Some entrepreneurs who are hoping to immigrate to the province by way of the Quebec Entrepreneur Program (QEP) and the Quebec Self-Employed Program (QSP) will have to change their plans.
As of December 28 the programs are no longer available to immigrants who speak English.
In a press release announcing the decision last week, Immigration minister, Christine Fréchette called it the first step in strengthening the permanent immigration of francophones to Quebec.
“To say that this will be yet another measure that would help protect the French language in the province is greatly disappointing and frankly shocking,” said immigration lawyer Marc-Andrée Séguin.
Only 75 non-French speaking applicants per year were selected. There is no such quota for francophones.
Winston Chan –who spearheaded the entrepreneur programs in 2018– was disappointed to hear the news.
“We are just cutting off the pool of talent of entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs,” Chan said. “Now is not the time. We also have a shortage of entrepreneurs and shortage of new companies.”
Immigration experts argue the decision will only hurt Quebec.
“What we want is to make sure that Quebec is at the top,” said Christine Poulin, an immigration consultant. “We need people, we want to attract people who work with the top.”
Susan Harris, an artist from New York, was planning to move to Montreal and eventually open her own gallery.
“This summer I bought a place in Montreal and started to know some of the people in the arts and go to the galleries and to the museums,” said Harris. “Every trip made me more happy and more excited about doing this.”
But Harris received a letter in the mail last week notifying her that her application would not be processed.
“I don’t see where my application for residency as a technically non-French speaking person is jeopardizing to anybody or certainly to the French culture,” said Harris who says she has been making every effort to learn and speak French.
Immigration experts fear people like Harris will settle in other provinces and say the immigration ministry could have gone about it differently.
“They could have absolutely made the certificate of selection conditional on these applicants actually demonstrating a proficiency in French,” said Séguin. “But they could make that requirement at the end of the process rather than at the beginning.”
Premier François Legault made it clear during his speech at the opening of the 43rd session of the National Assembly that stopping the decline of French in the province is one of his top priorities.
According to Legault, Francophone immigration will be vital to achieving that goal.