December 9, 2023

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Immigrants | Does Quebec have the “necessary powers”?

Immigrants |  Does Quebec have the “necessary powers”?

The debate has been going on for months. Prime Minister Francois Legault wants all powers on immigration. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded that Quebec had “all the necessary powers.” Who is right?

Posted at 5:00 am

Suzanne Colpron

Suzanne Colpron

The answer is not easy. To fully understand, you need to know that there are two groups of immigrants: permanent residents and permanent residents.

Let’s start with the permanents. They are classified under three categories: economic migration, family reunification and refugees.

Under an agreement signed with Ottawa in 1991, the Quebec government retains 100% control over its economic migration. A person who selects people according to his own criteria, including knowledge of French. It also selects refugees abroad. It is the only province with such authority over immigration.

+ 50%

What is the proportion of economic migrants among all permanent newcomers?

The economic category represents more than half of all immigrants entering Quebec each year (between 50 and 70%). The other two categories monopolize the remaining spaces available within the annual threshold in roughly equal shares.

Infographic The Press

Three categories of permanent residents in Quebec, 1980-2020

Infographic provided by Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Francization and Integration

Economic migrants, immigrants, family reunification and refugee stakes in Quebec.

For family reunification, the federal government establishes core criteria. But the Quebec government has its say, as it determines whether the financial capacity of a person sponsoring a family member will be respected.

“In absolute terms, compared to the population of Quebec as a whole, there are still very few sponsored people in Quebec,” said Dey Diallo, senior economist at the Institut du Québec.

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In 2019, the last regular year before the health crisis, Quebec received nearly 40,000 permanent immigrants, including 10,000 from family reunification.

“From 2016 to 2020, 50% of sponsored people in Quebec said they spoke French when they arrived,” the economist said.

For the other 50%, a critical mass of people who can have such a significant impact on the future of the French language in Quebec, especially when they settle down, will these people be able to benefit from francization courses? The question arises and deserves deep and rigorous reflection.

Day Diallo is a senior economist at the Institut du Québec

Quebec sets thresholds

Photo by Édouard Plante-Fréchette, La Presse Archives

Premier of Quebec, François Legault

Quebec also determines its immigration thresholds.

The Legault government has set its reception capacity at 50,000 permanent migrants this year. The prime minister said it would be “suicidal” for French Quebec to accept more. “As long as we don’t stop the decline of the French, I think raising the immigration limit would be a little suicidal for the country of Quebec, which wants to protect the French” September 28.

In fact, the government can receive much more. According to the Canada-Quebec Agreement signed in 1991, Quebec can receive about 27% of all immigrants to Canada, corresponding to its population weight in the federation, plus a margin of 5%. This represents 116,100 people.

This year, Canada expects to welcome 431,000 immigrants to the country. Quebec’s 50,000 threshold is only 12% of this amount.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press Archives

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“Regarding immigration, Quebec already has all the tools if it wants to have more French-speaking immigrants, if it wants to accept more immigrants,” Prime Minister Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Oct. 5.

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Photo by Martin Chamberland, Archives Law Press

McGill University campus in Montreal

Now let’s talk about permanent residents. Their number has increased tremendously in the last ten years. In 2021, there were 177,000 temporary permit holders in Quebec. Who are they? Foreign students and workers.

There are three programs: international students, international mobility and temporary foreign workers.

The most important is that of foreign students. Quebec has a say in the selection of students, as anyone wishing to come and study here must obtain a Quebec acceptance certificate for studies before applying to the federal government for a study permit.

In 2021, approximately 91,000 people applied for a study permit in Quebec.

“The federal government will not issue a study permit to someone who is not enrolled in an institution designated by the Quebec Ministry of Higher Education, and Quebec will not issue a study permit to someone who does not have a certificate of acceptance,” Jean said. Pierre Corbeil is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Laval University.

The workers

Two other programs aimed at bridging labor shortages targeted workers.

The international mobility program, which is growing rapidly, is based on an agreement between the employer and the potential candidate. In 2021, it had about 62,000 people.

The other program is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Photo by Hugo-Sebastian Aubert, La Presse Archives

Temporary foreign workers in a field in Laval

In a very large number of cases, these workers obtain a Quebec acceptance certificate before applying for a permit from the federal government.

Many of these are permanent residents, international students and temporary workers applying for permanent residence in Quebec.

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Sufficient powers?

All in all, does Quebec have “all the necessary powers”?

“Maybe Quebec isn’t doing all its homework,” replied Professor Jean-Pierre Corbeil.

The Quebec government generally has very good leeway on immigration. He can do more. It is very clear in terms of its needs, very clear in terms of its expectations, for example, in terms of francization.

Jean-Pierre Corbeil is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology of Laval University

“Regarding family reunification and refugees, there may be conditions aimed at facilitating the learning of French,” adds Professor Corbeil.

Benoît Pelletier, a professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and an authority in the field of constitutional law, added, “Mr. Legault is not the time to negotiate with Ottawa.” “Relations are very strained,” he said. In my opinion, there is also a risk of tightening the contract if it has to be renegotiated. It became a principle for Ottawa. »

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