Hon. Clément Gignac: Thank you, minister, for being here with us. Under the terms of the Canada-Quebec Accord signed in 1991, Quebec has more authority over immigration than any other province and is responsible for selecting skilled workers. Still, given the decline of French in the Montreal area, where nearly 85% of immigrants choose to settle when they come to Quebec, the province recently asked to fully repatriate all immigration powers. The Premier of Quebec even spoke of the risk of Quebec becoming another Louisiana in North America. I won’t ask you to comment on those remarks. However, I would like you to explain the reasons and motives behind your reluctance to grant more powers to Quebec so that it can control all the tools needed to protect the French language.
Hon. Sean Fraser, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: I believe it is essential to protect and promote the French language and culture. To get results, it is essential to increase the number of francophone newcomers who settle in Quebec and outside Quebec.
As for the Canada-Quebec Accord, it is important to understand that it already gives Quebec the authority to select the most skilled people from a linguistic and professional perspective. The federal government has invested $600 million to support the institutions. Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec can welcome 28% of the total for the country. Today, it receives just 13%. The difference is 66,000 people per year. That is a huge number.
I believe that we have an opportunity to improve the situation with the help of existing tools. I have a good relationship with my Quebec counterpart. If he has any suggestions, he can get in touch with me.