Quebec and Ottawa Reach Agreement on Asylum Seekers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered Quebec Premier François Legault a sum of $750 million over five years to support asylum seekers in Quebec. The Quebec government had been asking for $1 billion. Ottawa has also offered Quebec to implement a mechanism to distribute asylum seekers across the country by September. Additionally, the federal government proposes to reduce the processing time for asylum claims by 20%, aiming to process 20% of cases in less than nine months. Currently, the wait time can be 18 to 20 months. Furthermore, Canada aims to adopt measures (similar to visas) to prevent a flood of asylum seekers from certain countries. They also plan to reduce the processing time for work permits to 30 days by October, as it currently takes over 100 days. Trudeau also plans to impose a French language requirement for foreign temporary workers under the International Mobility Program who renew their work permits after three years in the country. This offer was presented during a meeting between the Quebec and Canadian premiers on Monday afternoon in Quebec to continue discussions on immigration that began on March 15. Legault requests specific goals.

After the meeting, Legault praised the progress in negotiations with the federal government but stated that there is still much work to be done. He reiterated his urgent request to reduce the number of temporary immigrants in Quebec and urged Canada to decrease the number of asylum seekers by 50% within a year. Legault also expressed satisfaction that the federal government agreed to language requirements for PMI workers and stated that they will continue to work to claim all powers regarding immigration. Trudeau awaits Legault’s plan.

Trudeau described the meeting as productive and emphasized the importance of reducing the number of temporary workers nationwide. He emphasized the need for Quebec to present a plan to address their concerns before setting targets. The success or failure of the exercise will be measured by how Ottawa has evolved in its assessment of the situation and the urgency to act to alleviate pressure on public services, according to Quebec.

In addition to financial compensation for the reception of asylum seekers, Quebec wants to have a say in the selection of foreign temporary workers and for knowledge of French to be taken into account. The Legault government requested $1 billion from Ottawa to cover the costs associated with hosting asylum seekers for the years 2021, 2022, and 2023. Quebec did not expect to receive the full amount.

After threatening a referendum on immigration, Legault no longer seems keen on the idea. He stated that 65% of Quebecers support giving the province more powers in immigration. However, the issue is not gaining the support of Quebecers but rather making it a priority and convincing the federal government to act immediately.

On the last day of the parliamentary session at the National Assembly, Legault announced the creation of a committee to increase Quebec’s autonomy within the Canadian federation. The Legault government will task a group of experts with identifying new powers that Quebec could obtain while respecting the Constitution.