MONTREAL — Canada’s plan to increase immigration is worrying Quebec politicians, who say the changes will reduce the province’s influence in the country and make it harder to protect the French.
Members of the provincial legislature on Wednesday approved a motion declaring that Canada’s plan — to take in 500,000 permanent immigrants annually by 2025 — is not compatible with protecting French-speaking Quebecers. The proposal also states that “it is up to Quebec alone to make its own choices” regarding immigration.
Prime Minister Francois Legault said on Tuesday that there is “no doubt” Quebec will accept a massive increase in immigration, due to the need to properly integrate, house and educate newcomers.
“We are different from the rest of North America,” he said. And it’s important to protect French in the future to make sure newcomers speak French, because there will always be a strong incentive for Quebecers to learn English. His government also opposes the lobby group’s Mission of the Century initiative to increase Canada’s population to 100 million by 2018, he said in 2018. 2100.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government’s immigration plan is needed to ease the labor shortage and generate growth. Canada welcomed 405,000 permanent immigrants in 2021 and 437,000 in 2022.
Quebec has set an annual target of about 50,000 permanent immigrants annually. And while Legault said new targets would be announced in the coming weeks, he said repeatedly that the province could not absorb more immigrants and also protect the French.
But Quebec’s stance on immigration is putting the province in a quandary: Politicians and analysts are sounding the alarm that Quebec’s influence in the federation will inevitably decline if its population does not grow at the same rate as the rest of the country.
On Wednesday, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon challenged Legault on what he would do about a new federal immigration policy that would “either accelerate the decline of the French and the housing crisis, or throw political weight in Quebec – maybe both.” »
Legault said his priority is to ensure that all immigrants to Quebec speak French and that his government will introduce legislation to that effect. “The urgency, in the short term, is to protect the French in Quebec,” he said on Tuesday, adding, “But we will continue to fight to protect the political weight of Quebecers in Canada.”
He also reiterated his longstanding demand that the federal government delegate more powers over immigration to the province, including temporary employment and family reunification.
Trudeau on Wednesday sidestepped the question of whether Quebec’s political weight might decrease as its share of Canada’s population declines.
“Everyone has the right to make whatever decisions they want within their own immigration threshold in Quebec, but we will encourage economic growth and the creation of quality jobs across the country,” he said in Ottawa. Cluster meeting.
When Legault clashed with Ottawa over immigration powers, the prime minister also faced criticism at home for the growing number of temporary immigrants not being included in the provincial targets.
The official figure for immigration to Quebec is estimated at around 50,000 people per year, but opposition parties suggest the actual number is much higher due to more people entering the province as laborers, temporary aliens, skilled workers or students.
Legault did not respond to opposition demands that the number of temporary workers be included in the province’s official immigration plans, but said his government was considering various solutions to ensure that these workers knew French.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 10, 2023.
– With files from Patrice Bergeron in Quebec and Émilie Bergeron in Ottawa.