35 permits a year for the francophone workers in Winnipeg — from chocolatiers from Belgium to bakers from France, said Léger. “They’re the kind of immigrants we want,” she said. “Once they decide to stay, they’re already established and have homes and friends,” she said. “They don’t need any kind of special services.” They often bring spouses and children, she said.

When the federal government killed the program in 2014, they were “flabbergasted,” Léger said. It didn’t cost the government anything other than administrative expenses, she said.

It allowed Battaglia to get established in a place that feels like home.

“You can’t choose where you were born, but you can choose where you live,” he said.


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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