Douglas Todd: Quebec gets four times as much as B.C. to settle immigrants

A perennial but untouchable issue. Makes it difficult to have sympathy for the costs incurred by the irregular asylum seekers:

It’s one of the most lopsided distributions of federal money in memory.

Quebec gets roughly four times as many taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each of its immigrants as B.C., Ontario and several other provinces get.

What’s worse, the one-sided gap is growing bigger each year.

That’s because of a deal called the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991 to give unique immigration powers to francophone provinces, mainly to appease a surging sovereigntist movement.

As a result, Quebec this year is receiving more than $11,600 for each immigrant and refugee it takes in, with the money meant to provide settlements services such as language and job training.

B.C. receives only about $2,400 for each new immigrant or refugee. Saskatchewan gets about $2,500, Ontario receives about $2,600 and Alberta gets about $3,300.

The disparity between Quebec and the other provinces is soon going to grow even more egregious.

That’s in part because the new premier of Quebec, Francois Legault, elected last year, is carrying through on his promise to cut immigration levels to his province by 10,000 newcomers annually. That means Quebec’s immigrant intake will drop to roughly the same as that of B.C. — about 40,000 a year.

Despite Quebec chopping its immigration levels by 20 per cent, the province will continue to get more money based on the generous financial mechanisms built into the Canada-Quebec accord.

It includes an escalator clause, which dictates that Canada is obliged in most years to give more money to Quebec to settle its new permanent residents, but never less than in a previous year.

What it adds up to is that Quebec will get $559 million for 2019-20, while B.C. will get a paltry $100 million — while needing to provide services to virtually the same number of new immigrants and refugees as Quebec.

Ontario, which accepts about 130,000 immigrants a year (by far the largest of any province), will get $340 million. Alberta, which usually takes about the same number as B.C., will receive $129 million.

It is an amazing sweetheart deal for Quebec. And few Canadians realize it, since the subject is virtually taboo among politicians.

“If Quebec takes in one immigrant or 50,000 immigrants, it still gets the same amount of money under the Canada-Quebec accord,” says Stephan Reichholt, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 different settlement agencies in Quebec.

As one of Quebec’s foremost specialists on immigrants and refugees, Reichholt says the vast majority of Canadians have no idea the unbalanced funding is occurring — mainly because the federal government doesn’t want a fight with Quebec and its voters, and because it’s too embarrassed to draw attention to the huge gaps.

“It drives the feds crazy. But they can’t do anything about it. Most Canadians don’t understand the mechanism (of the accord). They don’t know what’s going on in Quebec,” said Reichhold, director general of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes.

“Meanwhile, the federal government is ashamed. It’s basically a taboo subject.”

To put it mildly, Quebec has little incentive to call attention to its golden financial immigration goose.

“I’m happy Quebec gets all the money. Eighty per cent of it normally goes into general revenue,” said Reichholt, adding an undetermined portion, which may be about to increase, is distributed to settlement agencies.

The imbalanced payments go back more than 25 years, to when Mulroney was trying to get Quebec premier Robert Bourassa to sign the Meech Lake accord, which was intended to persuade Quebec and other provinces to adopt  constitutional changes. Quebec never signed the Meech Lake deal.

Instead, it agreed to the offer made by Mulroney and then-immigration minister Barbara McDougall to give Quebec more control of its own immigration policy, even as Ottawa promised to foot the bill for the costs.

Mulroney’s deal committed Canadian taxpayers to giving Quebec a proportion of all federal spending, which would escalate when spending rises — and would never go down.  That “incredible formula,” as Reichholt called it, continues no matter how many immigrants Quebec chooses to accept.

Vancouver-based Chris Friesen, who is chair of the umbrella body overseeing all settlement services in Canada, said the Canada-Quebec immigration accord is a “lopsided” agreement that basically cannot be renegotiated.

“What we have is the new premier of Quebec being elected by calling for 10,000 fewer immigrants. Meanwhile he gets more money to settle them. Where do you sign me up (for such a deal)?” said Friesen, who chairs the national Canadian Immigrant Sector Alliance and is also settlement director for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

The federal government was meant to encourage nation building, Friesen said, by equitably distributing money to the provinces to support their immigrant and refugee settlement programs, which help newcomers learn English or French, obtain jobs and access social services. But that goal has become skewed by the one-sided accord with Quebec.

This is not the only profitable arrangement Quebec has with Ottawa on immigration. There is also the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, which attracts nine out of 10 of its millionaire applicants from Asia, mostly China. Each must inject a $1.2 million loan into Quebec’s coffers.

But only one in 10 of the well-to-do migrants who take advantage of Quebec’s investor program choose to live there. Instead, most of the roughly 5,000 migrants a year who exploit the buy-a-passport program immediately move to Metro Vancouver and Toronto.

Legault, the new premier of Quebec, was elected in part on his promise to make sure newcomers to the province better integrate. The premier will now have a chance to show that he intends to make that happen, said Reichholt, by funnelling more money from Ottawa into the province’s settlement programs for immigrants and refugees.

Since Reichholt is tasked with overseeing Quebec’s settlement programs, he expects each agency will receive double or triple the funding this year. He also expects the premier to direct some of the settlement money received through the Canada-Quebec immigration accord into public education, health care and to support temporary foreign workers and international students — something the other provinces are not allowed to do.

“Quebec’s immigration program is unique in the world” in the way the province’s politicians can almost entirely call their own shots, while being generously supported by federal tax dollars, said Reichholt.

“But that’s not necessarily fair for you in B.C.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Quebec gets four times as much as B.C. to settle immigrants

Federal government quietly offered a settlement to halt lawsuits over immigration program

No government has managed to get this right, given that demand vastly exceeds the levels, which reflect a balance between economic (which also includes family members: spouses and children), family and refugee classes.

A version of the point system for family class applicants holds the potential for greater transparency but would be extremely difficult to develop given the explicit and implicit choices that it would make, which would invariably controversial:

The federal government made a secret settlement to quash two lawsuits that claimed its contentious online application process to reunite immigrant families was flawed and unfair, CBC News has learned.

To resolve the group litigation, the government awarded at least 70 coveted spots to applicants allowing them to sponsor their parents’ or grandparents’ immigration to Canada.

Legal actions were launched in Toronto and Vancouver after the widely criticized online application process went ahead on Jan. 28 — a process which left tens of thousands of people frustrated and furious because they couldn’t access the form or fill it out fast enough.

The process opened at noon and closed less than nine minutes later.

A flurry of angry complaints erupted. Some said the sprint to file applications worked against those who couldn’t fill them out quickly, such as people with disabilities or literacy issues, or those living in places with slow internet connections.

CBC News learned of the settlement through a legal source who was not directly involved in the lawsuits.

Lawyers who were involved in the settlement of the lawsuits, which included a non-disclosure agreement, declined to provide any details to CBC. There are no public court records on the settlement.

Immigration lawyer Mary Keyork said she was unaware of the legal settlement and called it “very unfair” to those who didn’t know about the lawsuits, or couldn’t afford to join them.

20,000 spots were available

“I think they’re going to feel very disappointed and I think they’re going to feel like they were cheated somehow,” she said.

“As much as people who have means are entitled to go and get a lawyer and start procedures and fight for their rights … when it happens personally to you, it’s very painful, especially when you have people who have been trying to bring their parents here for many, many years.”

This year, the federal government offered 20,000 spots for sponsoring parents or grandparents, and confirmed that more than 100,000 had attempted to access the online form to express interest.

A government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said the government opted to settle the legal challenges because the number of applicants was relatively small, because it included plaintiffs with disabilities and because a court proceeding could have suspended the entire set of applications.

Immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman — who said he also was unaware of the settlement — said the online application process was extremely problematic and opened up multiple grounds for legal challenges.

“Obviously, what the government’s hope is … that by settling it quickly and by keeping the matter secret, other people won’t launch challenges as well,” he said. “So they’re trying to keep a cap on the number of people who will benefit from the legal challenge.”

He said he expects that once people learn about the settlement, they’ll seek similar concessions from Ottawa.

“When it’s made public, it’s basically an invitation to everybody else who didn’t get a spot to commence an action and demand the same equal treatment,” he said.

Waldman said the government ultimately must find a way to reform the program so that people are selected fairly, not arbitrarily.

Records from a federal court challenge filed in Toronto Feb. 12 by 13 applicants called the online registration process “so deeply flawed that thousands of interested parties, including the applicants … were denied a reasonable opportunity to sponsor their parents for immigration to Canada.”

‘Arbitrary, unfair, unjust’

“The online registration process in both its design and implementation was arbitrary, capricious, procedurally unfair and unjust,” the court document reads.

Dan Miller, the lawyer representing applicants seeking judicial review of the government’s process, said he could not state if their case was related to the litigation. He would not discuss the matter except to say the case has been resolved.

The parent and grandparent sponsorship program has been plagued with problems for years.

The Liberal government moved to a first-come, first-served online application system this year after scrapping a controversial lottery system for reuniting immigrant families. The lottery system was contentious, with critics claiming it essentially gambled with peoples’ lives.

The lottery process had replaced another first-in system which itself was unpopular because it led to a “mad rush” every January, with people lining up overnight at the doors of processing centres or paying placeholders to stand in line and deliver applications prepared by consultants or lawyers.

A statement from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office said the online application process was brought in to ensure fairness and to safeguard against abuse, but added the system is now under review.

“We are continually monitoring all of our programs to find ways to improve them. It is too early to speculate on potential changes to next year’s application process,” the statement reads.

“Our government remains committed to family reunification, which is why we quadrupled the intake of parent and grandparent applications to 20,000 this year from 5,000 under the Conservatives.”

Canadian citizens and permanent residents also can apply to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada for up to two years at a time with a ‘super visa’, which allows multiple entries for up to 10 years.

Under that program, applicants must show proof of private medical insurance and financial support.

Source: Federal government quietly offered a settlement to halt lawsuits over immigration program

Ottawa cuts off financing to Edmonton centre for newcomers over sexual misconduct allegation

Appropriate:

Immigration Canada has lost its trust in an Edmonton centre for francophone newcomers and is putting an early end to its financing agreement, according to a letter sent to the organization after a sexual misconduct allegation against a former director surfaced.

The government’s decision was taken due to the “inaction” of the board of the Centre d’accueil et d’établissement du nord de l’Alberta (CAE) after it was alleged Georges Bahaya engaged in sexual misconduct toward a client.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the client accused Bahaya of victimizing her in 2010.

Bahaya was fired in June 2018. The CAE told Radio-Canada that Bahaya was fired without cause, in the interest of the people who obtain services from the centre.

The organization offers support and services to French speakers who have recently moved to northern Alberta.

In a letter dated Oct. 18, David Manicom, assistant deputy minister of settlement and integration, suggested that the board failed to adequately investigate the allegations.

“The actions, the statements and the inaction of the CAE’s board have caused the ministry to lose its trust in the organization,” Manicom wrote in the letter.

CBC has obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent to CAE interim director Béda Kaji-Ngulu.

“The board’s president [Paul Dubé] publicly defended the former director [Bahaya], even though no measures were taken to verify the allegations against him,” Manicom wrote.

The CAE hadn’t responded to the multiple concerns raised by the ministry when allegations of  Bahaya’s inappropriate behaviour first surfaced last January, reads the letter.

“Consequently, the ministry is not convinced that the CAE can offer services to newcomers in an environment that is safe and secure.”

Immigration Canada will end its financing of several million dollars in March 2019, according to the letter. The exact value of the current contract isn’t known, but under a three-year deal, from 2013 to 2016, the organization received about $3.5 million.

Manicom wrote that the CAE should start winding down its operations and advise staff that their employment will come to an end.

Community wants to ‘clean house’

Members of Edmonton’s francophone community met on Tuesday to discuss how to continue offering establishment services to newcomers.

“It’s important to have a welcoming organization that is run by and for francophones,” said Marc Arnal, president of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA), a provincial body that oversees services for the francophone community.

The members of the CAE’s board must be replaced, Arnal said.

“It must be recognized that the situation was not handled the way it should have been.”

Community members hope “cleaning house” will convince Ottawa to reinstate the CAE’s financing.

But Dubé, the board’s president, has no intention of stepping down at this time.

He maintains that the board acted in good faith, and that Immigration Canada is overreacting to the situation.

“Isn’t there a disproportion between the accusations against the board and the punishment imposed?” Dubé said Wednesday at an open community meeting.

“Our intentions were those of responsible people, dedicated to their mandate.”

Source: Ottawa cuts off financing to Edmonton centre for newcomers over sexual misconduct allegation

Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

Basic level versus advanced level for professionals. Likely unrealistic to expect immigrant language training to cover the latter (just think of the mixed success of federal official language training for anglophones trying to learn French and the amount of time required).

Much better to address during selection process (as current Express Entry give weight to language):

Les programmes de francisation ne sont pas efficaces pour permettre aux immigrants de bien s’intégrer au marché du travail et à la société québécoise, déplore Nima Madani, immigrant d’origine iranienne installé au Québec depuis 2015.

En suivant les débats autour de l’accueil des nouveaux arrivants, cet ingénieur mécanique de 40 ans a l’impression, comme beaucoup d’autres immigrants, que les chefs politiques ne comprennent pas vraiment les enjeux et qu’ils proposent des solutions sans lien avec la réalité.

«Ils parlent du taux élevé d’échec aux cours de francisation, mais personne n’a comme priorité de les améliorer», souligne-t-il, se basant sur ce qu’il a vécu depuis son arrivée à Montréal.

La CAQ propose d’abord de réduire le nombre d’immigrants, tandis que le PQ veut exiger qu’ils connaissent mieux le français à leur arrivée.

«Mais on a tellement de choses à faire quand on se prépare à quitter notre pays, c’est très exigeant», témoigne Nima Madani.

«Les politiciens ne semblent pas savoir comment ça se passe pour un immigrant qui arrive. La majorité fait de gros efforts pour s’intégrer, mais on a l’impression d’être abandonnés, même en étant très motivé pour apprendre le français.»

Inquiétude

Ses observations sur les lacunes en francisation sont corroborées par plusieurs études, notamment celle du Conseil supérieur de la langue française (CSLF), publiée en février dernier, ainsi que par le dernier rapport de la Vérificatrice générale du Québec, dévoilé en novembre 2017. «L’offre de francisation de base ne permet pas aux immigrants d’atteindre un niveau de maîtrise de la langue suffisamment élevé pour réaliser une intégration socioprofessionnelle réussie», a démoncé le CSlF dans son rapport sur La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes.

De nombreux immigrants sont inquiets de ce qu’ils entendent depuis le début de la campagne électorale, renchérit Stephan Reichhold, directeur de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI).

«Ils se sentent dénigrés, alors que plusieurs font de gros efforts pour apprendre le français et que les inscriptions aux cours de francisation augmentent, dit-il. Certains se demandent s’ils devront quitter le Québec si la CAQ prend le pouvoir.»

Le test des valeurs proposé par François Legault cause aussi de l’irritation. «M. Legault ne semble pas réaliser qu’on fait déjà tout ce qu’il demande, note Nima Madani. Dans les entrevues de sélection, nous sommes interrogés sur les valeurs québécoises.»

Il rappelle aussi que la demande de certificat de sélection du Québec inclut la signature d’une Déclaration portant sur les valeurs communes de la société québécoise. «Si je n’étais pas d’accord, je ne serais pas venu au Québec», fait-il remarquer.

Les immigrants invisibles

Alors que le thème de l’accueil des immigrants occupe une place centrale dans la campagne électorale, on a peu entendu les nouveaux arrivants se prononcer eux-mêmes sur cet enjeu, alors qu’ils sont les premiers concernés.

Sollicités pour ce reportage, les représentants du Regroupement des organismes de francisation du Québec ont décliné notre demande d’entrevue, préférant «ne pas se mêler de politique», a expliqué un porte-parole.

Nima Madani veut contribuer au débat de façon constructive en témoignant de son expérience d’immigrant très motivé à apprendre le français: il a suivi plusieurs sessions de cours à Téhéran, en plus de deux séjours d’un mois à Paris dans des programmes d’immersion, pour se préparer à son arrivée au Québec.

«On m’a dit que mon français était assez bon, même si j’avais encore besoin de cours de francisation, raconte-t-il. Mais les cours ici ne sont pas efficaces, les progrès sont beaucoup trop lents pour atteindre un niveau suffisant pour travailler. Et quand on a terminé le programme de francisation, c’est très difficile de trouver des cours pour continuer de progresser.»

Trop élevé d’élèves par classe, trop peu de temps consacré à la conversation, méthodes d’enseignement archaïques et inefficaces, groupes composés d’élèves aux objectifs disparates, peu adaptés aux besoins des travailleurs qualifiés, horaires qui ne conviennent pas à tous, faibles moyens financiers des élèves… La liste des observations de M. Madani est longue!

«Je ne veux pas avoir l’air de chiâler!», dit-il, dans un français teinté d’un très léger accent, en hésitant à peine sur certains mots. «Les professeurs étaient très gentils et accueillants, mais certains n’enseignaient simplement pas bien. C’était un monologue. C’est bien que les cours soient gratuits, mais il faut surtout qu’ils soient performants.»

Autre aberration, selon lui: les enseignants donnaient à l’avance aux élèves les questions des examens du ministère de l’Immigration visant à vérifier les acquis.

Pour continuer ses progrès en français, M. Madani s’est inscrit à un cours à HEC-Montréal et a trouvé des Québécois avec qui se pratiquer.

«Dans mon réseau, dans la communauté iranienne, la plupart des gens parlent anglais, alors je ne peux pas compter sur mon entourage pour pratiquer», souligne-t-il.

Il se désole aussi de voir que l’on ne parle pas de cinéma québécois, ni de littérature ou de chanson dans les cours de francisation, mais qu’on apprend aux élèves comment se débrouiller si leur lavabo coule.

«Tout est fait en fonction de survivre et non de vivre, dit M. Madani. On ne parle jamais de ce qui est agréable dans la culture québécoise. Je n’ai jamais eu de lavabo qui coule depuis que je suis arrivé ici, ça ne me sert à rien pour entrer en contact avec les Québécois!»

***

UN GUICHET UNIQUE QUI SE FAIT ATTENDRE

Un projet de guichet unique pour faciliter l’accès aux cours de francisation, dans les cartons du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) depuis plus de 15 ans, n’a toujours pas vu le jour, malgré des années de travaux. Un contrat de plus de 200 000$ a même été accordé en 2009 pour la mise en place de ce guichet unique, visant à simplifier l’inscription aux cours, qui peuvent être offerts dans les commissions scolaires, les cégeps ou les organismes communautaires. Le ministère promet maintenant que ce service sera implanté en 2019. «Depuis août 2017, le MIDI est devenu la porte d’entrée unique pour les personnes immigrantes admissibles à l’allocation de participation et aux cours à temps complet, qu’ils soient offerts par un partenaire du MIDI ou en commission scolaire», note cependant une porte-parole du ministère, soulignant que le dernier budget prévoyait 50 millions sur cinq ans pour bonifier les services.

MAUVAISE NOTE POUR LA FRANCISATION

Les principales lacunes des cours de français destinés aux immigrants:

«La capacité de communiquer en français ne garantit pas l’intégration professionnelle et sociale, certes, mais ce facteur constitue néanmoins le premier élément d’intégration à la société québécoise.»

«L’hétérogénéité de la composition des groupes de francisation est considérée comme un frein à l’apprentissage de la langue.»

«Même s’ils reçoivent une allocation, il n’est pas rare que des immigrants qui suivent le programme de francisation soient obligés de travailler en même temps.»

Source: Conseil supérieur de la langue française, La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes, février 2018.

«La vaste majorité des participants aux cours de français du ministère n’ont pas atteint le seuil d’autonomie langagière, lequel facilite l’accès au marché du travail et permet d’entreprendre des études postsecondaires. Les personnes immigrantes qui ont commencé des cours de français offerts par le Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) en 2015 ont atteint ce seuil dans une proportion de 9,1% à l’oral et de 3,7 et 5,3% à l’écrit.»

«Le MIDI ne mesure pas le délai d’attente réel des personnes immigrantes entre leur demande d’inscription et le début d’un cours à temps complet. De plus, il ne collige pas de données sur les raisons des désistements et l’information qu’il collecte au sujet des motifs d’abandon de cours durant une session est incomplète.»

Source: Rapport du Vérificateur général du Québec sur la francisation des personnes immigrantes, novembre 2017.

Source: Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

ICYMI: Les immigrants se regroupent en banlieue comme à la ville

The changing patterns of settlement in greater Montreal:

Plus les années passent, plus les immigrants quittent Montréal pour s’établir dans les couronnes. Mais alors qu’on pourrait croire que c’est parce qu’ils s’intègrent et se fondent de plus en plus dans le paysage socioculturel québécois, le taux de concentration de ces populations demeure assez élevé, même en banlieue.

C’est ce qui ressort d’une mise en forme des données des derniers recensements de Statistique Canada, à deux semaines de la sortie des nouvelles tendances en immigration du recensement de 2016.

La théorie de l’assimilation spatiale prédit une sorte de disparition naturelle de la ségrégation, mais ce n’est pas nécessairement ce qu’on doit conclure en voyant que les immigrants s’installent en banlieue, indique René Houle, chercheur pour Statistique Canada.

« C’était le point de départ de notre étude. Avec la théorie de l’assimilation spatiale, on pouvait s’attendre à ce que les immigrants et les enfants des immigrants aient tendance à se disperser, mais ça ne marche pas comme ça », souligne-t-il.

Le chercheur, qui s’est intéressé à l’origine des immigrants et à leurs mouvements sur le territoire canadien, a mesuré l’indice de dissimilarité, soit la tendance des populations à se concentrer ou à se disperser sur le territoire. Son constat ? Les immigrants qui migrent hors de la métropole vont avoir tendance à se reconcentrer ailleurs. « Ce n’est pas parce que les immigrants vont en banlieue qu’ils se dispersent. »

Les Français, États-Uniens et Portugais seraient parmi les plus dispersés, alors que les Philippins, les Indiens et les Grecs seraient des populations plus concentrées.

Quartier homogène

Il serait toutefois hasardeux de conclure à une certaine ghettoïsation, soutient la sociologue à l’INRS-Urbanisation Annick Germain. « Dans l’image populaire, la concentration, ça renvoie à un cas de figure où il n’y a que des gens d’une même origine qui vivent dans le même voisinage. Or, ce n’est pas ce dont on parle. »

Si certains regroupements peuvent se faire en raison d’affinités linguistiques, c’était surtout au siècle dernier que les immigrants, notamment d’origine européenne, avaient tendance à s’installer dans un quartier plus homogène. Pour démontrer les réelles tendances à la co-ethnicité, il faudrait des analyses plus poussées, ajoute-t-elle.

Les immigrants, ces banlieusards

René Houle remarque que l’engouement pour la banlieue croît proportionnellement au nombre d’années passées au Québec. Même si les immigrants nouvellement arrivés s’installent d’abord à Montréal, « [la métropole] se vide pratiquement après trois générations ou plus », constate-t-il. Le prix élevé des loyers est un facteur, pas seulement pour les immigrants, d’ailleurs.

Fait intéressant : de manière encore très marquée, les immigrants s’établissent selon le fameux axe « est-ouest » du boulevard Saint-Laurent, selon leur affinité avec le français ou l’anglais. Un axe semble se prolonger de façon imaginaire dans les banlieues comme Laval et Longueuil, orientant l’installation de la même manière.

Source: Les immigrants se regroupent en banlieue comme à la ville | Le Devoir