Effectively and warmly welcoming and integrating newcomers to Quebec is essential to our growth and development.
The current context, both abroad and at home, has made this objective more pressing than ever and spurred the government to re-think our immigration policies and strategies to ensure we are attracting and retaining talent from around the world.
Changing demographics are putting pressure on our labour market as we face a decline in our working age population. Our businesses are looking for skilled workers to support their growth and are increasingly turning to immigration to fill the void. We also face stiff competition for these talented individuals, who are very mobile and widely sought after. And though in recent years we have made significant progress integrating immigrants into the workplace – the unemployment rate among immigrants fell from 12.4% to 10.7% between 2011 and 2015 – we still face challenges, particularly as regards new arrivals. We cannot afford to keep these new Quebecers on the sidelines.
To meet these challenges head-on, our government recently released a new immigration policy titled Together we are Québec, with a 42,5$M budget over 5 years, which focuses on selection, integration and living well together. Our comprehensive approach was recently praised by experts from both the Migration Policy Institute and the OECD.
This year’s overhaul of our Immigration Act modernizes the selection process to favour candidates who have the greatest integration potential. We are looking for the best match between a candidate’s profile and labour market needs, which we will evaluate on a regional basis with our economic and local partners. We also appreciate that the arrival of newcomers and their rapid integration adds to the vitality of our cities and regions.
French language knowledge and training, and foreign credential recognition are also key to integrating into the job market and to ensuring lateral and upward mobility. Recent statistics reveal that 86% of our immigrants are either francophone, enrolled in French-language training or are children attending French schools. To better meet immigrants’ evolving needs, we will build on our recent successes and offer more accessible programming on a full-time and part-time basis, as well as online and in the workplace. Our government is also hard at work to improve foreign credential recognition for those planning to come to Quebec, or for those who are already here but are either over qualified or unable to work in their field.
To promote social cohesion, our government will move forward with a broad campaign to recognize the value that diversity brings to Quebec. We will also continue our fight against racism and discrimination and work in partnership with municipal, business and community leaders to create welcoming environments for our new neighbours. All of these are key to attracting and retaining newcomers to Quebec.
Public hearings on our immigration plans for the next three years, completed last week, confirm we are on the right track. We heard from a wide cross-section of Quebecers, from business to union leaders, to mayors and representatives of community groups.
While expressing their pride in our coming together to welcome Syrian refugees and support for our continued humanitarian commitment, a consensus emerged for stabilizing immigration levels at 51,000 for the next two years as immigration reforms are implemented, and for an increase to 52,500 in 2019.
There was also broad-based support for francophone immigration and our intent to increase substantially the number of international students and temporary foreign workers who choose to make Québec their home. These are ideal candidates for immigration; they are already here in Québec and their integration is well underway.
Immigration has always contributed to our socio-economic development, bringing a much-valued richness to our communities. This strong conviction is the cornerstone of our reforms to ensure that all Quebecers are able to fulfill their potential and actively participate in our society.
Member for Nortre-Dame-de-Grâce and Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness