New rules relating to immigration to Quebec are hindering universities in their efforts to hire highly-qualified international professors. Most notably, the French language requirement is posing a serious obstacle in attracting foreign talent, as many otherwise talented candidates do not meet this condition.
Quebec’s complicated points-based immigrant entry system puts the province’s universities at a disadvantage compared to other Canadian and American universities, say academics from Quebec’s English-language universities.
The French language requirement for permanent residency in Quebec was raised in 2013. Ghyslaine McClure, associate provost at McGill, says that her university is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit good professors for research chairs as candidates who are above 40 years of age are not very keen on taking French classes in addition to their research work duties.
In addition, the immigration process requires a lot of paperwork before a candidate can move to Quebec. « We would like a special recognition that university professors are highly specialized workers and they should not have that many obstacles. Professors and other eminent specialists are a different ball game, » says McClure.
There is some respite for professors with PhDs, however. The government modified the rules in December to award « points » to candidates holding PhDs, which might allow them to skip the French requirement.
Concordia University’s journalism professor Stanton Paddock is happy with this respite. Paddock says he panicked upon learning that he needed to learn a lot of French in order to move to Quebec back in 2013, but now he believes his PhD may help him bypass the requirement. For many professors, obtaining permanent residency is very important as several universities and institutions do not grant full tenure without it.
For candidates fluent in French, the new rules are not much of a hindrance. « Learning French was part of the reason I was excited to move here. I enjoy the language (but) I can imagine for people who don’t have that background it would be onerous, » says Emer O’Toole, a professor at Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish Studies, who had studied French before coming to Quebec.
O’Toole says that the French requirement has been made necessary because Quebec wants to protect the importance of its language. « It’s very likely (without the protections) French would lose its hold and stop being the primary language in Montreal, » she said.
Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil has said that she would be hearing recommendations to improve the province’s immigration system. She said that the government wanted to assimilate immigrants into a French-speaking workforce, but understood that the French language requirements were hurting many business groups. « Employer groups have raised the issue about language requirements, should we relax
them or not. The overall opinion (of the government) is that we need to be very careful and it’s important to have people speak French, » she said.