The immigration plan of the Coalition Avenir Québec, the party leading in the polls less than five months away from the provincial election, reportedly suggests Ottawa expel newcomers who fail to properly integrate.
L’Actualité, a Montreal-based magazine, published details on Monday of what it says is the recently adopted immigration policy of the Coalition.
Under the plan, immigrants to Quebec would receive a temporary three-year permit and be tested on certain criteria such as knowledge of the French language in order to receive authorization to apply for Canadian residency.
Newcomers who repeatedly fail the tests would not receive the authorization and would be flagged at the federal level as living in Quebec without status.
Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday the plan is impracticable and that it considers immigrants as “problems that need solving.”
“It’s the opposite: they represent an extraordinary opportunity,” he said.
WATCH BELOW: French classes for immigrants: CAQ
CAQ immigration critic Nathalie Roy said her party’s proposal is aimed at ensuring that those who want to permanently reside in the province properly integrate into larger Quebec society, which she suggested is not the case for many newcomers.
She said Couillard and his party want to “hide the problem under the carpet.”
The unemployment rate for immigrants who have lived in Quebec from zero to five years is 15 per cent, Roy said.
“More than one immigrant out of four leaves the province and immigration in the (outlying) regions is low,” she added.
“The CAQ’s proposal is to make sure that the people who come to live here permanently speak French, adhere to our values and want to work.”
CAQ justice critic, Simon Jolin-Barrette went one step further Wednesday morning, defending his party’s immigration policies as a “more respectful plan for immigrants.”
He said the Liberal government has not put enough resources towards ensuring that newcomers who do not already speak French have access to quality French language classes.
“Our plan is about responsibility,” he said.
However, Couillard insisted the CAQ’s plan is not realistic.
“This is another example of the Coalition improvising policy,” he said in Montreal Tuesday.
“(Their plan) is not workable in many ways — it’s just not workable.”
On Wednesday, Liberal Immigration Minister David Heurtel said, “Before we talk about expulsion tests, (CAQ Leader François ) Legault needs to go through a credibility test.”
Heurtel said the CAQ policies raise, for him, some major questions, such as:
- What happens if a company needs an immigrant employee that fails either the values or French-language tests?
- Will the three-year temporary status deter immigrants from choosing Quebec over other provinces?
- What if the federal government refuses to expel the immigrants who do not receive authorization from Quebec?
The CAQ has also said it wants to lower the overall annual immigration to Quebec to 40,000 — 20 per cent.
WATCH BELOW: CAQ wants to cut immigration to Quebec
Heurtel said Quebec, currently living under a labour shortage, would suffer under this policy.
“There’s a worldwide competition for talent and this will hurt Quebec businesses, hurt the Quebec economy,” Heurtel said.
The CAQ will hold a policy convention in Lévis on May 26 and 27.