Quebec will make immigrants pass 'values' test

Immigrants to Canada who want to settle in Quebec will soon be required to pass a provincial values test to prove they have learned "democratic values and Quebec values."

Test will cover what government calls 'democratic values and Quebec values'

Quebec Premier François Legault explained the new values test Wednesday. It was a key promise in the last provincial election campaign. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Immigrants to Canada who want to settle in Quebec will soon be required to pass a provincial values test.

Starting Jan. 1, immigrants will have to prove they have learned "democratic values and Quebec values" in order to obtain a selection certificate, the first step toward permanent residency for immigrants wanting to live in the province.

The test only pertains to the economic class of immigrants, which is overseen by the provincial government. It does not apply to immigrants coming to Quebec as refugees or through family reunification. 

Economic immigrants and their accompanying family members will be required to pass the test if they want to move to Quebec.

Minors or those who have a medical condition that prevents them from obtaining the certificate would be exempt.

Premier François Legault said the test, which was a promise made by Coalition Avenir Québec in last year's provincial election, sends a clear message to would-be immigrants.

"I think it's important if somebody wants to come and live in Quebec to know that, for example, women are equal to men in Quebec," he said Wednesday, stressing that some religious extremists don't share that view.

He added that it's important newcomers understand the province's new secularism law, which bans public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.

"I think it's important before deciding and coming to Quebec if you expect to be in a job in a position of authority, you will not have a right to wear a religious sign. I think it's important that we understand the values and the society where you want to live."

The values are defined as those expressed in Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which was recently amended to emphasize the secularism of the state.

The change was announced Wednesday in the province's Official Gazette.

'We are a distinct society,' Legault says

Legault said the test will be similar to the one already required to obtain Canadian citizenship.

"Of course, we have secularism, where there is a difference," he said. "We are a distinct society."

The test will be 20 questions in all, chosen randomly from a bank of 200 questions.

Applicants will have to get 75 per cent of the answers right to pass. If they fail, they can take the test a second time.

After a second failure, the applicant can take a class or try a third time.

The CAQ's planned test is a departure from its campaign promise.

It had originally planned to make the test a condition of residency, rather than of the selection certificate.

Legault said Quebec is still negotiating with the federal government to give applicants three years to pass the test after arriving in the province.

During the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognized Quebec's right to impose a test as part of the selection certificate process.

On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC News, "Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, which governs the immigration relationship between Quebec and the federal government, Quebec has exclusive selection authority over economic immigrants and can establish its own selection criteria for these immigrants."

Immigration levels increased, but only slightly

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette also announced Wednesday new immigration targets for the next three years.

After cutting back the number of immigrants by more than 20 per cent to 40,000 this year, the province raised the minimum target to 43,000 for 2020.

Business groups wanted a higher immigration target to help offset the province's labour shortage.

Pierre Arcand, interim leader of the provincial Liberals, questioned the necessity of the values test, particularly given the need for more immigrants in the province.

"We have a lack of manpower in Quebec, and clearly it is a case where the government needs to reduce the problem," he said.

Marjorie Villefranche is the director of Maison d'Haïti. (Sarah Champagne/Radio-Canada)

Marjorie Villefranche, director of the Maison d'Haiti, a Montreal community centre servicing the Haitian community, said the values test was nothing more than a political ploy.

"They're trading on the idea that we're going to clamp down on immigrants, that there are too many immigrants who don't know our values," she said. "This works for the CAQ."


Benjamin Shingler is a senior writer based in Montreal, covering climate policy, health and social issues. He previously worked at The Canadian Press and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.

With files from Cathy Senay and Radio-Canada's Pascal Robidas