January 18, 2017 – A key figure in one of Scotland’s opposition parties has called for the northern UK country to be given similar immigration powers to the Province of Quebec in Canada.
Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, says the country can protect itself from the UK’s exit from the European Union by handling its own immigration system.
Quebec has enjoyed the freedom to manage its won immigration policies and select who it brings in since first signing a 1978 agreement with the Canadian federal government. The 1991 Quebec Accord has become the model agreement for all the provinces to subsequently negotiate their own agreements with Ottawa on shared immigration authority.
The powers enjoyed by the French-speaking province are controversial given that the remaining nine Canadian provinces do not have the same exclusive freedoms enjoyed by Quebec.
As the UK prepares to begin negotiations on what is being dubbed a ‘hard Brexit’, Scotland wants to protect itself from the potential risks involved with leaving the single market.
One of the key reasons Britain voted to leave the EU is to take back control of its borders, which are currently open to the whole bloc under freedom of movement rules.
Dugdale said: “We need to seriously consider the case for decisions about immigration being taken at a more local level, along the lines of the model that is in place in Canada. This would allow different parts of the United Kingdom to have an immigration policy that meets their particular needs.”
She said the Scottish Labour Party was planning to consult officials in Canada and Quebec as it tries to flesh out how the policy could work in Scotland.
As recently as July 2016, Canada’s provincial premiers combined to call for all of them to be given the same immigration powers as Quebec.
Control over immigration is a contentious issue between the provincial and territorial governments and federal-level politicians.
Quebec has used its policy-setting power to promote its own skilled worker program and to continue the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP), a source of controversy in Ontario and British Columbia as many of the candidates granted residency end up settling in Toronto and Vancouver.
A statement released at the Council of the Federation talks in Whitehorse, Yukon, which took place in July, said: “Immigration is a key economic driver and an integral part of the fabric of Canadian society.
“This is a shared responsibility and provinces and territories are well placed to define and shape Canada’s immigration system in partnership with the federal government.
“Provinces and territories understand best how the needs of their economies and labour markets can be addressed through immigration.
“Premiers call on the federal government for an increase in overall economic immigration levels including raising the caps on the provincial and territorial nominee programs in order to enable jurisdictions to respond to local labour market needs.”
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