Thanks to a recent policy change by the Quebec Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion under the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard, a small number of entrepreneurs will be allowed to immigrate to the province, absent a knowledge of the French language.
This marks a departure from the province’s established immigration policy, requiring a knowledge of French. The new policy that took effect on August 2 will allow entrepreneurs launching high tech startups to set up shop in Quebec, satisfying only an English language requirement.
It’s an initiative that is being praised for the economic benefits that it could bring to Quebec. While the startup visa class will bring only 25 entrepreneurs to the province, its proponents stress the fact that the success of even one startup couldr esult in the creation of hundreds or thousands of high tech jobs in a metropolitan area like Montréal.
A recognition of potential economic benefits that could come with a relaxing of language requirements associated with Quebec’s immigration policy must also admit to a certain extent how the current policy favouring French over English turns away a large number of not only high tech entrepreneurs, but all sorts of qualified immigrants for no other reason than that they don’t speak French. These immigrants – job creators and potential taxpayers – are, as a result, lost to other provinces and other countries.
Quebec operates under an immigration system that is distinct from that of other Canadian provinces. The immigration dossier remains a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial governments, but following a series of agreements signed with the federal government since the 1960s, Quebec has gained the power to determine certain immigration criteria, including linguistic requirements. The federal government maintains responsibility for setting the number of immigrants admitted into the country each year, and takes into consideration the number of immigrants Quebec wants to accept, as well as the admission criteria set by the province.
The announcement of this change in Quebec’s immigration policy comes only two months ahead of a provincial election this October. Some have criticized the move as being nothing more than a symbolic act meant to attract the support of English speaking voters and other Quebecois opposed to strict regulation of language use.
Defenders of French language requirements for immigrants to Quebec argue that such a policy is necessary in order to ensure a well-integrated society. A debate on this subject has been recently renewed in the public discourse following comments made by Maxime Bernier about multiculturalism. It’s a debate that leads us to pose some sincere questions.
Mr. Bernier suggests that new immigrants should share – or at least not reject – certain fundamental cultural values of the host society. Could it be said that language constitutes a fundamental value of a society? What about style of dress, music or literature?As observed by Jordan Peterson, when we subscribe to identity politics and the doctrine of intersectionality, it becomes impossible to parse out where one group identity ends and another begins.
If, as suggested by the federalist Member of Parliament from Beauce, a society should define certain core values and require new members to accept said values, does this principle apply just as much to Quebec society as it does to greater Canadian society? After all, it was the Harper Conservatives that recognized Quebec as a distinct nation within a united Canada in 2006.
Following the victory of Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario this year, we heard calls for a more independent, or even sovereign Toronto. We’ve seen a similar phenomenon in the United States, where some mayors have declared their jurisdictions sanctuary cities in response to enforcement of federal immigration laws. Why not allow provincial governments, or big cities to set their own immigration policies?
Perhaps the most favourable approach to the questions of cultural values, multiculturalism and immigration policy is to recognize the knowledge problem as described by the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek: no one person possesses all the knowledge that would be required to manage complex social and economic systems. By the same token, neither is it possible for a government to adopt an immigration policy (or any other policy, for that matter) that protects the cultural identity of every group or individual within a country.
Let’s consider that the most sane approach to immigration and culture might be one of decentralization, with an ultimate goal of abandoning altogether both state sponsored immigration and state sponsored culture.
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