Quebec to welcome 51K immigrants in 2017 with heavy focus on French workers

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WATCH ABOVE: Quebec's immigration targets over the next three years focus greatly on the French language as the province prepares to take in 51,000 immigrants in 2017 – Oct 27, 2016

Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced Thursday the Liberal government hopes to welcome 51,000 immigrants to the province in 2017.

Despite backlash from opposition parties, Weil stressed her plan to increase this number will only be beneficial for the province. She hopes the number of immigrants will steadily increase to 52,500 in 2019.

“I have done three consultations,” the minister said. “Nobody ever asked that we lower the number.”

READ MORE: Should economic needs trump language in new Quebec immigration law?

The government plans on having economic immigrants make up about 63 per cent of new arrivals. These are qualified workers and business people who will directly contribute to the province’s economy.

During the consultations, Weil heard from many employers and community organizations worried about a shortage of skills in certain regions and the replacement of the working-age population.

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This is something she hopes to address with economic immigrants and proper integration techniques.

“That you’re going to invest in integration, you’re going to invest in French language courses, and that you’re going to work to make sure these people find a job. They want want to see the unemployment rate drop.”

Her primary criterion is that 85 per cent of qualified workers must already have a knowledge of the French language when coming to the province. This would greatly improve the speed and efficiency of integration, she said.

READ MORE: Quebec immigration minister, NGOs brainstorm integration ideas for Syrian refugees

Quebec is also being pressured by the federal government to increase its proportion of family reunification, which could see 11,500 people reuniting with their families in the province.

Finally, the large influx of Syrian refugees was an important part of the 2016 immigration plan and Weil hopes to welcome 8,500 more refugees in 2017.

Of course, none of this would work without new help from the government – something that will be addressed by the creation of an inter-ministerial committee that will improve the coordination and efficiency of services provided to immigrants.

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Weil hopes the committee will be able to keep a higher proportion of new arrivals in the province and increase the overall retention rate.

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