There was more pressure on Quebec immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barette Wednesday as the city of Montreal and people who work with immigrants in the city, appeared at the public National Assembly hearings for Bill 9.
They’re calling on Jolin-Barette to take a more human approach towards newcomers to the province.
If you ask Nisrin Al Yahya where she’s from, it’s a long answer.
“I was born in Kuwait. I lived there for a couple years and then I lived in Tunisia. I got married in Tunisia and then I came to Quebec.”
“I’m much more Quebecer than anything else.,” she said.
Al Yahya now helps other immigrants get settled in Montreal as a team coordinator at La Maisonnée. On Wednesday, she spoke to the committee studying Bill 9 — Quebec’s new immigration bill tabled by Jolin-Barette in early February.
Al Yahya said that focusing on labour market needs reduces immigrants to simple workers and ignores people who might thrive in Quebec, but don’t have job offers at the time of applying.
Citing her own experience as an example, she said:
“(Quebec) is the country of my dreams, not the country of my work.”
Al Yahya also told the committee that another concern she has is that matching immigrants to jobs could lead to discrimination.
“You cannot know what the employer has for an idea about a specific part of the population — or in the world, you know, we all have our own judgments,” she said.
Robert Beaudry and Rosannie Filato appeared on behalf of the City of Montreal; they said immigration contributes in a big way to the richness of culture in Montreal.
“We have to remember that there’s a human behind the file,” Filato said.
The Coaltion Avenir Québec (CAQ) government must obey an injunction to continue processing the 18,000 applications it tried to cancel. Montreal pleaded to give priority to people already living here.
“Individuals who are living through periods that are very, very insecure, very difficult, and very costly as well and to ask them to start over is not the right approach,” Filato said.
“Beyond this aspect, there’s also the aspect that it goes against the economy, and now it’s even illegal,” said Liberal MNA, Dominique Anglade.
During their presentation, Beaudry and Filato also warned the government that lowering immigration levels to 40,000 this year could lead to an even bigger labour shortage in Montreal, where there are more than 73,000 vacant jobs.
This issue has dominated debate at the National Assembly for weeks. Again on Wednesday, the government and official opposition veered into political attacks.
“One thing for sure, we are victims of the heritage of the Quebec Liberal Party,” said Jolin-Barrette.
“One thing for sure, he’s angry. In the hearings, it’s palpable,” said Sébastien Proulx, Liberal house leader, referring to tense moments Tuesday between Jolin-Barrette and the lawyers who won the injunction.
However the minister replied on Wednesday, “I don’t know where the opposition leader sees the anger.”
“I’m very zen,” he said.
Anglade said the fact that this bill has already been taken to court, should signal that something is wrong.
“We’re in front of the tribunal after not even 20 days. This is not normal. This is not normal,” she said.