Temporary immigration: Quebec minister calls on the federal government to “wake up”

By The Canadian Press

QUEBEC CITY – The CAQ government says it is surprised by the nearly 50 per cent increase in the number of temporary immigrants to Quebec, and is calling on the federal government to “wake up” to the country’s reception capacity.

Statistics Canada revealed on Wednesday that there were almost 471,000 non-permanent residents in Quebec in July, compared to 322,000 in the same month last year (+ 46 per cent): this includes both asylum seekers (146,723) and permit holders and their family members (324,253).

“I’m still surprised to see the extent of the changes,” admitted Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette at a press scrum on Wednesday, after the Cabinet meeting.

The minister, who is currently holding consultations on immigration planning from 2024 to 2027, said that these figures “change the game” in terms of “the state of the situation”, without announcing any major changes.

Incidentally, unions and opposition parties are criticizing her for focusing her consultations solely on permanent immigration – which Quebec controls – without taking temporary immigration into account in her calculations.

Fréchette challenged the federal government, which controls most temporary immigration. She suggested that Ottawa is turning a deaf ear to her arguments about Quebec’s limited capacity to receive immigrants.

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“It’s important that the Canadian government revise its annual immigration targets for the next few years, its half a million people, if not more, that it plans to welcome over the next few years, considering how many people there already are in the country, in Canada,” she asserted.

“It’s worth thinking about and realizing,” Fréchette continued.

She deplored the fact that her federal counterpart, Marc Miller, remains insensitive to the problem of housing shortages or the difficulties Quebec has in providing public services to new arrivals.

“I’ve already discussed this with Mr. Miller, and it wasn’t part of his thinking, this notion of reception capacity. So for me, it’s problematic.”

Last spring, Fréchette presented two scenarios for permanent immigration: maintaining the thresholds at 50,000 immigrants per year, or gradually increasing them to 60,000 by 2027.

This was a major U-turn for François Legault’s team, who had declared during the election campaign that raising the thresholds beyond 50,000 would be “suicidal”.

As a result, the issue of welcoming 50,000 or 60,000 permanent immigrants per year is far below the actual number of new arrivals in Quebec.

In its summary, Statistics Canada notes that between July 2022 and July of this year, Quebec experienced “record” demographic growth, with an increase of 2.3 per cent, but ranked second to last among all provinces.

The number of temporary residents jumped by a massive 46 per cent nationwide to almost 2.2 million in the second quarter of 2023.

-This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 27, 2023.

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