Quebec Premier François Legault has taken another step towards making good on his plan to limit economic immigration to the francophone province to only those foreign nationals who already speak French.

The premier first announced he intended to do this immediately upon opening the provincial legislature after winning re-election last year.

Then, on May 25, Legault unveiled a series of proposed changes to Quebec’s immigration system that would turn that vision of French-only economic immigration to the province into a reality.

“As premier of Quebec, my first responsibility is to defend our language and our identity,” said Legault. 

“During the past few years, the French language has been in decline in Quebec. Since 2018, our government has acted to protect our language, more so than any previous government since the adoption of Bill 101 under the Levesque government.

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“But, if we want to turn the tide, we must do more. By 2026, our goal is to have almost entirely francophone economic immigration. We have the duty, as Québécois, to speak French, to daily pass on our culture and to be proud of it.”

Under the proposed changes to Quebec’s immigration system, all adult applicants for economic immigration would have to demonstrate they can speak French.

Provincial Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette, the minister responsible for the Ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), described the proposed changes as historic.

“Never before has a government made French language competence obligatory for economic immigration applicants in Quebec,” she said. 

“The work we’ve done these last few months have allowed us to put forth important reforms to both stop the decline of the French language and to also respond effectively to the important labour market needs of our province.”

Quebec Government Seeking Public Input On Immigration Levels For 2024 To 2027

Quebec is also launching a public consultation process to determine future immigration levels for 2024 through to 2027. Through that process, the province will seek feedback from Quebeckers and organizations as to whether Quebec should restrict annual immigration to 50,000 new permanent residents or gradually increase that immigration target to 60,000 new permanent residents. 

While business groups have vociferously lobbied the province to increase immigration to as many as 90,000 new permanent residents annually to help ease Quebec’s serious labour shortages, the Legault government has repeatedly insisted it must hold the line on immigration to safeguard the French language and the Quebecois cultural identity.

The latest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data reveals Quebec welcomed 68,715 new permanent residents in 2022 and another 16,045 new permanent residents in the first three months of this year.

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That level of immigration, if it held steady for the rest of this year, would see Quebec welcome 64,180 new permanent residents by the end of this year.

Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s minister of the French language, said this week the province will be making big moves to protect the French language in the coming months.

Earlier this spring, Quebec announced the launch of its Groupe d’Action pour l’Avenir de la Langue Française and an online platform to get public input on the future of the French language. 

Roberge and Fréchette are both members of that group and are expected to soon unveil their plan to stop the decline of the French language in Quebec.

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