CAQ wants to let fewer immigrants into Quebec

The right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec says it would reduce the province's immigration threshold by 20 per cent, from 50,000 to 40,000 people per year. "We have a real problem," says François Legault.

'We have to open our eyes. We have a real problem,' François Legault says

CAQ Leader François Legault is expected to announce his party's newest idea Tuesday, the last day of caucus meetings ahead of the fall parliamentary session. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Coalition Avenir Québec wants to decrease the number of immigrants allowed into Quebec.

The right-leaning party says it would reduce the province's immigration threshold by 20 per cent, from 50,000 to 40,000 people per year.

Leader François Legault announced his party's newest idea in Saint-Jérôme Tuesday, the last day of caucus meetings ahead of the fall parliamentary session.

He said thousands of immigrants haven't mastered French and haven't entered the job market.

"We have to open our eyes. We have a real problem," he said.

When asked whether current immigration policies threaten Quebec identity, Legault said that he can "objectively" see that certain people who live in the province "don't adhere to a fundamental value, equality between men and women."

However, Legault said he still believes the majority of Quebecers believe in that equality. 

"But we have to be careful, we have to ask questions, like the ones they're asking in Europe," he said.

In April, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said the provincial government is planning to keep the threshold at 50,000 people for 2017.

Why a 20 per cent decrease?

In an interview with Radio-Canada, immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield questioned the reason for a 20 per cent decrease. 

"Why not 45,000, why not 30,000, why not 35,000?" he said.

During the announcement, Legault repeatedly mentioned the need to protect the French language.

Dominique Anglade left the CAQ and joined the Liberals over identity and immigration policies. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec has a special agreement with the Canadian government when it comes to immigration — skilled workers must obtain what is called a selection certificate from the Quebec government before applying for permanent residency.

Handfield said while he is all for protecting the French language, he pointed out skilled workers who want to immigrate to Quebec must demonstrate they can speak French in order to obtain that certificate.

Quebec's Trump?

Both Premier Philippe Couillard and Québec Solidaire MNA Françoise David have recently compared Legault to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In March, Couillard accused Legault of "fanning the flames of intolerance" when Legault questioned a possible increase in the province's immigration threshold.

Some Quebec politicians have compared François Legault to U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Legault has also revived his proposal from last year that newcomers be subjected to a test of French-language skills and knowledge of Quebec values.

Under that plan, those who fail the test after two tries would be asked to return to their country of origin or go to another province.

Handfield said he doesn't think the test would hold up under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Failing a test doesn't mean someone doesn't adhere to Quebec values," he said.

CAQ MNA Nathalie Roy also recently made headlines recently for saying police officers shouldn't be able to wear hijabs and that burkinis, swimsuits that cover the legs, arms and torso and include a veil, have no place in Quebec.

The next provincial election is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, 2018.

with files from La Presse Canadienne