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Does Quebec’s values test raise the same concerns as Bill 21? Experts weigh in 

Click to play video 'Quebec will test new immigrants with values test' Quebec will test new immigrants with values test
WATCH: Starting in January 2020, all newcomers will have to take a test showing they have proficient knowledge of Quebec-based values – Oct 30, 2019

While Quebec’s move to impose a values test on immigrants has prompted some criticism, experts say it likely won’t cause the same uproar as the province’s ban on religious symbols.

The values test for new immigrants to Quebec will be enforced starting Jan. 1, 2020. The government has said immigrants will be expected to obtain “an attestation of learning about democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”

READ MORE: Quebec to impose values test for new immigrants

The test is one component of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s controversial 2018 election platform on immigration. A ban on religious symbols for some workers was another promise the party made.

Stephanie Plante, executive director of the International Commission of Jurists Canada, explained to Global News that both stem from a similar idea that Quebec should have more control over who lives in the province.

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While Plante said she has concerns about the test, she noted the test doesn’t have the same life-changing ramifications as the religious symbols ban.

“It’s kind of a bureaucratic step that isn’t really going to lead to anything other than a fulfilment of a campaign promise,” she said.

Click to play video 'Quebec premier on values test for immigrants' Quebec premier on values test for immigrants
Quebec premier on values test for immigrants – Oct 30, 2019

Legal challenges not likely

Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, explained the two are also legally quite different.

“They’re basically compromising a fair bit [on the values test] to avoid it triggering the same controversy,” Mendes said.
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He explained that the ban on religious symbols, which is already being legally challenged, will likely end up in the hands of the Supreme Court of Canada. The values test, as it stands, doesn’t have the same potential.

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette shared sample questions of what may appear on the values test during a press conference Wednesday. Many of the examples provided were true-or-false questions.

READ MORE: Why federal leaders, despite criticism, aren’t taking a stronger stance on Quebec’s Bill 21

“In Quebec, women and men have the same rights, and this equality is written into law. True or False?” read one example.

Another one read: “Since the government passed Bill 21, every new police officer cannot wear a religious symbol while at work. True or false?”

Mendes explained the wording of the sample questions is key to why a legal challenge will be difficult.

“I don’t think it’s going to be challengeable because they’ll be just basically true or false questions,” he said. “If it in any way, shape or form requires people to say they approve of restrictions behind Bill 21, that could be something which could be litigated.”

In other words, Mendes said as long as the test focuses on “knowledge questions” rather than opinions or beliefs, it will be difficult to challenge.

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Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Trudeau won’t call Bill 21 discriminatory' Federal Election 2019: Trudeau won’t call Bill 21 discriminatory
Federal Election 2019: Trudeau won’t call Bill 21 discriminatory – Oct 17, 2019

How the test will work

Those seeking permanent residency will be able to take the test online, either in their home country or in Quebec. They will need to score at least 75 per cent on a 20-question, multiple-choice exam, to be completed in 90 minutes. If a prospective immigrant fails, they will be able to take it again. If they fail a second time, they will have the option to sit through a 24-hour class on Quebec values.

READ MORE: Trudeau affirms Quebec’s right to ‘test’ new immigrants but won’t comment on the ‘values’ part

Because immigration falls under federal jurisdiction, the provincial test cannot apply to immigration itself. Rather, it will apply to some immigrants who want to be considered for permanent residency in Quebec.

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Passing the test will be a requirement to obtain a Quebec Selection Certificate, which does fall under provincial jurisdiction and is needed for permanent residency in the province.

Click to play video 'Analyzing the values test for new immigrants' Analyzing the values test for new immigrants
Analyzing the values test for new immigrants – Oct 31, 2019

Concerns about the values test

While enforcing a test isn’t discriminatory itself, Amira Elghawaby of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network told Global News it raises concerns.

“Observers have said that this doesn’t really do anything, it doesn’t offer anything different than the citizenship test,” she said. “Some of the questions do feed into stereotypes about immigrants being backwards or not believing in equality between men and women.”

She added the concerns are especially heightened in light of Bill 21.

“[Bill 21] opened up a whole new area of discrimination,” she said. “What this continues is that it continues along the lines of very divisive narrative about ‘us’ and ‘them.'”
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Plante added that the values test may “discourage” educated and qualified individuals who want to come to Quebec.

“When you’re trying to integrate somewhere, there are already enough hurdles. This is just another thing and something that could discourage people,” she said.

“The idea that you have to go somewhere and you are going to be questioned on your values — whether or not it’s true or false, multiple-choice or whatever — it’s kind of an alarm bell.”