The chasm is widening between Ottawa and Quebec on the issue of immigration thresholds.
Brought together by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, the Minister responsible for the French Language and responsible for Canadian Relations, Jean-François Roberge, and his federal counterpart responsible for Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, held diametrically opposed speeches on the number of immigrants that Canada must welcome.
This dispute, discussed in a scrum following their conference with the President of the Chamber, Michel Leblanc, contrasted with the good agreement displayed by the two ministers on the language issue.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor did seek to deflate the balloon of 100 million people in Canada by 2100, dubbed the Initiative of the Century and advanced in 2016 by a committee formed by then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau, claiming that “it is not an official policy” of his government. She did, however, refer to the “demographic loss”, the aging of the population and the labor shortage which is having a significant impact on the economy as all elements in support of the federal desire to “increase targets” in immigration.
The desire to open the doors of Canada to 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025, more official this one because announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself, is however vehemently rejected by Quebec. “What is called the initiative of the century, for me, it is the fad of the century. That does not make any sense. The objective of something like 500,000 permanent immigrants each year in Canada does not make sense, neither for Canada nor for Quebec,” Minister Roberge launched.
“It is not reasonable to think that we are able to accommodate all these people in the short term. Right now, there are housing shortages, people are struggling to find day care places for their children, struggling to find school places. You have to do things in order,” he argued.
On the question of language and francization, Mr. Roberge and Mrs. Petitpas Taylor had however spoken with one voice before, showing a communion of thought never seen in the history of relations between Quebec and Ottawa on language issues. Ottawa’s decision to recognize for the first time that French is threatened in Quebec and not only in French-speaking communities outside Quebec is one of the main reasons for this breakthrough.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor also presented a stuffed peregrine falcon to Mr. Roberge, symbol of a species whose status has improved from threatened to vulnerable, in order to express the federal government’s recognition of the vulnerability of the French language throughout the country, including in Quebec.
Jean-François Roberge took the opportunity to appeal to the Senate to have federal Bill C-13 on official languages passed without amendment, demonstrating how the relationship has made a giant leap on the language issue.
For his part, Michel Leblanc expressed the extent to which the business community is calling for better francization programs, the return of past initiatives such as francization in commerce and business and the involvement of community groups.
“People who work hard, who have just arrived sometimes with children, families or wives or husbands who have to integrate, we have to make their lives easier. That’s really the lesson. If we blame the immigrant, we lose sight of the fact that it’s probably because our system isn’t accommodating enough for their schedule, for their reality, so it’s up to us to do the extra to make it easy.” , he pleaded.
Jean-François Roberge promised that the details of the one-stop “Francisation Québec” offer, which is scheduled to be implemented on June 1, will be announced soon by his colleague Christine Fréchette, Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration.