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Quebec Premier Francois Legault threatened to hold a “referendum” if the federal government did not take steps to reduce the number of temporary immigrants entering the province. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, Legault told reporters that while it wasn’t likely to happen in the short term, a referendum could be an option if the influx of temporary immigrants coming into Quebec wasn’t dealt with. 

“Do we hold a referendum on this eventually? Do we do it more broadly, on other subjects? It will depend on the results of the discussions,” Legault said at the legislature.

Legault had called for his province to attain full powers over who would be allowed to immigrate to the province last month, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the premier’s demands.  

The premier did confirm that during their last meeting in March Trudeau displayed a great deal of “openness” to the idea of Quebec gaining additional authority over other matters related to immigration.

Legault said that he’s representing the opinions of the majority of Quebecers who feel that taking in 560,000 temporary immigrants is too high of a number and it is straining Quebec’s social services and housing. 

“What I want to tell Mr. Trudeau is that the majority of Quebecers think that 560,000 temporary immigrants, it’s too much,” he said. “It’s hurting our healthcare system, we don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough housing. So we really need to have some results.” 

“Mr. Trudeau finally said, ‘yes, it was too much.’ It’s the first time he’s saying that, so we expect in the next meeting that he promised me for no later than June 30 that he would come with results,” added Legault. 

The two governments have been butting heads over the issue of immigration for some time now, with Legault writing to Trudeau earlier this year about how he felt it unfair that a disproportionate number of immigrants were coming to Quebec. 

The province took in 65,000 of the 144,000 would-be refugees who entered Canada last year and Quebec is now demanding that the federal government reimburse the province $1 billion in costs.

Quebec claims that’s how much it has spent on taking care of asylum seekers since 2021.

Quebec’s Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette called the situation “completely unreasonable” in February. “Our capacity to provide services to asylum seekers has limits.”

The Trudeau government agreed to create a group to examine the province’s demands. 

The province currently controls the number of economic immigrants who enter Quebec but it’s responsible for the refugees as well as temporary foreign workers and immigrants who arrive though family reunification, which is a federal program.  

Quebec has been receiving the lion’s share of asylum seekers over the past several years, taking in 55% of the total migrants living in Canada.