Quebec to Accept 10,000 Fewer Immigrants and Refugees in 2019 than Initially Forecast
Shortly after winning Quebec’s 2018 provincial election, Premier François Legault announced that the province would be reducing its immigration targets by 24 percent in 2019. The announcement drew criticism from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the federal government, who expressed their disappointment at Legault’s decision.
Prior to the election, Quebec was expected to welcome 53,300 newcomers. Following Legault’s announcement, that number now sits at 40,000, with most of the cuts coming from qualified workers and economic immigrants, two demographics that lie under provincial control.
Family reunification numbers are being cut by 2,800 individuals, while totals for refugees and asylum seeker have been reduced by 2,450 people.
This comes on the heels of the federal government’s announcement of increased immigration rates. Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen stated that this increased immigration rate would help ensure Canada’s competitiveness in the global market.
According to Quebec’s Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Simon Jolin-Barette, though, the idea behind these cuts is to welcome fewer newcomers but do a better job helping them integrate, finding them steady work and ensuring they learn French.
This decision has been widely criticized by groups working with immigrants and refugees in Quebec. The Table de concentration des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrants described the cuts as “cruel.” Lida Ahgasi, co-president of the Table, stated that the decision is causing panic among numerous families meeting with the organization, and criticized the government’s approach as “counterproductive.”
“[We] know that successful integration can only be accomplished within the family,” stated Aghasi. “If we want to take care of newcomers, we especially have to respect and protect the integrity of their family unit.”
During the election campaign, Legault and his party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), pledged to reduce immigration, claiming that one in five immigrants to the province winds up leaving. Many saw its promises as decidedly anti-immigrant, especially as the CAQ wanted to protect Quebec identity and culture. Still, even with increased immigration in Canada, newcomers only make up about 1 percent of the country’s population.
Quebec Liberals have criticized this number as inaccurate and claim that reducing immigration is a poor idea especially during a labour shortage in the province, a belief shared by Prime Minister Trudeau
“What I hear from business people across Quebec is that companies are worried about a labour shortage,” commented Trudeau. “I’m not sure that this is the best moment to reduce the intake of newcomers.”
Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc shared similar sentiments.
“We are not surprised,” said LeBlanc to reporters in Ottawa. “We are disappointed, however, that the government, faced with a shortage of labour, has decided to reduce the number of immigrants.”
The Quebec government maintains that this reduction is a temporary situation but gave no indication when (or if) numbers would rise once more. Despite cutting immigration numbers, Quebec is still set to receive increased federal funding as part of the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration deal. This funding was intended to help facilitate the integration of immigrants within the province.
While it’s true that immigration alone cannot solve labour woes, it nonetheless remains an integral part of the labour pool, helping prevent severe labour gaps in aging populations such as Canada’s. Time will tell if Quebec will increase immigration numbers in the coming years.