Beginning January 1, 2020, immigrants wishing to reside in Quebec will have to pass a test to ensure that they agree with the "values" of Quebec. The test will be online, with a minimum 75% pass requirement, and you can retake it in case you fail. If a person has difficulty passing these tests, they can also take courses to prepare for them. These prep courses will be conducted by community organizations.
There has been considerable controversy over this whole idea. The Quebec government says immigrants should be aware of the prevailing values in Quebec, including Bill 21. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the test is an attempt to isolate immigrants from Quebec's public life.
Quebec only really wants French-speaking immigrants to begin with. But what has happened is that people from all the former French colonies immigrated here. Then Quebecers were like - "Wait, too many Moroccans and Algerians are here with hijabs, let's hit them with Bill 21!” Now it's "Let's have an immigration test" and only accept "people like us.” What a joke.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 is part of Canada's Constitution. The Charter protects every Canadian's right to be treated equally under the law. The Charter guarantees broad equality rights and other fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.But when it comes to Quebec, it seems as if there is no such thing as a “Charter of Rights”. The Quebec government is doing whatever it feels like. In the meantime, the intelligent immigrants we need, the doctors, the software engineers are all taking a pass on Quebec and going somewhere else. What a great policy, Quebec!
In Quebec, more than 23,000 immigrants leave each year, excluding the number of temporary workers and international students. Quebec has signed a special immigration agreement with the federal government. Under the agreement, the provincial government of Quebec has the power to determine how many immigrants belonging to which category to call, and what conditions are required to be filled. The Quebec government says it is within its jurisdiction to implement the cost-effective test and falls under the Canadian Charter.
The question is, despite social groups and the media raising the issue, can Quebec's implementation of this test be prevented? Probably not, because none of the federal parties took a bold stand on Bill 21 during the recent elections. If the federal government and the federal parties feel overwhelmed by Bill 21, how can action be taken on this test? In a 2017 survey, more than two-thirds of Canadians were found to favour tests for immigrants.
The question that also arises is whether such tests will reduce the number of immigrants to a province, including Quebec. Probably not, because people who want to enter Canada for various reasons often do not consider such a hurdle an obstacle. It is important for them to obtain legal status in Canada, or Quebec.
For example, about 10 years ago, when the Federal Immigration Department asked immigrant applicants with the name of Singh to have another last name instead of Singh, a large number of people changed their last names. In the same way, tests are taken to achieve the citizenship that people prepare for and pass. So, the question in Quebec should not be about the social cost of the test, but rather about the questions to be asked in the test.
The sample questions issued by the Quebec government do not give the impression that there will be many controversial questions in this test. For example, the sample questions are: Do men and women have the same rights in Quebec? What is the official language of Quebec? Who is eligible to get married in Quebec? Similarly, there is a question about the religious symbols that arise from Bill 21.
The few sample questions released gives the impression that who should be most concerned with this test is the federal government, under whose watch Bill 21 has been passed. If Bill 21 is not there, this test will lose its credibility. But are the political parties in the country ready to do something worthwhile to fix the larger questions it raises?
Surjit Singh Flora