Quebec denies French citizen's immigration application because chapter of thesis was in English

Émilie Dubois, a French citizen, applied to settle in Quebec after completing a PhD at a French-language university, but the province turned her down because part of her thesis was in English.

Immigration Ministry said she 'couldn't demonstrate' knowledge of French

Émilie Dubois's application was rejected by the Quebec Immigration Ministry because a chapter of the French citizen's thesis was in English. (Alexandre Duval/Radio-Canada)

Émilie Dubois had everything she needed to settle in Quebec long term. A French citizen, she applied to come to the province after completing a PhD at French-language Laval University in Quebec City.

But the provincial government refused Dubois's residency application because one chapter of her thesis was in English.

In a letter sent to Dubois earlier this year, the Immigration Ministry said the 31-year-old French native had not demonstrated she had the level of French required to receive a Quebec selection certificate, the first step toward permanent residency, under the province's experience program (PEQ).

"You did not complete program of study in Quebec entirely in French, including the dissertation or thesis," the letter read.

"I have a diploma from a francophone university, the first in Canada. I'm a French citizen, too, and I did all of my studies in French," Dubois told Radio-Canada.

One of the five chapters of her thesis on cellular and molecular biology was written in English because it was a scholarly article published in a scientific journal.

The rest of her studies were in French, including the seminars and thesis defence. 

"It's like an avalanche fell on my head and I don't know why," she said.

The letter Dubois received from the Immigration Ministry said she didn't complete all her studies in French, therefore had not demonstrated she had the level of the language that's needed to be accepted. (Alexandre Duval/Radio-Canada)

The PEQ has been at the centre of controversy for the CAQ government. The province cut about 300 fields of study from the list of ones eligible for the program, which gives foreign students studying in the province a fast track toward permanent residency.

The move left thousands of current students hoping to settle in Quebec without a clear path forward, and prompted criticism from politicians, academics and business leaders. 

In response, the government recently backtracked on its position, saying those already studying under the program would be allowed to complete it.

Took French test as proof

Dubois said she was informed her thesis could be a problem in December 2018. She asked the ministry for extra time to rectify the situation.

Dubois then passed a French test recognized by the ministry and sent the results to the government.

A month later, she received the letter.

"My life is here," said Dubois, who has been living in Quebec since 2012. "You cannot tell me that I cannot prove that I speak French."

In addition, Dubois — who started her own business after graduating — is now considered a self-employed worker. The PEQ does not allow self-employed graduates to apply.

Catherine Dorion, the Québec Solidaire MNA for Taschereau where Dubois lives, wants the Immigration Ministry to reconsider its decision on Dubois's file. (Alexandre Duval/Radio-Canada)

'It doesn't make sense'

It's a situation Catherine Dorion, the Québec Solidaire MNA for Taschereau where Dubois lives, says is absurd.

"We have a French girl called Émilie Dubois who is rejected for citizenship or permanent residency because we have no proof of her knowledge of French?" Dorion said.

Dorion said she will ask the Immigration Ministry for an explanation.

"It doesn't make sense," she said. "If in the administrative maze we did not handle this case intelligently, our job is to shed light on it."

Christopher Skeete, the parliamentary secretary responsible for relations with the English-speaking community, tweeted on Thursday morning that the decision was being reviewed. 

With reporting by Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval