The federal government’s latest Express Entry draw shows that the most talented French speakers from around the world are making a clear choice when deciding where to immigrate within Canada. It is not French speaking Quebec.
Quebec’s loss is the rest of Canada’s gain when it comes to the profile of new French speaking immigrants who settle here.
Ottawa’s Liberal government is intent on boosting francophone communities and the cream of prospective French-speaking newcomers are decidedly against the right-wing politics of Quebec’s governing Coalition Avenir Quebec.
The 7,000 French-speaking newcomers invited through Express Entry – the federal government’s flagship selection system – on February 1, brings the total issued with ITAs since targeted draws began last year to 14,700.
In issuing so many invitations to French speakers, Ottawa’s message to Quebec is: If you don’t want them, we do.
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Quebec Premier Francois Legault, the leader of the CAQ, has been adamant in saying he only wants French speaking immigrants to move to his province.
At the same time, he has stubbornly limited immigration levels to Quebec to about 50,000. This includes family and refugee immigration, meaning the economic intake is only about 32,000 for each of 2024 and 2025. When announcing these levels in November, he also revealed plans for a French test for temporary newcomers to the province.
Quebec, with 8.5 million people, comprises 23% of Canada’s population. Yet its planned immigration levels in 2024 will account for only about 10% of Ottawa’s planned intake under the economic stream.
The problem is that educated newcomers are aware of Legault’s brand of politics. They are doing their research and deciding that Quebec is not for them.
Processing challenges also persist in Quebec, with the federal government’s website estimating a 10-month processing time for Quebec Skilled Worker applications versus six for the Federal Skilled Worker Program. In reality, processing times are often much longer under Quebec’s immigration bureaucracy.
Any educated newcomer who does even a small amount of research will soon realise that the option of applying to the rest of Canada is far more advantageous than going through Quebec.
The result must be that the best French-speaking immigrants are moving elsewhere in Canada, with Quebec only picking up a small number of those who are available.
The difficulty Legault faces is that the very policies designed to attract the best and brightest French-speakers are putting off those people from considering Quebec as an option.
As long as the current status quo continues, the situation will persist.
Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller who incidentally is the MP from for the Federal riding of Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest Ile-des-Soeurs in Montreal, has said Ottawa is committed to ensuring francophone communities outside Quebec thrive. This means welcoming more French-speaking newcomers.
Legault and his CAQ government are also committed to their supposedly pro-French brand of politics, with very little support within Montreal, Quebec’s major city and where the majority of newcomers would be looking to reside.
The result will only be more of the highest calibre French-speaking immigrants moving elsewhere in Canada.
There is also an element of political game playing within the situation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would like Quebec to be welcoming more immigrants. It could increase its levels to more than 100,000 if it wanted to.
By targeting the best-educated French-speakers, the Liberals are taking a swipe at Legault and the CAQ, who they know are not about to change their policies.
The result is that Quebec businesses will continue to struggle to find the calibre of workers required to fill a chronic labour shortage where unemployment is 4.5% – the lowest in Canada.
The rest of Canada will continue to benefit from well-educated French-speaking skilled workers who are primed to slot straight into the workforce. Meanwhile, Quebec, while trying to attract the same candidates, is actually pushing them away under the policies of its one-eyed, right wing governing party.