André Pratte: How to prevent Quebec’s immigration sabre rattling from turning into a full-blown separatist crisis

Worth reading and thinking about, given the massive shift towards temporary immigration, many of course who transition to permanent residency.

The vast majority of temporary residents in Quebec are international students, 85 percent in 2021, but couldn’t easily find the breakdown between French and English language institutions (where much of the controversy lies).

Still, one can question just how important temporary workers, whether IMP or TFWP, are really that important in the broader scheme of things.

And of course, any agreement should avoid the failure of the Canada-Quebec accord, which guaranteed Quebec funding for immigration and integration based on the overall percentage increase in federal integration spending, largely independent of the number of immigrants. As a result, as Canada increases the number of immigrants to the rest of Canada, the imbalance between Quebec and rest of Canada increases:

Four months before voting day in Quebec’s provincial election on Oct. 3, Premier François Legault launched his de facto campaign, using the closing speech at his party’s convention last Sunday to announce what he would like to be the central theme of the election: immigration.

Legault explained that he will be seeking a strong mandate to convince the federal government to cede its jurisdiction over immigration to the province. “It’s a question of survival for our nation,” he asserted in his speech.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the premier went so far as to say that if the provincial government did not get full jurisdiction over immigration, “in a matter of time, we could become a Louisiana.” In other words, French could practically disappear from Quebec.

The prediction, of course, is laughable. French is alive and well in Quebec, where 80 per cent of the population have French as their first language, while only two per cent of the residents of Louisiana still speak French. The premier’s apocalyptic scenario was ridiculed by most commentators. “Louisiana? Come on!” headlined La Presse’s editorial page.

But in the following days, Legault insisted that, “If no one is left speaking French at home, this means that French will eventually disappear.” His minister for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, relayed the government’s view that if nothing is done, “the situation could become similar to that of Louisiana.”

It is difficult to know how Quebecers will react to this obvious ploy to create a crisis where none exists. We do know that a majority of them are convinced that the French language is at risk; this is why support for Bill 96 is so high. But do Quebecers think that French will disappear in short order? Hopefully, most of us are confident enough in our ability to keep our distinct culture alive.

However, one thing is certain: every time there is a jurisdictional squabble between the governments of Quebec and Canada, Quebecers side with their provincial government, even more so when the conflict regards an issue as sensitive as immigration.

Reacting to Legault’s demands, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government would not cede its jurisdiction over immigration.

With both sides entrenched in their respective positions, and Legault sailing towards a sweeping victory on Oct. 3, what will the former separatist do when faced with what will be perceived as intransigence on the part of the federal government? Since this issue is now deemed to be essential to the French language’s survival in Quebec, what will his next step be if Ottawa continues to say no?

Some federalists are convinced that Legault will bring back to life the idea of Quebec’s independence. “Look at him go: he will say that he has no other choice but to hold a referendum on separation,” a prominent federalist told me.

The federalists’ fear is the separatists’ hope. “Quietly, before our eyes, a little more each day, the indestructible national question raises its head and recomposes itself,” wrote former Parti Québécois minister Joseph Facal, now a columnist at the Journal de Montréal.

For my part, I doubt that Legault is secretly planning a referendum on separation. On Thursday, he said: “I am a nationalist inside Canada.” Up until now, most Quebecers have supported the premier and his Coalition Avenir Québec government because they offered nationalist policies without the risk of separation. Would they follow him if he went as far as to propose Quebec’s sovereignty? I doubt it.

Nevertheless, the threat of separatism is back. What can Canada do to defuse the menace while not caving in to Quebec’s demands? It’s quite simple, really. Instead of shutting the door on negotiations with Legault, Trudeau should say that he is open to discussing amendments to the 1991 Quebec-Ottawa agreement on immigration.

That agreement gave Quebec the power to choose about 70 per cent of the immigrants coming into the province — mostly economic immigrants. Armed with this new power, Quebec has been able to choose a majority of newcomers who already speak French or are more susceptible to learning it.

The problem is that the number of immigrants still selected according to federal criteria — e.g., temporary workers and foreign students — has been increasing steadily in recent years. Most of those people do not speak French. This is what is perceived as a threat to Quebec’s culture — not the fact that they are immigrants, but the fact that, when they become permanent residents, they will grow the ranks of the English-speaking minority.

In other words, since the agreement was signed 31 years ago, the composition of immigration to Quebec has changed. The agreement is in need of an update to reflect the new reality, while continuing to affirm the federal government’s jurisdiction over the parts of the immigration system that are crucial for the protection of Canada’s interests and security.

If both parties were of good faith, a new deal could be reached in a matter of months, and there would be no need for grandstanding. In the current circumstances, however, this is a big “if.”

Source: André Pratte: How to prevent Quebec’s immigration sabre rattling from turning into a full-blown separatist crisis

Douglas Todd: Quebec to get 10 times more than B.C. and Ontario to settle immigrants

Almost an annual event, criticism of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord’s unbalanced funding arrangement, one that becomes more unbalanced as immigration to the rest of Canada continues to outstrip immigration to Quebec:

Quebec will be handed roughly 10 times more taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each one of its immigrants than B.C., Ontario, Alberta and the other provinces.

The pandemic is further distorting an already lopsided and increasingly bizarre three-decade-old accord with Ottawa that this year will provide Quebec with roughly $20,000 to support each new permanent resident to the province.

Meanwhile, each new permanent resident set to move to B.C. will be allocated only about $1,800 in settlement services, which include language training, assistance with housing and job counselling.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada settlement allocations show, in addition, that Ontario will be handed about $2,000 this year to support each of its new immigrants.

“If I were the other provinces, I would be really, really angry about it,” says Stephan Reichhold, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 settlement agencies in Quebec.

“The other provinces can complain. They can make public statements that it’s not fair,” Reichhold said, explaining that the ever-widening transfer disparity is rooted in a funding formula embedded in the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration accord.

The upshot of the accord is that Quebec, despite reducing its immigration levels two years ago, will nevertheless be handed a whopping $650 million to help settle the 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents it expects in 2021.

Meanwhile, the settlement allocations show all the other provinces and territories combined are this year scheduled to receive $741 million to help integrate about 370,000 new permanent residents, based on Ottawa’s target, which is a record 401,000 immigrants for 2021.

B.C. is set to receive only about $109 million, even while it is projected to take in more than 65,000 new permanent residents, about twice as many as Quebec.

Ontario, which normally takes in 45 per cent of all immigrants to Canada, will be transferred just $372 million, far less than Quebec.

It all adds up to mean, said Reichhold, that Quebec, which accepts only one-tenth of the country’s new immigrants, will receive almost as much transfer money as the other nine provinces and three territories combined.

Vancouver-based Chris Friesen, chair of a national umbrella association that represents immigrant serving agencies across the country, said the gross imbalance in immigrant-support payments is yet another reason he and others are calling for a national dialogue, possibly a royal commission, into the country’s immigration policies.

Friesen, who is also director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. that supports refugees, said the Quebec-Canada formula constantly escalates the proportion of transfer funds going to Quebec. As a result the province will actually receive $58 million more to settle permanent residents this year than last year — despite taking in fewer  immigrants than it did in 2019 and 2020.

Even though the provinces have a moral right to protest their poor treatment, Quebec’s Reichhold doubted it would do much good.

That’s because the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991, gave unique immigration powers and generous transfer payments to the province, mainly to appease a then-surging sovereigntist movement. The other provinces do not have anywhere near the same level of influence over immigration, which is constitutionally in the hands of Ottawa.

Quebec, because of the accord, has long raked in more money per immigrant from Ottawa than the other provinces. In 2019, Quebec received about $11,000 for each of the roughly 40,000 permanent residents it accepted. That compared to about $2,400 each for immigrants to B.C. and Ontario.

This year, because of both COVID-19 border restrictions and Premier Francois Legault’s campaign promise to further reduce immigration levels, the money gap continues to grow wider than ever. Quebec expects only about 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents in the province this year, said Reichhold, who noted that Legault’s government announced Wednesday it is considering upping its target to 50,000 in 2022.

Despite the unfairness of the transfer system, Reichhold said Quebec can always use the federal money. And he was pleased to see that Legault is directing two to three times more of Ottawa’s funding into immigration services than the previous Liberal premier, Philippe Couillard, who mostly shovelled it into general revenue.

“Legault has really raised the amount that goes into language training and other resources,” said Reichhold. Asked if he thought other provinces should get as much money per capita as Quebec for settlement services, Reichhold laughed and said, “Can you imagine the amount? It would cost three to four billion dollars.”

Quebec’s immigration program is unique in the world in the way it gives so much control to a regional jurisdiction, Reichhold said.

Quebec also has its own distinct immigrant-investor program, which had for years been bringing in about 4,000 rich newcomers from around the world, mostly Asia. Nine out of 10 don’t stay in Quebec, but instead move to Toronto or Vancouver. Reichold said the program, which critics call a “cash-for-passport scheme,” is not taking new applicants, as it deals with a backlog.

The media outside Quebec don’t often look at how the immigration system works, or its dramatic anomalies, because most English-language journalists show little interest in francophone Quebec, said Reichhold. For that matter, he said, most Quebeckers don’t understand immigration policy either.

The public’s overall ignorance is one of the reasons Friesen, along with Jean McRae of Victoria, B.C., and Victoria Esses of London, Ont., are calling for a national inquiry into Canada’s convoluted immigration policies, which are produced closed doors. That includes Ottawa’s announcement in October that its objective is to admit over 1.2 million new permanent residents between 2021 and 2023, the most ever.

Although a recent poll found Canadians are among the most welcoming people in the world to immigrants, Friesen, MacRae and Esses said the public’s “lack of control and generalized uncertainty can easily stoke anti-immigrant and anti-immigration sentiments. Involving Canadians in an informed consideration of how Canada’s  future immigration programs and policies should be structured will work to dampen these effects.”

It may be possible to forgive Canadians for not comprehending what’s actually going on in Quebec or elsewhere in regard to immigration policy. Still, it would be prudent to avoid being naive.

Source: https://vancouversun.com/business/douglas-todd-quebec-to-get-10-times-more-than-b-c-and-ontario-to-settle-immigrants