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Quebec to increase immigration

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Quebec Immigration Minister Michelle Courchesne announced Thursday an ambitious, three-year plan to slowly increase the number of immigrants to the province by 2007, to better prepare them for the job market and to encourage employers – especially in the regions, outside Montreal – to hire them.

The $35-million strategy follows weeks of National Assembly hearings last December and builds on a similar Quebec government plan in 1990 that has produced mixed results as unemployment among immigrants continues to rise despite the fact they’re arriving here with increasingly higher skills and education levels.

Predicting that immigration will account for all of Quebec’s working-age population growth within 10 years, up from 63 per cent now, Courchesne told reporters in Montreal that the simple reality of demographics and Quebec’s declining birth rate mean planning the future around immigrants is a necessity.

And the key to integrating them is helping them find work, she said.

“If we don’t open the door and give them a first chance, then we haven’t succeeded,” Courchesne said at a downtown Montreal hotel where she met the media as well as representatives of ethnic community groups and other immigration advocates.