This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun
Quebec is hardly a model for good governance, particularly given the fact that their provincial budget relies on fundamentally unfair economic transfer payments from the more fiscally disciplined provinces.
When it comes to cultural issues, however, the rest of Canada can learn a lot from our French-speaking brothers and sisters.
Quebec has just unveiled a new approach to immigration — frankly, a policy that would have leftist pundits in Toronto and Ottawa clutching their pearls and howling accusations of racism and xenophobia.
But in Quebec, it’s common sense.
The centerpiece of the new immigration bill is a values test to ensure that newcomers are well-suited to live in Canada and will adopt and conform to Canadian and Quebec values.
According to Premier François Legault, the policy focuses on the integration of immigrants, and defines Quebec values as the equality of men and women, democratic values and the values expressed in the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Language is an important part of Quebec values, and the new immigration bill emphasizes language as the key to integration. It requires French language tests for all newcomers and offers more resources to help immigrants improve their French skills.
“Come work in Quebec, but you will have to learn French and have the knowledge of Quebec values to be here forever,” said Quebec immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.
The values test was one of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s major campaign pledges, and part of the reason the new party was swept to power with a majority government.
Alongside a new focus on integration, Quebec will also overhaul its approach to economic immigration.
First things first, they blew up the backlog of 18,000 applications — cancelling them immediately and refunding all fees taken from the applicants.
This is the right approach. Just because someone applies to come to Canada doesn’t mean they should be accepted, and if the criteria changes — as it has — former applicants should be required to resubmit their applications.
This is controversial in the immigration world, but again, it’s common sense to most people. Your company wouldn’t hire employees based on a first come, first served basis, especially if the applicant doesn’t have the right skills for the job. Our immigration system should be no different.
Quebec, instead, is reorienting its program towards matching applicants to specific job openings in the economy and focusing on regional labour needs outside the big cities. They dubbed it the “Tinder of Immigration,” in reference to the popular dating app, as applicants will create a profile and companies with labour shortages will be able to select the best fit.
This personalized approach will also help stop the scam of Quebec immigrants abandoning the province upon receiving permanent residency and moving west to Toronto or Vancouver.
In 2016, there were five times as many immigrants from Quebec’s immigrant investor program living in greater Vancouver than there were in all of Quebec.
The new emphasis on job-matching and French language skills should help address this phenomenon.
Canada is a nation united by our common values and traditions. If we continue to open our doors to the world and fail to teach newcomers about what it means to be Canadian, sooner or later, being Canadian won’t mean anything at all.
Federal government officials would be wise to get over their cynical obsession with identity politics and look to Quebec for an example of an intelligent and modern approach to immigration and integration.