Quebec's immigration overhaul focuses on 'false problem,' research group says

The study, prepared by a not-for-profit research group, says there's nothing to justify the Legault government's plan to reduce immigration levels from 50,000 annually to 40,000.

IRIS says Bill 9 does nothing to address challenges already facing immigrants in the province

IRIS researcher Julia Posca says the government's own data contradicts its policy on immigration. (Elias Abboud/CBC Montreal)

A new study by a not-for-profit research group in Quebec finds the province's proposed law on immigration is off target.

The study, prepared by the Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques (IRIS), says there is nothing to justify the Legault government's plan to reduce immigration levels from 50,000 annually to 40,000.

"It's misguided," said Julia Posca, a researcher at IRIS and author of the study.

"I think the government responded to some fears that people might have, and responded to a debate that was taken out of proportion."

IRIS found several indicators using data from Statistics Canada and the Quebec government's own numbers which tend to show that immigrants to the province are faring better in recent years.

These indicators show that the government's proposal to reduce immigration while better integrating newcomers focuses on a "false problem," Posca said.

Among the findings:

  • Employment rates for immigrants have been increasing steadily since 2009, even outperforming Ontario last year.
  • The unemployment rate for immigrants in Quebec dropped considerably, from 12.7 per cent in 2009 to 6.7 per cent in 2018.
  • Education levels for immigrants are higher than for non-immigrants.
  • More immigrants are arriving in Quebec having mastered the French language before their arrival.
  • Quebec is among the leaders in Canada when it comes to retention of immigrants five years after their arrival to Canada.

Posca also has concerns about the government's proposed immigration law, Bill 9, titled, "An Act to increase Québec's socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs through successful immigrant integration."

Posca says the title seems to indicate that the government is viewing immigration only as an economic issue.

"This could be a problem for the integration of immigrants," said Posca.

"If we are to face a recession or an economic downturn, some people could say 'well, now we don't need immigrants,' and could see immigration as something that is a problem in Quebec."

Problems with integration

Posca said there are still several problems associated with integrating immigrants into Quebec society, namely recognizing professional equivalencies from a person's country of origin and discrimination during the hiring process.

"Those are elements that make the integration of immigrants more difficult," said Posca, pointing out that Bill 9 does not have any provisions to address these problems.

The report also found that the level of overqualified immigrants — people holding a job requiring a diploma inferior to what they have — is greater than in the general population.

IRIS is recommending that the provincial government maintain its immigration levels at 50,000 for humane, economic and demographic reasons.

Posca said Quebec's birth rate is declining, and maintaining higher immigration levels would maintain the province's competitive and economic weight within Canada.

Marc-André Gosselin, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, said in an email the issues with immigration are "real and concrete," and blames those issues on the Liberals.

He said unemployment rates among new arrivals are still too high and acknowledged overqualification remains a problem. Bill 9 will fix that by marrying the needs of the labour market and of those seeking to immigrate here, he explained.

He said the government's current immigration strategy is designed to be flexible and better support immigrants in learning French and integrating into Quebec society.

As part of its immigration reforms, the province had decided to cancel some 18,000 skilled worker applications while Bill 9 moved through the National Assembly.

The Quebec Superior Court issued an injunction last month requiring the government to keep processing those applications until the new law goes into effect.

About the Author

Elias Abboud


Elias Abboud is a journalist at CBC Montreal.


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