Good afternoon, everyone. We now go to the public portion of our meeting. Before we begin, however, I have a few reminders. For those participating virtually, I would like to outline the following rules.
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Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, January 31, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of francophone immigration to Quebec and Canada.
I would first like to welcome Alain Rayes, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who has joined us as a permanent member of the official languages committee.
I would now like to welcome our witnesses. From the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, we have, via videoconference, Corinne Prince, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Settlement and Integration; Alexandra Hiles, Director General, Domestic Network; and Michèle Kingsley, Director General, Immigration Branch.
You will have a maximum of 10 minutes for opening remarks, after which we will proceed with a series of questions. I will inform you verbally when you have one minute left, and you will be encouraged to use that final minute to wrap up your presentation.
I now invite Ms. Prince to make her opening remarks.
Ms. Prince, you have the floor.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today. I would like to note that I am joining you from the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am here this afternoon with Michèle Kingsley, Director General,Immigration Branch, and Alexandra Hiles, Director General, Domestic Network.
Immigration has been crucial in shaping Canada into the diverse and prosperous nation it is today. Through Canada's managed approach to migration, there are pathways for foreign nationals to study, work, and live in Canada, including access to citizenship.
Under the Constitution Act, 1867, immigration is a shared federal, provincial and territorial responsibility. Immigration, therefore, requires close and frequent engagement and collaboration with provincial and territorial counterparts.
Canada's approach to migration is intended to maximize Canada's economic and social well-being, while protecting the safety and security of Canadians. The department creates legal pathways for people to come to Canada on a temporary or permanent basis, and plans the number of new immigrants and the balance between permanent resident categories in advance.
However, immigration does much more than facilitating the movement of people. It brings people with skills, talent and social connections, thereby contributing to Canada's economic development and recovery, as well as enriching its diversity.
IRCC establishes annually the immigration levels plan. The latest plan released on February 14, 2022, describes the levels plan for 2022-24. It specifies the government's intention to welcome a significant number of new permanent residents: 431,645 in 2022; 447,055 in 2023; and 451,000 in 2024.
With the 2021-23 levels plan, IRCC started indicating the number of permanent resident admissions needed to meet the 4.4% francophone immigration target to be reached by 2023. This number is based on ranges, but specifically outside of the province of Quebec.
There are two major pathways to citizenship for immigrants wishing to stay or live in Canada: permanent residence, the basic facts of which are outlined in the levels plan I just described, and temporary residence, for temporary workers, international students and other visitors.
Today, I'll be focusing more on permanent residence, which concerns two main categories of immigrants: economic and non-economic. The latter are identified based on objectives associated with family reunification and social and humanitarian considerations.
Skilled workers are the first economic permanent residents. IRCC offers a range of economic programs, most of which are governed by the express entry electronic application processing system. That system facilitates the identification and selection of candidates with certain characteristics or basic human capital factors. For example, points are awarded to applicants who have a job offer based on their level of education, work experience or proficiency in one of the two official languages.
Then there is the applicant's nomination by a province or territory. Every province and territory has its own programs that may target international students residing in Canada, skilled workers or business people.
Lastly, the Canadian system provides refugee protection through two main programs: the refugee and humanitarian resettlement program, for persons seeking protection outside Canada, and the in‑Canada asylum program, for people filing refugee protection claims within Canada.
The visual diagram shared with you shows you the steps, starting from the submission of the request and its reception, to the decision-making process and the communication of the decision to the requester. In the latter step, the client receives the visa or residence permit.
The duration of the immigration process varies from one file to another, but it is understood that it can take from six months to two years for an immigrant of the economic class to settle permanently in Canada.
Now I'm going to discuss francophone immigration. It can be said that francophone immigration to Canada operates along two distinct lines: francophone immigration to Quebec and francophone immigration outside Quebec. Under the Canada-Québec Accord, reached in 1991, Quebec is the only province that publishes its immigration objectives and targets annually. However, Canada is required to establish the total number of permanent residents for the country as a whole, taking into consideration Quebec’s advice on the number of immigrants that it wishes to receive in all categories.
IRCC works with our Quebec government counterpart, the ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l'Intégration, in a manner consistent with the two orders of government defined under the Canada-Québec Accord. For the purposes of my presentation, I would like to focus on francophone immigration outside Quebec. But, first of all, a few basic facts.
The government acknowledges that francophone immigration strengthens the social fabric of Canada and plays a key role in maintaining its bilingual character. Immigration is one of the factors that assists in maintaining francophones' demographic weight in Canada but is only one of many levers. Immigration cannot be considered the only solution. Francophone immigration assists francophone minority communities in developing economically, socially and culturally.
The particular focus of the government on francophone immigration dates back to 2003, which is when the 4.4% target for French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec was jointly established with the francophone community. More recently, and to streamline our approach, in 2019, the minister of IRCC announced the “Meeting Our Objectives: Francophone Immigration Strategy”, which reaffirmed the goal of achieving the target of 4.4% of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec by 2023.
IRCC has put in place numerous activities to deepen the strategy, including additional points for strong French language skills of bilingual candidates introduced first under the express entry system in 2017 and then increased in 2020.
Thank you very much for that question, Mr. Chair.
Yes, a 4.4% francophone immigration target was set for outside Quebec in 2003, with the cooperation of community stakeholders, as I indicated in my remarks.
I would just emphasize that the target is supposed to be reached by the end of 2023 and that this is only 2022. So we have 18 more months in which to hit it. Developments in the COVID‑19 situation have had an impact on the number of francophone admissions and on the percentage of those immigrants, since most applicants come from outside Canada. However, we've already put several measures in place to meet our target.
We've taken many initiatives, such as awarding additional points to francophone and bilingual applicants under the express entry system. French-speaking residents admitted to Canada through the express entry system represented 43% of all francophones outside Quebec from January to December 2021.
In 2021, the department also introduced components for francophone and bilingual candidates under the temporary resident to permanent resident pathway program for essential workers and students…
Thanks to the member for his question.
Yes, intention to leave the country at the end of the authorized stay is the third criterion. It's all right to have a dual intention, to apply for temporary residence and then permanent residence. However, there's no guarantee that permanent residence will be granted to a non-citizen seeking it.
The department must ensure that students intend, and are able, to return to their country of origin if, for any reason, they're denied permanent residence.
I don't want to seem overly technical here, but applicants are allowed to have two concurrent intentions because, under a controlled immigration model, we want to encourage certain students to stay permanently, but that isn't guaranteed for everyone. In the event students are unable to stay permanently, we have to ensure they can return home.
However, a student's declaration of a dual intention isn't a reason for refusal.
Mr. Chair, thanks to the member for her question.
The current target for 2023 is 4.4%.
As I told another committee member, we've already established a task force that will, first, explore ways to meet the current target and, second, set a new target for 2023 and subsequent years.
So we're working closely with the francophone communities outside Quebec. We're looking at how we can catch up. We're also trying to set another, post-2023 target that will help increase the demographic weight of francophones outside Quebec.
We've also worked closely with our colleagues from the Department of Canadian Heritage. In February 2021, Minister Joly released a white paper stating that immigration was one of the factors involved in increasing the demographic weight of francophones in future both in and outside Quebec.
Thank you for that answer.
I have a final question.
We hope to see a change on the department's part regarding this potential systemic discrimination.
I also want to emphasize that I cited the commissioner's words in my question. This is a serious issue.
Lastly, my final question concerns the shortage of francophone immigration personnel.
I've previously spoken in this committee about francophone child care facilities and educational institutions experiencing acute staff shortages. French-language services are deficient in many regions, including my own, and the lack of educators hurts francophone communities. This is where immigration could really change the situation.
How will the Department of Citizenship and Immigration assist the communities in providing those services, by, for example, facilitating recruitment of qualified francophone educators?
I'd like to thank the member for her question.
The level [Technical difficulty—Editor] of Quebec has grown over the past 10 years. Frankly, the mix has become more diverse, with more international students, Operation Syria refugees and, more recently, the Afghanistan initiative and a higher number of refugees through the humanitarian class.
This, coupled with the recent global pandemic, has forced not only the province of Quebec, but our colleagues in other provinces and our global partners to pivot to offer settlement services virtually and online. This has been done very quickly.
Given the future of the pandemic, we would expect there to be a very significant number of services that will continue in a virtual format for the coming years. In fact, the province has implemented a number of those programs online. Recently, the province of Quebec, as well as other provinces, has gone back to a hybrid approach of both in-person and virtual services.
I would like to follow up on what Mr. Boulerice and Mr. Gourde were saying.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to help people in our riding offices. It's taking hours, weeks and even months of waiting. It's definitely affecting francophone immigrants too. This has to be dealt with.
We are being told that the problems are caused by COVID‑19, but that's been two years now. Today, we're talking about Ukraine and Afghanistan. There are always crises somewhere in the world. This situation is unacceptable not only for us, the MPs, but for all Canadians. I know that you are spokespersons and are not personally responsible, but it's important for you to transmit this message so that something can be done about it.
On February 9, the Commissioner of Official Languages stated that:
[…] we're supposed to reach the 4.4% target by 2023, but obviously we're not going to get there. This means that over 75,000 francophone immigrants who we could have welcomed to Canada, outside of Quebec, will not be coming.
Are you in agreement with this figure with respect to the number of immigrants we could have received and who will now not be coming?
Could you send us a table showing the number of employees at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, by year since 2003, as well as the number of newcomers? There were 400,000 last year, a record.
I am asking for statistics by province on the number of employees by year since 2003, and the number of newcomers to Canada.
I see that you are nodding. Thank you.
My next question is non-partisan. In fact, I think that our committee functions extremely well. When we talk about targets since 2003, we are talking about targets over a 20‑year period. This year, we have a Liberal government. Before that it was another party, and the targets were never met. My question is therefore not really partisan.
I would like to have statistics on francophones by province. Based on the provincial applicant programs, there were 7,600 newcomers in Ontario, very few of whom were francophone.
Ms. Prince, you began your presentation by saying that immigration was a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. What would the federal government and the provinces have to do to reach these numbers?
There are 400,000 newcomers, but very few francophones. How is the jurisdiction shared between the federal government and the provinces? I know that in Ontario, there are very few francophone newcomers. Is it the role of the province or the federal government? Is it a shared role?
Could you come up with any recommendations or solutions for us?
Thank you very much, Ms. Kingsley.
I'd like to thank the three representatives from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Ms. Corinne Prince, Ms. Alexandra Hiles and Ms. Michèle Kingsley, for having answered questions from the committee members. We're looking forward to receiving from you the documents requested by the committee members.
I would now like to mention that the next meeting will be held on Wednesday, and that it will be on the same subject, namely francophone immigration to Canada and Quebec.
I'd like to conclude by thanking the technical staff, the clerk and the interpreters.
I would also like to thank all the committee members. I hope that your acting chair was up to the task.
The meeting is adjourned.