[Special Feature – Part I] Working in Canada: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Ottawa, December 2012

Ottawa, December 2012

This four-part special feature casts a spotlight on the Canadian working world and its ups and downs. Comments and questions are always welcome!

In December 2011, I quit my position as a managing editor for a Crown corporation to return to freelancing.

People thought I was crazy. Quitting a well-paid permanent position in the public sector to freelance? Giving up benefits, a regular income and a pension plan? In that economy?

Surely, something was wrong with me.

Especially it wasn’t my first time saying “non, merci” to a permanent position: in August 2010, I had resigned from my job as a translator for the Liberal Bureau—again to return to freelancing.

So, am I crazy?

Well, maybe. I certainly hadn’t expected to get pregnant a couple of months after resigning from my position—the timing wasn’t great, since I was no longer eligible for maternity leave or other benefits (oh the irony—the first time ever I would have needed them!). But even with a baby in my belly, I wasn’t tempted to look for another position in the corporate world and I stuck to freelancing.

Since my first work visa in 2004, I held various positions in Ottawa and around. First, like most immigrants without work experience in Canada (and little work experience period—I was only 21!), I worked in the customer service industry as a call centre agent, a receptionist, an exam supervisor and a small business employee. Then I taught French as a second language for the Canadian federal government for three years—my first “real” job. In 2009, I returned to my initial area of expertise, translation. I worked as an English-to-French translator and editor at the Liberal Research Bureau and then as a managing editor for a Crown corporation.

And now I’m offering my services as an English-to-French translator, as well as a bilingual copywriter, copyeditor and proofreader.

Being as a freelancer is a personal choice—it works for me, that doesn’t mean I necessarily advocate it.

I like collaborating with different clients with various needs. I feel more efficient when I manage my own workload and schedule. I like to combine translation work, editing, proofreading and copywriting, and freelancing gives me that opportunity.

I sometime wonder what my career path would have been if I had stayed in France. When I left the country at the age of 18, I didn’t really have a career plan in mind. I loved (and still love!) writing, words, languages and anything artistic. I have a degree in Chinese language and civilization but I was reluctant to use it to get into international trade because business isn’t really my thing. I may have become a Chinese-to-French translator… or I may still be struggling, looking for a job—any job. The economy isn’t exactly thriving in France at the moment.

One thing is for sure, the working world in France (and generally in Western Europe) is very different from the Canadian (and North American) working world. Through the various positions I held in Canada, I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad and the ugly.

This feature will explore the ups and downs of the Canadian working world. I hope it will help prospective immigrants and newcomers to understand its good sides and any potential challenges they may face in the workplace.

Part II Working in Canada: the Good will be published on Monday, January 21. Stay tuned!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I am not sure if it is related to this particular series, or of any interest to your readers, but immigrants who settle in the Ottawa area can get in touch with Hire Immigrants Ottawa (among other services). They are mostly working with employers, but also have mentoring programs and meet-and-greets that help put qualified immigrants in touch with prospective, and legitimate, employers, and vice-versa. .

  2. Just read your interview on Expats Blog! My favourite part was when you said you didn’t consider yourself an expat – I know what you mean, and am looking forward to getting them someday with France! Not so much because I plan to stay here forever, but because it would mean I am finally fully comfortable here. That feeling is wonderful.


    • Well, you already look more French than I, fashion-wise! 😆 I do hope you will feel like you belong soon. It is an highlight in an immigrant’s life!

  3. Hi there,

    I do understand completely what you’re saying. When I was living in Spain, in Madrid, I opened my own company and it was very hard because of the taxes and their way of thinking. Now, after 7 years in Ireland, my husband (who was my partner in Spain) opened with own start-up and you know what? It’s much easier here. He is the kind of person who loves work as a freelance.

    The funny part is when we moved to here in 2006, we were 100% certain not to go creating companies anymore but here we are again.

    Now, I’m studying graphic design from scratch and I’m loving it a lot. My dream is to be able to work as a freelance as well.

    I think in Ireland, like in Canada I think, the working world is closer to USA than Europe and that’s the big difference from our home towns.

    Great post, by the way.

    Take care,

    • I can totally relate to your experience and observations! And I agree, when it comes to work, Canada is closer to the US than to Europe, although we have better work conditions overall, I think.

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