Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette reiterated Wednesday that new immigrants will be tested on their knowledge of French and Quebec values within their first three years living in the province.
He refused to provide more information on the test’s details but admitted it would mean changing the selection criteria and continuing negotiations with the federal government.
“We want to be assured that immigrants who choose Quebec can speak French, have employment at the highest of their competence and know Quebec values,” Jolin-Barrette said.
“What’s important to us is to validate their knowledge of French, to validate their knowledge of Quebec values.”
He continued to say it is not important for immigrants to immediately know how to speak French when immigrating because “we don’t want to block people who come from non-French speaking countries.”
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However, he argued it remains important for anyone who wants to apply for permanent residency to speak the language and know the province’s values.
“Each immigrant who chooses Quebec, to become Canadian, if they choose to come to Quebec, they will be able to speak French and know the values of Quebec,” Jolin-Barrette said.
“For that, we will modify the bylaw that we have with the law.”
The minister noted the expected timeline for immigrants to take and pass the French-language and values test will remain three years but the test could be taken earlier.
Those who fail the test would see their certificates revoked.
“Anyone acting in good faith will pass the French test and values test,” said Premier Francois Legault last fall.
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During the October election campaign, Legault promised leniency for the elderly or those with learning difficulties.
“But if it ever happens that someone is not acting in good faith, we will advise the federal government, as we do in the case of workers whose work permit has expired,” Legault said.
“It will be up to the federal government to decide what they will do with this person who is in Quebec illegally.”
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government also tabled its plan last December to lower the province’s immigration threshold by 20 per cent — a stark contrast to the federal government, who plan to increase immigration levels to 350,000 a year by 2021.
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“Reducing immigration levels in 2019 is a transitory step that offers us the necessary latitude to undertake efficient and personalized actions in terms of selection, French-language training and integration,” Jolin-Barrette said at the time.
The government’s target objective for 2019 is between 38,000 and 42,000 immigrants — 21,700 to 24,300 economic immigrants, 8,900 to 9,400 family reunification immigrants and 6,800 to 7,500 refugees.
Though provinces are responsible for accepting economic immigrants, it’s the federal government that controls refugees and family reunification, so Quebec’s plan would still require approval from Ottawa before being implemented.