February 22, 2023

Why is Quebec’s immigration policy unique?

Quebec, the largest Francophone province in Canada, holds a unique position when it comes to its immigration policy. Unlike other provinces, Quebec has its own set of selection criteria, distinct programs, and the ability to select its skilled workers from abroad. This level of autonomy in immigration policy is rooted in the province's history and culture. In this blog post, we will delve into the historical and cultural factors that have shaped Quebec's immigration policy, making it unique in Canada.


Quebec's Distinct Historical and Cultural Background

Quebec's historical and cultural background is distinct from that of English Canada. In 1608, French diplomat and explorer Samuel de Champlain established the city of Quebec, claiming it as a part of New France, a French territory spanning much of the east coast of Canada and the United States. This event happened over 250 years before the Confederation of Canada. The friction between the French and British would set the stage for the emphasis on Francophone culture that is seen in Quebec today.

Despite becoming integrated into the Dominion of Canada in 1867, the integration of Quebec was never as complete as with English Canada. The Quebecois retained much of their language, customs, legal frameworks, and religion brought over by the French.


The Quiet Revolution and the Creation of Quebec's First Immigration Ministry

The 1960s were a time of intense and rapid changes in Quebec, known widely as the “quiet revolution”. In 1961, Quebec sought to establish democratic ties with France, the UK, and the United States. However, the federal government intervened, asserting there could only be “one interlocutor” with foreign countries. This event ignited a debate about the place of Quebec and French Canadians in the Confederation.

In 1968, these cultural forces, along with a change in Canada’s immigration policy, led to the creation of Quebec’s first immigration ministry. Canada's immigration policy moved from a tiered system based on country of origin to a points-based system grounded in individual applicants’ work skills, language ability, family connections, and education.


The 1971-1991 Negotiations for Immigration

According to the Constitution Act of 1867, immigration holds a special place among powers, being controlled at both the federal and provincial levels. However, today, no province holds as much sway over its immigration as Quebec does. The creation of Quebec’s immigration ministry signaled Quebec’s assertion that controlling immigration to the province was a key issue. Not just for economic reasons, but also, to preserve the French language and Francophone culture as a primary concern. As a result, Quebec would recruit Francophones from around the world during this period.

Between the years 1971 and 1991, Quebec continually renegotiated its provincial authority over immigration. This resulted in four major pieces of legislation that shaped the province’s powers. The 1971 Lang-Cloutier agreement was the first piece of Canada-Quebec immigration legislation. The agreement allowed Quebec to have representatives in Canadian embassies and for immigration counseling abroad, largely heralding administrative autonomy in immigration matters.

Quebec's immigration policy is unique in Canada due to its historical and cultural background, political stance on preserving the French language and culture within the province, and its ability to negotiate its authority over immigration. This has led to Quebec having more power than any other province in terms of its ability to influence its immigration.


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