On September 2, 2022, Joe El Ghazouli applied for permanent residence in Canada. Everywhere, except in Quebec. In December, three months later, he was admitted. And on February 9, he landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“It went very quickly,” says the 35-year-old Moroccan, who speaks French and English, was educated in France and has experience in the construction industry.
As Quebec tries to attract French-speaking immigrants to counter the decline of French, the number of new French-speaking permanent residents settling in other Canadian provinces, such as Joe El Ghazouli, is increasing.
In Nova Scotia, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it rose from 180 in 2021 to 795 in 2022. In Ontario, from 3905 in 2021 to 9760 in 2022. The increase is even more marked in New Brunswick: 790 in 2021, up from 2,315 in 2022.
Most applications made under the federal Express Entry program are processed in less than six months. In Quebec ? “To have permanent residence, it can easily take two years,” answers Me Gabrielle Thiboutot, specializing in immigration.
The federal government has indeed set itself very ambitious immigration targets with 500,000 newcomers per year by 2025. It is also committed to increasing the proportion of French-speaking immigrants in provinces where French is a minority.
For its part, Quebec, which aims to admit 52,500 immigrants in 2023, has tightened the admission criteria for the Quebec Experience Program to limit the flow.
“For people looking to build a future, applying for permanent residence in Quebec is more expensive and slower than in other provinces,” says Benjamin Brunot, an immigration lawyer. “There is a cost of about $1000 more just in administrative costs. »
“In Quebec, the message is to restrict,” adds Brunot. In general, immigrants feel that they are not wanted. It is also economic discrimination. You have a better chance if you pay for the services of a professional who will help you navigate through it all. But overall, the message is: we’re going to make your life as hard as possible. »
Both in Quebec and at the federal level, the selection system for economic immigrants is based on competition. To apply for permanent residency, a skilled worker must create a profile, choose a program, and meet the eligibility criteria: language skills, education, age, work experience, income, job offer, etc.
His skills give him points. If the total points are deemed sufficient, his application is placed in a pool of candidates for immigration. He could receive an invitation to apply for permanent residency, depending on his score and ranking in the pool.
In Quebec, the platform used to manage applications is called Arrima. Federally, it’s Express Entry.
Francophones have two advantages in applying outside Quebec. The first: the federal government grants 50 additional points to those who master French, valuable points that can make the difference between acceptance and refusal. The only condition: they must commit to settling outside Quebec.
The second is that they skip a long, expensive and risky step, obtaining the Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). “At the moment, to obtain the CSQ, we are about six months away from processing, once the person has been chosen to submit his application”, specifies Me Thiboutot.
Koko Avoyi, 35, and his 32-year-old wife, from Togo, have chosen to settle outside Quebec. Parents of two little girls aged 4 and 5, they speak French and hold a master’s degree in management, accounting-control-audit, in addition to nine years of experience.
“We applied for the Quebec selection program, but they didn’t select me,” says Koko Avoyi, who had also filled out an Express Entry application.
He and his wife received a federal invitation in September 2022. They were granted permanent residency and moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT) on March 10. Koko Avoyi found a job in French in her field. His wife takes care of the youngest while waiting to find her a place in daycare. And the eldest is in school.
The NWT has 11 official languages, including French. Out of a population of 40,000 inhabitants, 4,395 people can speak French, or 11%.
French, Lisa Boisneault, 29, also chose to settle in the NWT to apply for permanent residence, obtained last summer, after two years in New Brunswick.
Lisa adds that the NWT Provincial Nominee Program has a French component. “It makes the journey easier for a candidate who speaks French,” she notes. We have a lot of vacancies and a well-established francophone community. »
Hajer Ben Ajroudi, 44, chose Vancouver instead.
Originally from Tunisia, she came to Canada in September 2022, on a visitor’s visa, to see her twin sister who has lived in Ottawa for three years. Once there, she decided to create her Express Entry profile and respond to a job offer in French in Vancouver.
“I arrived in British Columbia in December,” she said. And since I was already registered in Express Entry and had a profile, I made an expression of interest to British Columbia. On April 26, Hajer received an invitation to apply for permanent residency.
Why not Montreal? “Yes, it could have been my choice, without hesitation, admits the Tunisian. Montreal is a city that I love, that I know. If I had had an interesting opportunity, I would have accepted. »
Hajer notices that in recent years, more and more Tunisians are going to New Brunswick and Manitoba rather than Quebec.
Cédrelle Eymard-Duvernay would also have liked to live in Quebec, where she spent two years, from 2016 to 2018.
“I could have applied for a study permit or found another solution to stay, but it was more expensive and more complicated,” explains the 38-year-old Frenchwoman. “So I went back to France with the idea of coming back to Canada to settle down. »
She went back to school and did a master’s degree in teaching French as a second language at the University of Tours. She was supposed to go to Moncton, New Brunswick in March 2020 on a temporary work permit, but COVID-19 hit. She had to postpone her arrival to the spring of 2022.
After a year of full-time employment, she has just received her invitation for permanent residence. “I will be able to file all my documents next week,” she said. This is the last step. It’s four to six months, normally. »
She adds, “I don’t regret my decision. It’s money, sacrifices, there are obviously a lot of bad experiences, but at the end of the day, it’s permanent residence in Canada and it’s a quality of life that will be much higher here, what I could have had in France. »
Applying for permanent residence is not free. Here are the main fees charged by Quebec and Ottawa.
Amount required by Ottawa, per adult, to process the application for permanent residence, which includes the right of permanent residence fee ($515). An amount of $230 is added per dependent child under age 22.
Amount that the candidate must pay to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), under the Regular Skilled Worker Program. An additional amount of $186 is required for the spouse and for each of the dependent children. Amount payable only for applicants wishing to settle in Quebec
Approximate cost of the French level test which can give points for the application for permanent residence.
Approximate cost of the test to assess English, reading, listening and writing skills.
Average cost of mandatory medical examination for immigration purposes.
Fees charged for biometric data collection services. The family rate is $170.
Quebec risks having a strong competitor in its efforts to recruit French-speaking immigrants because the federal government has decided to use drastic measures to attract them to other provinces and territories.
Ottawa is relying heavily on Francophone immigration to counter the erosion of the demographic weight of Francophones in a minority situation, that is to say outside Quebec. It is even the first pillar of its Action Plan for Official Languages 2023-2028, tabled on April 26.
“To provide elements of a solution, the Action Plan suggests the adoption of a new Francophone Immigration Policy. This new policy will help guide future actions, [including] enhanced recruitment promotion and support efforts both in Canada and abroad coupled with more robust immigrant selection mechanisms,” he said. we.
Canada has reached its target of 4.4% French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec, with 16,300 people, for the first time in 2022. But more will be needed to counter the erosion. In 20 years, the proportion of Francophones outside Quebec has fallen from 4.4% to 3.3%, according to Statistics Canada.
To restore the demographic weight of the Francophonie to 4.4%, the target for Francophone immigration outside Quebec should increase from 12% in 2024 to 20% in 2036, according to the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada.
“We suggest a progressive target, specifies the president of the organization, Liane Roy. We start at 12% to reach 20% in 2036.”
Of this total, a budget of $18.5 million will be allocated to increased promotion and recruitment efforts, $50 million will go to supporting the settlement and integration of immigrants and to strengthening the reception capacities of Francophone communities, and $25 million for a new Francophone Immigration Innovation Center that will support these communities, among other things.
This recruitment and reception policy comes at a time when Quebec tends to turn off the tap. “Which means that Quebec will find itself with a major competitor for Francophone immigration, because we have one more step, with the Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ),” says Gabrielle Thiboutot, a lawyer specializing in immigration.
To this can be added another phenomenon: word of mouth.
This was obviously the case of Roxham Road, known from Venezuela to Pakistan. But also other sectors, such as colleges which have attracted an Indian clientele. The message that French-speaking candidates are welcome in Canada will quickly be heard in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The challenge will be to convince these candidates that the other Canadian provinces will be an attractive living environment, knowing that their natural base would rather have been Quebec.
The Algerian Tayeb Oussedik is one of the convinced. He chose Manitoba over Quebec for its bilingualism. In Winnipeg for a little over two years, he is the assistant director of Accueil francophone, an organization that facilitates the settlement of Francophone and allophone immigrants in Manitoba.
“My wife and I are basically globetrotters,” he explains. We did around thirty countries before deciding to settle somewhere. Weighing the pros and cons, we felt that, perhaps, for our children, Canada would be the best option, for its education system, its bilingualism. That explains why we did not choose Quebec. »
Why Manitoba? “In Manitoba, there’s this connection to nature that I haven’t seen anywhere else,” he says. Beyond that, it is also for the opportunities that the province could offer from the point of view of employability. I arrived in Winnipeg. After a month, I found a job. After three months, I was promoted. After two years, I had a position that I never thought I would have in another province. The Reception and Settlement Service was a great help to me. »
Number of people in Manitoba who have knowledge of French, up slightly from 108,000 in 2016