Home Immigration Federal Immigration’s Sean Fraser welcomes newcomers, but insists Quebec can act freely

Federal Immigration’s Sean Fraser welcomes newcomers, but insists Quebec can act freely

‘We need to embrace immigration,’ he says, although province ‘will make its own decision’

Although federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser insists Quebec is entirely within its constitutional rights to set limits on immigration into its territory, he says he personally favours higher levels of immigration for economic reasons.

Fraser was in Montreal last week to meet with business leaders belonging to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

The C of C’s view

In a statement issued following the Feb. 1 meeting, CCMM president Michel Leblanc noted that the federal ministry’s current plan is to raise the number of immigrants entering Canada to 500,000 per year before 2023 comes to an end.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser (centre), met last week with Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal officials to discuss immigration issues impacting Quebec.

According to Leblanc, Minister Fraser revealed during his conversation that the federal immigration ministry learned from its experience processing Ukrainian refugees over the past year, and that Ottawa hoped to use those lessons to accelerate the processing of new arrivals from other areas of the world without compromising security.

Working with Quebec

Summarizing the exchange during an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia, Fraser said his message to the CCMM was that Ottawa wants to work together with the Quebec government as well as businesses in Montreal “to ensure that the immigration system is delivering for Canadians.”

Expanding on that statement, he said it would mean “making sure that we can bring workers into essential jobs in the economy, whether we can reunite families, whether we can continue to play a leadership role on issues of a humanitarian nature.”

Perhaps more importantly, Fraser continued, “We want to make sure the system works, that it respects the agreement we have with the province of Quebec and that we want to continue to do our part to protect the demographic weight of Francophones, that we continue to grow our immigration ambitions for economic and demographic reasons.”

An economic challenge

Saying that he enjoys an excellent relationship with Quebec Immigration and Francization Minister Christine Fréchette, Fraser said, “we both have a unique focus on economic immigration to make sure that we’re bringing the workers into communities …

“… This is a major economic challenge. Businesses have just been through several very difficult years. We have spared no expense to make sure that we supported businesses and households, to make sure that businesses could keep their lights on and their doors open and the families can keep food on the table and the roof over their heads.”

Restrained immigration

Under Quebec Premier François Legault’s immigration plan for 2023, the province could admit up to 52,500 new permanent residents this year. The target, which is exactly the same as Quebec’s immigration plan for 2022, has come under fire, especially from the province’s business community, which has serious ongoing concerns about acute labour shortages in the post-pandemic economy.

Newsfirst Multimedia asked Fraser whether he considered it possible that Quebec is missing opportunities by holding back immigration. “Look, it’s a decision for Quebec to set their own immigration levels,” he responded.

Fraser’s personal view

“The agreement that we have empowers them to do so and we will process the cases that they ask us to and we will meet the levels of immigration that they ask us to meet. That’s part of the agreement that we have. This past year, despite the largest number of newcomers who were welcomed in Canada’s history, despite record demands on our system across different streams, we were able to meet the levels that Quebec has set.”

‘My own view is that Canada needs more people for economic reasons’

That said, Fraser added, “My own view is that Canada needs more people for economic reasons … My view is that we need to embrace immigration in the short term to address some of these gaps in the labor force but as importantly in the long term, we meet these skills gap that will exist over the next generation …

‘Embrace immigration’

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser says “we need to embrace immigration to help employers maximize their potential.”

“And my view is that we need to embrace immigration to help employers maximize their potential as we climb out of this pandemic, but also protect the ability of communities to continue to exist as they have for many years.

“Quebec will make its own decision for the reasons that it determines are most important. But my view is that it’s an important moment in Canada’s history when we have such demand in the world from people who would like to move to Canada and make their contribution, to have the skills we need. My view is that we should embrace immigration at this moment in time.”

‘If we don’t change…’

He pointed out that 50 years ago there were seven workers for every retired person in Canada, while today the number is closer to three, and that in a few decades the number will be two across the entire country. “If that’s the case,” he continued, “if we don’t change the trajectory we are on with an aging population, our conversation a generation from now will not be about labor shortages, it will be about whether we can afford to keep schools and hospitals, including in rural communities, including in Francophone communities.”