Quebec- The Quebec government plans to increase the percentage of immigrants it selects in a move designed to increase the number of French-speaking newcomers to the province.
Speaking to reporters, Immigration Minister Andre Boisclair said Quebec wants the number of immigrants selected by provincial officials – as opposed to Ottawa – to increase from the current level of 50 per cent to 57 per cent by the year 2000.
It also hopes to increase the percent – age of French-speaking immigrants to 42 per cent during that period from the current level of 37 per cent.
In the category of independent immigrant, in which Quebec has more control over selection, the target is even higher, Boisclair said.
“We would bring the proportion of candidates who know French to 80 per cent. The proportion right now is around 67 per cent.”
Boisclair acknowledged that the target gives an advantage to people applying to immigrate from French-speaking countries such as Algeria.
It is foreseeable that the candidates who come from Algeria would be selected more often because they meet objective criteria, which is that of the selection grill…makes French a criterion in evaluating peoples’ employability and professional mobility.”
A prior knowledge of French also makes it easier for immigrants to integrate into Quebec society, Boisclair said.
Under the agreement between Quebec and the federal government, Quebec has the power to select some independent immigrants while the federal government is responsible for most refugees and family reunification.
However, more control by Quebec over who is selected as an independent immigrant can have an impact on those who enter the country under the family-reunification program because French-speaking immigrants are likely to have French-speaking families, he pointed out.
Public-opinion polls show a majority of Quebecers want the province’s immigration levels to remain stable and for Quebec to exercise more control over who is admitted, Boisclair said.
Under the targets announced yesterday, Quebec predicts the number of immigrants and refugees will rise from 27,000 today to between 29,600 and 32,000 in the year 2000.
Boisclair said Quebec would like to increase the number of business immigrants from the current level of about 4,000 a year to at least 10,000.
However, Boisclair also acknowledge that Quebec has greater difficulty holding on to its business immigrants than to those in other categories. While most of those selected by Quebec remain here, Boisclair said he wants the government to work with brokers and other key people to encourage others to stay here instead of using Quebec as a doorway to another province.