The Quebec government is bolstering its budget by $70.3 million to help newcomers learn French and integrate into the province.
Immigration, Inclusion and Diversity Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette unveiled measures in Montreal on Friday to help immigrants have better access to French classes. He says the plan will help them join the workplace and Quebec society.
“Your government is showing beyond any doubt its determination and its desire to reform the immigration system,” Jolin-Barrette said during a news conference. “The government of Quebec is very serious in its approach … the knowledge of French by immigrants ensures the success of all of society.”
Previously, only newcomers who had been in Quebec for less than five years were eligible to take language classes. That measure was insufficient, according to Jolin-Barrette.
Under the new plan, full-time courses will now be offered to more immigrants. All immigrants will be able to partake in the courses regardless of how long they have lived in the province.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government is also boosting financial assistance for immigrants registered in full-time French classes. As of July 1, the benefit is $185 per week, up from $141.
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The move comes as Quebec is in the midst of significant reform regarding its approach to newcomers. In June, the CAQ’s controversial immigration bill was passed into law, which gives the province more authority over who receives permanent residency.
Under Bill 9, there is also a contentious clause that allows the government to cancel roughly 18,000 immigration applications — some from people who have waited in limbo for years as their files languished under the old system, meaning those applicants will have to start the process over again.
The province also launched a new system called Arrima last month in a bid to speed up processing immigration applications and promote immigration to Quebec’s regions. It was originally introduced by the Liberals last August.
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Denis Hamel, vice president with the Conseil du patronat du Québec, praised the move from the province.
“Knowing French is better access to the labour market as a better integration into the community,” he said.
Anait Aleksanian, executive director of an immigrant resource centre in Montreal offering French-language classes, said she is “rejoicing” at the news.
“They have put in place all the conditions for immigrants to learn French,” she said in an interview. “I don’t really know what else they could do.”
—With files from Global News’ Brittany Henriques and the Canadian Press