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Business News/ News / World/  This Canada province plans to take in 71,000 permanent residents in 2022; but there is a catch
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This Canada province plans to take in 71,000 permanent residents in 2022; but there is a catch

This province has the second-highest rate of job vacancies in Canada.

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AFP)Premium
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AFP)

After the COVID-19 pandemic reduced immigration in 2020, Quebec plans to take in more than 71,000 French-speaking permanent residents in 2022. However, some business owners are concerned about Quebec's intentions to attract more French-speaking newcomers.

They claim that they need immigrants from all backgrounds to solve the province's tight labour market. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec has the option of selecting its economic immigrants. The government has previously reduced the amount of new permanent residents it accepts, relying more on temporary employees, and claims to have boosted the percentage of francophone economic immigrants.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), led by Premier Francois Legault, is keen to conserve French. Legault claims that French is threatened in predominantly English-speaking North America. His government appointed a new French minister and approved comprehensive legislation mandating newcomers to get most non-health services in French after six months in the province, among other things.

While Legault lobbies for more francophones, several company owners are concerned that the move may deter immigrants with crucial skills. Quebec has the second-highest rate of job vacancies in Canada.

Montreal entrepreneur Vince Guzzo, whose businesses include restaurants and movie theatres, said he is desperate for dishwashers no matter what language they speak.

"I would download an app ... and my phone would translate it in Punjabi if I had to," Guzzo told Reuters.

According to Statistics Canada data from the fourth quarter of 2021, Quebec accounts for almost 40% of Canada's estimated 81,000 vacant manufacturing positions. Manufacturing accounted for 12.6% of Quebec's gross domestic product in 2021 - higher than any other sector.

"We’re not saying that French isn’t important. But it does become a limiting factor when we're looking to attract the best people and talent that we need," said Veronique Proulx, president of Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters.

She called Quebec's shift toward temporary work a "band-aid" for manufacturing's labour shortage. "We have some companies that are thinking of shutting down production lines."

Quebec minister Jean Boulet, who is responsible for labour and immigration, said via email that his government has taken steps to attract foreign students and lure workers in priority sectors. He said the new law would include services making it easier to learn French.

Boulet said CAQ deliberately brought in fewer new permanent residents after coming to power in 2018 to help newcomers integrate, and that it is making efforts to better recognize foreign credentials.

Quebec's share of Canada’s total new permanent residents dropped to about 12.4% last year from 21.3% in 2012, according to government data.

Quebec also risks losing newcomers to other Canadian regions. About 16.3% of immigrants who came to Quebec in 2009 had left for other provinces by 2019, nearly double that of Ontario, according to Statistics Canada data.


Quebec has historically been a popular destination for immigrants to Canada. But changing criteria for making temporary residents permanent and long waits to gain residency could discourage newcomers, said Montreal-based immigration lawyer Rosalie Brunel.

Boulet said 84% of economic immigrants admitted in 2021 spoke French, compared with 56% in 2019.

His office said Quebec increased its francophone share through selection of applicants in certain immigration streams and by making French programs accessible to temporary residents.

Legault wants Quebec to choose people who immigrate to join their families - a power held by Canada's federal government - so it can select more French-speakers.

The head of one manufacturer said the government wants companies to recruit French-speaking workers.

Quebec said companies can also turn to alternatives such as automation.

"The dream is to have well-trained workers who are French speaking, but that's not always realistic," said Technosub Chief Executive Eric Beaupre. Technosub, based in rural Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, produces and repairs pumps for mining and other sectors.

With limited local labour, Technosub is taking on more temporary workers from Latin America and the Philippines who have needed skills and learn French on the job, he said.

Emmanuel Suerte Felipe arrived at Technosub as a temporary worker from the Philippines in 2018. His French is good enough for the job but he worries about passing muster for permanent residency as he wants to bring his family to Quebec.

"I would love to stay here," he said. "I found my dream job."

(With agency inputs)

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Updated: 13 Jun 2022, 04:14 PM IST
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