The Quebec government’s problematic proposals

July 31st, 2019

An important element of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) platform in its successful 2018 Québec electoral campaign was its promise to reduce immigration to the province by 20 per cent, from 50,000 to 40,000. 

In an attempt to fulfil this promise, the new Quebec government discarded and refunded approximately 18,000 immigration applications. Beyond the disturbing nature of this action, there is the complicating factor that Quebec’s economy is booming and in need of more workers.

The CAQ government’s ‘solution’ to this dilemma is to establish a two-tiered immigration system that prioritizes economic-class immigration to the province at the expense of other categories, namely family reunification and refugee.

In order to increase economic-class immigration from 58 to 65 per cent of all immigration to the Quebec, as the CAQ wants to do, the percentage accepted through the Family Class and Refugee Class would have to be reduced.

This resolution, such as it is, raises its own problems.

One key concern with this proposal is the possibility that wait times for those sponsored through the Family Class could double as a result, to three years, producing intolerable delays for family reunification.

It is important to recall that while Quebec indeed enjoys considerable independence with regards to its immigration system, this autonomy is subject to the over-arching jurisdiction of the federal government; this interplay finds its expression in agreements Quebec and the federal government have concluded, particularly The Canada – Québec Accord of 1991.

Section 14 of this legally binding undertaking establishes that Canada, not Quebec, has the sole responsibility for determining the selection criteria for Family Class immigrants, which Quebec must implement. (Per Section 12, Quebec indeed has sole responsibility for selecting economic immigrants, provided such immigrants are not otherwise inadmissible to Canada.)

Accordingly, it would seem that the provincial government’s proposal, which would effectively result in Quebec selecting (or more precisely de-selecting) Family Class immigrants would be in violation of both the spirit and letter of the Accord.

The absolute reduction in immigration numbers and relative reduction of the refugee amounts would also seem to contradict Sections 7 and 8 of the Accord, under which Quebec agrees to respectively pursue an immigration policy that accepts a number of immigrants proportional to Quebec’s share of the Canadian population.

Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, has voiced his willingness to increase economic immigration to Quebec, but not at the expense of the Family and Refugee classes.

However, with a federal election approaching this October and seats in vote-rich Québec hotly contested, the governing Liberals and their opponents may be less willing to challenge the Quebec government, which enjoys majority support in the province.

Nevertheless, it is essential that the issue be raised and challenged – litigated if necessary.

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