Quebec looks to fast-track permanent residency for francophone immigrants

CBC News

CBC News · Posted: Nov 09, 2022

Quebec could be accepting more immigrants — but only if they're francophones.

Premier François Legault's government, which was firmly opposed to increasing the number of immigrants, might create a new program or category that would target immigrants who are already in Quebec, Radio-Canada is reporting.

Those immigrants would be graduates from francophone CEGEP colleges and universities as well as temporary workers who have lived in the province for years.

The idea for a new program is in the pipeline and discussions are underway, Radio-Canada sources from the province and Ottawa say.

The goal would be to keep families, students and workers in Quebec by creating a faster stream toward permanent residency.

Urgency to protect French

Legault's team has become more sensitive to the urgency of protecting French, which has pushed it to study other ways of attracting and retaining French-speaking immigrants, Radio-Canada sources say. Ottawa plans to accept 500,000 new permanent residents per year by 2025.

The number of immigrants admitted to Quebec as permanent residents could increase, but nothing has been formally decided yet. Quebec's current immigrant threshold is set at 50,000.

No figures for potential new thresholds have been floated, but the Legault government could present options in the coming months to Ottawa and to Quebec actors in the immigration community.

Public consultations to define Quebec's three-year plan for immigration are scheduled for next year after being postponed due to the provincial election.

Quebec already has powers

Nothing is currently preventing Quebec from reviewing its selection criteria and choosing more French-speaking immigrants in the economic categories.

According to the Quebec-Ottawa immigration agreement, the provincial government has these powers.

But the government isn't considering making knowledge of French mandatory to immigrate to Quebec. The new Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette has already made her opposition to the idea known.

Like the Legault government, the business sector favours francization of immigrants as soon as they arrive, particularly through companies. This would allow businesses to more easily recruit highly coveted English-speaking workers in high-tech sectors.

Quebec can't ask the federal government to prioritize French-speaking candidates when issuing permanent residency. 

Creating a new program with different criteria, as Quebec is planning, could resolve this situation and make negotiations with the federal government easier, which Ottawa would view favourably, reported Radio-Canada. 

The Quebec immigration plan for 2023 is set to be submitted by mid-December. The next three-year plan, for 2024-2026, will be known in a year.