Controversy is erupting in Quebec over whether or not the government should be increasing or decreasing the number of immigrants admitted over the next several years.
Quebec, like the rest of Canada, is facing a dramatic shortage of workers in the coming years as the majority of its working-age population (the baby-boomer generation) reaches retirement age. One of the solutions being looked at is to increase immigration levels and bring in those needed skills from other countries.
However, Quebec has its own jurisdiction over immigration, reflecting a complex relationship between the province and newcomers. While skilled labour is needed to help keep the economy growing, the only French-majority province in Canada has had to deal with increasing pressure toward protecting its unique language and culture from outside influences.
As a result, Quebec has been attracting a less-than-proportionate amount of immigrants when compared to the rest of Canada. In 2010, Quebec attracted 19 percent of the country’s total immigrants, despite accounting for 23 percent of the country’s total population.
This week, the Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec came out publicly in support of the province lowering immigration targets. The coalition argues that immigrants in the province are twice as likely to be unemployed, and are therefore not being integrated into society effectively. They recommend reducing the number of immigrants from last year’s 54,000 to 45,000 for at least the next two years.
“If new immigrants don’t (learn) the French language and integrate (into) the workplace, that will jeopardize in the long term the survival of the French language,” said coalition member Charles Sirois.
On the other hand, business groups are arguing that a policy of limited immigration will in the end, do more harm than good. Business groups such as the Conseil du patronat argue that Quebec should be doing more to attract immigrants to the province, including improving the foreign credential recognition process and increasing awareness among business groups.
Other private groups agree, pointing to the government’s own statistics which show that an increase in immigration until at least 2023 will be necessary to offset the baby-boomer retirement.
The problem with the Quebec immigration policy, say critics, seems not to be the number of applicants coming in, but rather which applicants are being selected. A recent report from the province’s auditor general found that between 2006 and 2009 only nine percent of immigrants had a skill-set which met employer demand.
Source: Montreal Gazette