The City of Montreal laid out its plan for new arrivals, one day after Quebec tabled legislation to cut immigration by 20 per cent.

At a packed press conference Wednesday, Mayor Valerie Plante outlined how it would earmark $24 million to help immigrants settle in the city, receive services, learn French and find jobs – all in a safe environment.

“It’s about not having to ask about the legal status whatsoever. If someone wants to come to the library or wants to use a sports infrastructure, it's often based on the address and other information and we want to minimize that,” said Plante.

According to the city, 70 per cent of new immigrants to Quebec settle in Montreal. Plante said they're welcome.

“It’s people – human beings who decided to move here with their family because they want to have a better life and they want to participate in society,” she said.

Community groups say it's a first.

“This is a strong message to say that they are welcome here no matter of their status,” said Christine Hong of the Saint-Michel Youth Forum.

“It's good news that Montreal, for the first time in history, has a plan for newcomers,” said Stephane Reichhold, the director of TCRI, a coalition of groups that help refugees and immigrants.

The announcement comes one day after Premier Francois Legault vowed to slash immigration levels, something Plante said is cause for concern.

“I’m worried and I've always said that I'm worried, because there is an employment rate that is going higher and higher and there is a need for more employees and talent,” she said.

“This announcement is a disgrace,” Rafaelle Sinava of Singa Quebec, a group that works with refugees.


No longer a sanctuary city

Plante said Montreal will no longer refer to itself as a “sanctuary city,” saying the term is not clear enough considering federal laws and guidelines.

“So changing the title, being an inclusive, responsible and engaged city, makes more sense and it just tells exactly what this is," she said.


Funding and a centre planned

Organizations working with immigrants can apply to the city for funding.

A centre is also being planned where new arrivals can get the help they need in one location.

“When a newcomer arrives at the airport, he doesn’t have much information on where services are, what type of services, free services (they can access),” said Reichhold.

“It could help us a lot,” added Sinava. “We are aiming to open a coffee shop with women who are refugees, and we want it to be open to all of the public, so there will be an opportunity to create links.”