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Quebec urged to redirect non-French-speaking asylum seekers to the rest of Canada

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The French Language Commissioner, Benoît Dubreuil, proposes that asylum seekers be distributed across Canada according to their knowledge of French.

Asylum seekers who arrive in Quebec knowing only English should be routed to the rest of Canada, according to the French Language Commissioner, Benoît Dubreuil.

“The increase in the non-permanent population observed in recent years is unprecedented,” wrote the independent watchdog of French in Quebec in a report of more than 100 pages tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday. “From 2016 to 2023, Quebec would have gone from 86,065 temporary immigrants to 528,034.”

This “worrying” trend in the eyes of Commissioner Dubreuil can be explained, among other things, by the growing number of asylum seekers, he noted on Wednesday at a press conference in parliament. The number of people waiting for status “has increased 20-fold since 2015.”

However, in 2021, around 40% of asylum seekers did not know French. Of this number, two-thirds spoke only English, while a third spoke neither English nor French, the report indicates.

To reverse this trend, the commissioner therefore proposes that people awaiting asylum be distributed according to their knowledge of the language of Molière. In this scenario, asylum seekers who only know English would be routed to the rest of Canada. Those who know neither French nor English would be redirected to “provinces receiving a proportion of asylum seekers lower than [their] demographic weight”. French-speaking asylum seekers could settle in Quebec.

This proposal aims to “reduce the costs of linguistic integration by taking into account the particular situation of Quebec, where French and English are in competition,” indicates the report. These costs amount to approximately two billion dollars, according to Mr. Dubreuil.

According to the commissioner, the measure would also “avoid the continued growth in Quebec of a population which does not know French and which is unlikely to adopt it predominantly” .

To go further

  • Explosion in the number of temporary immigrants to Canada
  • Do temporary immigrants speak French?
  • The proportion of asylum seekers in Quebec is not as high as the Legault government says
  • The number of asylum applications jumped in Canada in 2023

Quebec is already putting pressure on Ottawa to ensure that the rest of Canada receives more asylum seekers. In 2023, almost half of them crossed Canadian borders via Quebec. According to data from Devoir, however, a portion of these immigrants have since been redirected elsewhere. Once these movements were taken into account, Quebec had received 35% of the country's asylum seekers by the end of 2023.

Up to 13 billion in French

According to Mr. Dubreuil, “the number of people in Quebec who do not know French has increased by approximately 50% since 2011, mainly due to temporary immigration.” And the solution of francization does not solve all the problems, especially since the organization responsible for the service is not sufficient for the task.

At the end of January, Le Devoirreported that a further 60% of people registered with Francisation Québec had not taken a course since the launch of the organization in June 2023. “Ultimately, we estimate that the number of hours completed in francization, this year, would correspond to approximately 5% to 6% of [those] which would be necessary for all temporary immigrants to be able to speak French fluently,” argued Commissioner Dubreuil on Wednesday.

Furthermore, although it is “desirable” to ensure the Frenchization of all temporary immigrants, this would entail “considerable costs”. “Investments of $10.6 to $12.9 billion would be necessary for all temporary immigrants to complete intermediate-level training in French,” underlines the commissioner’s report.

Commissioner Dubreuil therefore proposes targeted measures to Frenchify immigrants at the source. “If we want French to maintain, ideally, what we need is for us to have the right composition of immigration upon arrival,” he said on Wednesday. “There, we have accumulated a liability. I think [that] it takes a strategy to reduce the liabilities that we have accumulated. »

Last year, the Legault government announced its intention to require immigrants from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to have a certain knowledge of French when renewing their work permit, after three years. The French language commissioner goes in the same direction, but even further, by suggesting that these immigrants take a test even before their first permit is approved. An exception would be granted to agricultural workers.

If we want French to maintain, ideally, what we need is to have the right immigration composition on arrival

— Benoît Dubreuil

The commissioner also recommends the opening of a channel of discussion with the “government of Canada with a view to making the issuance of the post-graduate work permit conditional on the achievement of level 7 orally and level 5 in writing. of the Quebec Scale”. Orally, a person with level 7 in French understands “the essentials of conversations, cultural productions or presentations relating to subjects of general interest or specific subjects”.

Benoît Dubreuil agrees that such measures would exert “downward pressure” on the number of non-permanent residents in Quebec. However, he is unable to quantify it. Asked on Wednesday about the commissioner's recommendations, the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, and the Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette, both affirmed that they would read the report before commenting on it.< /p>

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116