QUEBEC CITY – The Montreal Chamber of Commerce said the government should consider economic needs over language requirements when it comes to the province’s decades-old immigration laws.
An adequate command of French is essential for anyone moving to Quebec, but some think it shouldn’t necessarily be the top priority when it comes to screening immigrants.
“It has to be weighed against other criteria, like of course, the ability to find a job,” said Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Montreal Board of Trade.
The government wants immigration to support economic development.
Minister Kathleen Weil said Quebec’s immigration laws, now under reform with Bill 77, need to address unemployment among landed immigrants because it’s almost double in Montreal compared to Toronto and Vancouver.
“A lot of people call it a mismatch: the skills that we have and the skills that we need,” she said.
The Montreal Board of Trade wants an applicant’s command of French, as well as English, to be taken into account.
“That could be offset by the level of expertise, the field of expertise and then that person would be interesting for Quebec,” Leblanc explained.
Leblanc thinks employability should be a greater consideration than language, adding the province could do more to help immigrants learn French once they’ve arrived.
Representatives from the City of Montreal agreed.
“We collaborate with different programs to that effect,” said Lionel Perez.
“It’s important to ensure that individuals in francophone cities, like Montreal, do in fact learn French.”
However, some in opposition are still sceptical the new legislation will fix the unemployment problem.