There was a great deal not to like earlier this year when a Quebec opposition party, the Coalition Avenir Québec, floated the idea of a values test and a French quiz for new immigrants.
Now that the party has put its idea in writing, it’s our sad duty to report that the completed chapter is even dumber than the outline.
According to platform documents, a CAQ government would chop immigration levels by 20 per cent and impose the aforementioned tests. Those who fail repeatedly would be invited to leave the country.
The last bit is almost certainly unconstitutional and definitely inapplicable. The province would have to ask Ottawa to remove the flunkers. Why the federal government would do this is beyond us.
Nevertheless, a populist dog-whistle has been blown; presumably it will be heard in the pockets of rural and suburban Quebec that the CAQ covets – and which tend to only rarely brush up against the immigrant experience.
We’ll give credit to the CAQ for one thing, though: Quebec needs to do more to integrate new arrivals.
It’s true, for instance, that the province doesn’t invest enough in French-language courses for newcomers. It’s also true that immigrants to Quebec – as with Canada in general – earn less than the native-born population.
But there is another issue at play.
A working paper presented this month at a conference held by the Association francophone pour le savoir found that resumes for fictitious job-seekers with North African-sounding names sent to Quebec employers were between 35 and 50 per cent less likely to receive a call back than French-sounding ones. Françoise got an interview, Fatima didn’t.
That’s not the first time that sort of survey has produced this result in Quebec.
Clearly, language is an important part of building a lasting and deep attachment to a host society. The same goes for sharing the society’s basic values.
But even more important is feeling welcome and wanted, and being able to get a good job. Nothing the CAQ is proposing will fix that. It is more likely to make things worse, in fact.