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The thing about blowing dog whistles during election campaigns is that people keep hearing them after the votes have been counted. That’s why Quebec Premier François Legault’s plan to reform immigration in his province is so troubling.

Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec government tabled legislation last week that will increase the province’s ability to decide who gets to immigrate to Quebec and who doesn’t.

The government says it wants to be able to better match immigrants with the province’s labour needs. So far, so reasonable. But given the CAQ’s identity-based rhetoric during last year’s campaign, and its moves since, there’s reason to worry that one of its goals is to weed out newcomers whose religion or culture clashes with the government’s take on “Quebec values.”

The party’s platform promised that a CAQ government would ban religious headgear and symbols from the public service, a policy that largely targets Muslims.

It also called for a cut in the number of immigrants annually admitted to Quebec, and for the removal of immigrants who fail to attain an adequate level of French after three years in the province.

Since taking power, the CAQ government has asked some school boards to provide it with the number of teachers who wear hijabs on the job.

And during a visit to France last month, Mr. Legault said that, when it comes to immigrants, “We’d take more French people, and Europeans as well.”

So, as much as the the CAQ government likes to claim that its reforms are nothing more than a needed effort “to increase Quebec’s socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs,” it is difficult to believe the goal is that neutral.

The proposed legislation centralizes all decisions about who qualifies to enter Quebec as a skilled worker in the office of the Minister of Immigration.

It also reinforces the minister’s responsibility “to contribute, through the selection of foreign nationals as temporary or permanent immigrants, to meeting Quebec’s needs, including labour market needs, and reflecting Quebec’s choices, in light of economic, demographic, linguistic and socio-cultural realities.”

All of this will be filtered through the province’s online “expression of interest” system for foreign nationals who want to come to Quebec as a skilled worker.

Instead of the first-come-first-serve basis that existed until last summer, applicants must create an online profile and then wait to see if they are invited by the government to settle in Quebec.

“It’s like the Tinder of immigration,” Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Minister of Immigration, said last week when announcing the proposed reforms. And therein lies the problem.

Skilled foreign workers who want to immigrate to Canada are not supposed to be chosen based on personal biases that might prompt someone to swipe left or right while scrolling through prospective matches on their smartphone.

Rather, they are selected based on objective and neutral criteria: education, experience and the skills they can bring to Canada – including the ability to speak English or French.

But given past statements by the CAQ, it’s possible that future Quebec applicants will be also judged on the Immigration Minister’s perception of the likelihood, for instance, that they will want to wear a hijab in their new country.

This worry is reinforced by the fact that the CAQ government plans to cancel 18,000 applications made under the old first-come-first-serve system, in part because those applicants didn’t have to submit what Mr. Jolin-Barrette described as their dating profile.

It is also troubling that Quebec wants Ottawa to give it the power to decide which skilled workers can get permanent residency based on where they agree to locate and how well they learn French and integrate into Quebec society.

Mr. Jolin-Barrette insists that the system will be designed to make sure Quebec gets the workers it needs to meet the demands of its labour market, while giving immigrants the government resources they need to integrate successfully.

It would be nice to believe that, but there are too many echoes in the CAQ’s rhetoric to feel confident about it. A political party that plays identity politics while campaigning doesn’t change its tune once it is power.

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