Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil has announced that the province is preparing to re-examine its immigration policy, which has been in place for the past 25 years and is due for a major reform.
Weil has said that the system needs to change in the way it selects, welcomes and integrates immigrants in the labor market. Under discussion will be the existing relationship between newcomers and Quebec’s society, the selection process, importance of value systems, regionalization, French language requirements, preferred countries of origin, and recognizing foreign educational and training qualifications.
In the next few weeks there will be public consultation hearings where about 50 stakeholders will participate. The debate on these issues will eventually shape Quebec’s new immigration policy. Weil said she expected a wide-reaching debate and was “very open to everything that will be proposed.”
In addition, another consultation is expected to be held later this year to address two important aspects of immigration – the maximum number of immigrants to be permitted into Quebec every year, and the preferred countries of origin. At present, Quebec receives between 50,000 and 55,000 immigrants per year, mostly from African nations. Figures from 2009-2013 reveal that one of every five immigrants to Quebec belonged to Morocco or Algeria.
Quebec’s new model may be inspired by Ottawa, focusing more on the need to match skilled immigrants with jobs available. Ottawa changed its immigration process last year for attracting new immigrants by focusing mainly on filling jobs, and thereby requiring applicants to produce a “declaration of interest” in migrating to Canada along with proof of skills that matches employers’ requirements.
Weil has said that the search for suitable candidates will have to be “more competitive” than in the past. The consultations will include employers from different sectors in the province defining their workforce requirements and providing “profiles” of suitable workers. Moreover professional associations will be urged to recognize foreign educational qualifications.
Unemployment among immigrants in Quebec has been on the rise, a factor that will also play a role in the immigration reform. The year 2013 saw an unemployment rate of 11.6% for new immigrants in Quebec, about 4% higher than unemployment among the general population. The gap existed even though most of the newcomers were well educated, with statistics showing that 57% had at least 14 years of schooling.
Quebec’s new immigration policy and action plan will be produced following extensive consultations. Weil will be presenting a bill proposing to modernize the existing immigration law. Weil has claimed that the new bill would be “the last piece of this large reform”.
Language requirements is another topic that will need a re-examination by the provincial government, who will need to decide on the desired level of knowledge a candidate must have in the French language. Current statistics reveal that 43% of the immigrants arriving in Quebec do not know a word of French when they arrive. Weil believes that newcomers should have adequate knowledge of French required to work and integrate in Quebec’s society.