Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press “By stabilizing the number of newcomers, we recognize that housing, infrastructure planning and sustainable population growth must be properly taken into account,” federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller said during his announcement on Wednesday.
Sandrine Vieira and François Carabin respectively in Quebec and Ottawa
The constant increase in the number of temporary immigrants is forcing Ottawa and Quebec to cap their immigration thresholds for the coming years. This was announced by both levels of government on Wednesday.
In addition to the record number of temporary immigrants, the “volatile” situation of French is forcing the Quebec government to limit its immigration planning to the next two years. By 2025, it chooses to maintain its “regular” thresholds at 50,000 new arrivals per year, but excludes “graduates” of the Quebec Experience Program from its calculation.
Quebec Prime Minister, François Legault, and his Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette, presented at a press conference the government plan on immigration for the period 2024-2025. Contrary to what was planned, the document, which is the result of consultations held in September at the National Assembly, does not contain targets for 2026 and 2027.
“We will, for two years, look at the impact [of our measures]. Based on these results, we will make decisions for the following years,” explained Mr. Legault. “The situation is volatile,” added Ms. Fréchette. We see the number of non-permanent residents rising again and again. »
Same approach from Ottawa, which also announced a capping of its immigration targets for 2026. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, confirmed that Canada would welcome 500,000 new residents permanent in 2026, the same target as the previous year.
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This is a first break in the upward trend in immigration targets in recent years. The Canadian government's targets announced last year included welcoming 465,000 permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
“In stabilizing the number of new arrivals, we recognize that housing, infrastructure planning and sustainable population growth must be properly considered,” Minister Miller said in his announcement.
The Canadian government is also targeting French-speaking immigration outside Quebec of 6% in 2024, 7% in 2025 and 8% in 2026 — much more modest targets than several organizations are calling for.
The status quo seemed to be taking shape for several days in Ottawa. On Tuesday, Minister Miller already affirmed that he did not “see a scenario where we would reduce [immigration] levels” and that “the watchword is a certain stabilization.”
French under the magnifying glass
For two years, and to act on the “determining” issue of the protection of French, the Legault government will maintain its “regular” targets. » permanent immigration at current levels. “It is important, for us, to stop, to reverse the decline of French, to limit ourselves to 50,000,” the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.
It is important, for us, to stop, to reverse the decline of French, to limit ourselves to 50,000
— François Legault
To this basic threshold, however, will be added around ten thousand immigrants not counted in the Quebec thresholds. In May, the Minister of Immigration proposed that immigrants from the “Quebec graduates” component of the Quebec Experience Program be excluded from the calculation of targets. She will move forward with this measure. According to the ministry's estimates, these new arrivals will number around 6,500 in 2024. A backlog of 6,600 people from the business community must also be “cleared” next year, which would bring the number of permanent immigrants to some 63,000 in 2024 .
Mr. Legault assures that the rise in the polls of the Parti Québécois – which proposes a reduction in the thresholds – does not explain his decision to maintain the basic migration target at 50,000 new arrivals. The government also had to take into account Quebec's reception capacity, said Ms. Fréchette.
As it suggested in the spring, Quebec will subject immigrants from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, with the exception of agricultural workers, to requirements in French. When renewing their work permit, they will have to demonstrate level four mastery of French, that is to say, be able to “discuss with those around them” about “familiar subjects”, specified Minister Fréchette.
This “historic advance” is only a first step, assured the elected official of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). “Around 35,000” non-permanent residents will be subject to this measure, or less than 8% of the 470,000 temporary residents recorded in Quebec in July.
The Legault government therefore wishes to convince Ottawa to require the same knowledge to immigrants from its International Mobility Program — there are 119,000 of them in Quebec.
Vague dialogue with Quebec
Minister Fréchette expected a reduction in federal immigration targets. At a press conference on Wednesday, she criticized Ottawa for not having considered “the situation prevailing in Quebec” in setting its own thresholds.
“At the political level, there has been no consultation. And, normally, the federal government must take into account Quebec's immigration targets before moving forward on its own targets,” she noted.
Questioned on this subject, Minister Miller said he had spoken twice with Ms. Fréchette about welcoming refugees, temporary foreign workers and foreign students. “Yes, I also talked about our expectations for welcoming families. […] Do I tell [the target of] 500,000 to everyone? No, that would violate the privilege of Parliament,” he defended.
“Did it live up to [Quebec’s] expectations? I can't answer it. We spoke knowing the public position of the CAQ on Canada’s targets,” he added.
Under the Canada-Quebec Agreement, Quebec sets its own immigration levels. Last spring, Christine Fréchette announced that she would study two scenarios. One of them, which would increase the target in 2027 to 60,000 immigrants, breaks with the assertion made by François Legault during the electoral campaign according to which raising the thresholds would be “a little suicidal” for the status of French in Quebec. The second scenario aims to maintain the status quo at 50,000 permanent immigrants per year.
However, for the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, the targets announced on Wednesday cannot be final.
Tuesday, Mr. Blanchet notably put forward a motion asking the government “to review its immigration targets from 2024 after consultation with Quebec, the provinces and the territories according to their reception capacity, in particular in terms of housing, health care, education, francization and transport infrastructure, all with the aim of successful immigration.”
The motion was adopted at the unanimously in the House on Wednesday, just before Minister Miller's announcement.
“[The government] voted for [the motion], so they agree with me. […] His current targets cannot be final and permanent, he said it! » exclaimed Mr. Blanchet.