SUMMERSIDE – Nov. 4, 2015 – On the occasion of National Francophone Immigration Week, RDÉE Prince Edward Island’s LIENS project has presented its 2015 Diversity Champion Award to Edgar Arsenault of Urbainville. He is the manager of Le Chez-Nous Co-operative, which operates a bilingual community care facility for elderly people in Wellington.
“We feel Edgar Arsenault is a model employer. He has hired several newcomers to Canada and PEI in his workplace over the past few years,” says LIENS co-ordinator Catherine Rioux.
Arsenault was told a few weeks back that he would be getting the award but he doesn’t consider himself a “champion” in the area of diversity. “Here, at the Chez-Nous, we are benefitting from all the efforts that have been made in the Evangeline area over the last 15 or 20 years to make people more aware of cultural and racial diversity, including the arrival of the Masarabakiza family, the implementation of the Carrefour d’immigration rurale and the Coopérative d’intégration francophone, as well as all the other initiatives that have been undertaken to help erase prejudices,” he explains.
“For several years now, we’ve been hiring people who come from other countries or provinces and who are here for varying reasons.” Arsenault admits that at the start, some people had reservations about the hiring of immigrants. “My main concern is communication. At the Chez-Nous all our staff are bilingual, but we operate in French. When I hire someone who speaks with a different accent, I always ensure that this person will be able to understand us and that we will be able to understand that person. I check with the residents and with the other employees. And it’s funny that in some situations, the elderly residents understand the newcomers better than do our other employees,” he notes.
Arsenault is sometimes surprised to see that the seniors who live at the Chez-Nous have absolutely no problem adapting to the new people who come from other places. “Our elderly Acadians are extremely warm and welcoming and have always been that way. They’re curious so they ask a lot of questions – but that’s normal.”
In his role as manager, Arsenault is faced with the constant challenge of finding enough staff. “All the seniors’ care facilities and manors are having a hard time recruiting enough people. Here at the Chez-Nous, we always need new staff. Our work schedules aren’t for everyone. We have 12-hour shifts and our employees must put in six nights and eight days per month. When motivated candidates apply with us, regardless of where they’re from, if they’re able to communicate effectively and are interested in learning, we try them out. Most of the time, we keep them on.”
The LIENS project is the go-to partner for facilitating the hiring of newcomers. “Our PERCÉ Immigration internship program offers a partial salary reimbursement to the employer when they hire a francophone newcomer. This incentive program is funded by the province of PEI and is quite flexible and can be adjusted to specific employability needs,” explains Rioux. “We feel that it’s extremely important to help newcomers acquire their first Canadian work experience. This year, we’ve placed eight newcomers into various internships. The program therefore provides them with new skills, new knowledge and a network of contacts to help them in their search for work.”
In Wellington, the Chez-Nous has a privileged relationship with the Collège Acadie Î.-P.-É., which offers training in auxiliary nursing and which recruits students more and more on an international basis. Mexico is its most recent targeted market. One of its Mexican students, who will start her auxiliary nursing course in January, has already been working at the Chez-Nous for several weeks on a part-time basis. Others have also done the same thing. “For us, the proximity of the college is a huge advantage,” notes Arsenault.
The manager finds that employees who come from other countries are definite assets to his operation. “Every workplace is different and each person is different. But if we establish a good line of communication and a mutual respect, anything is possible,” he concludes.
CUTLINE: LIENS project coordinator Catherine Rioux presents the 2016 Diversity Champion Award to Edgar Arsenault.
(Translation of advertorial published in La Voix acadienne)