Here as elsewhere, immigration is a perfectly legitimate topic of discussion. In Quebec, the only French-speaking state in North America, it is impossible to avoid it. Even during an election campaign.
The subject is nevertheless complex and delicate. In politics, the art is to discuss it seriously and sensitively. These days, the outgoing Prime Minister has unfortunately missed the boat.
François Legault first gave the impression of associating higher immigration thresholds with “extremists” and to “violence”. The same day, he corrected the shooting. “Immigration is a wealth for Quebec, he wrote, I did not want to associate immigration with violence”.
Sunday, rebelote. Too much non-Francophone immigration, he suggested, could weaken “national cohesion.” Again, he had to clarify his words.
But what is going on? The victory of the CAQ has been sealed for a long time. Why does his boss feel so much need to handle such a delicate subject from such negative angles?
Is this the effect of his party's “nationalist” trademark? However, Quebec nationalism is one of openness. Would there then be a fixed strategy wanting to play immigration like a partisan ping-pong ball?
Or is it Mr. Legault's sometimes clumsy way of expressing himself? If so, it would be time to think instead of proposing a solid game plan aimed at curbing the decline of French for real.
In Quebec, the social climate is quite good. Might as well take care of it too. New Quebecers are indeed an asset for society. At the same time, faced with the decline of French, their reception and integration pose a heavy challenge.
Hence the importance, well beyond the Loto-immigration which all the parties without providing the slightest intelligible explanation – 50,000 for the CAQ and the PCQ, 70,000 for the PLQ, 60,000 to 80,000 for QS and 35,000 for the PQ –, to refocus the debate.
The real question being: what concrete means do the five chiefs propose to better integrate newcomers, French-speaking or not? Including for the tens of thousands of students and temporary workers who, each year, settle here without any supervision.
No magic wand
There is no magic wand. The federal government will not expand the powers of Quebec and independence will not happen. We therefore need many more integration and francization programs that are better adapted to the schedules of newcomers. Extend Bill 101 to CEGEPs. Etc.
Because immigration in itself is not responsible for the erosion of French – let alone the low fertility of Francophones which, in fact, is comparable to that of Anglophones – the ultimate responsibility for acting is that of the Government of Quebec. Whatever it is.
However, for the past thirty years, they have done too little. Unable even to justify their own changing immigration thresholds.
That's why tomorrow, at the Face-to-Face of TVA, the worst thing for anyone which of the five leaders would be to single out immigrants instead of proposing real action plans capable of facilitating their integration.
Because any premier of Quebec, outgoing or aspiring to become one, does not only represent the French-speaking majority, but all Quebecers, old and new.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128