MONTREAL --  Quebec will have no other choice but to significantly increase its immigration quotas, says the province's minister on the file, Nadine Girault.

Girault said Thursday that the pandemic has suddenly slowed down the entry of newcomers to Quebec while it continues to grapple with severe labour shortages in several sectors.

Though she refuses to give precise numbers for the moment, Girault reported a "shortfall of nearly 17,000 or 18,000 people" immigrating to the province in her planning.

Quebec received barely 25,000 immigrants in 2020, while the Legault government had expected to receive between 43,000 and 44,000.

The CAQ government significantly reduced immigration quotas when it came to power, cutting the target for total newcomers to around 40,000 for 2019, compared to some 50,000 annually under the previous Liberal government.

The goal of this reduction was, according to the slogan of the time, "En prendre moins, mais en prendre soin," meaning "take less, but care for it better."

Quebec then forecast annual growth that should have brought this threshold back to around 50,000 in 2022.


The pandemic, however, flouted these plans.

"Two years ago the situation was very, very different from what we are experiencing today," said Girault during a joint announcement with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante on funding newcomers' integration into the city.

Citing a "deficit for 2020" in terms of immigration, Girault said Quebec "wants to catch up to these thresholds and we also want, as we said from the start three years ago, [to] increase the thresholds precisely because we wanted to welcome them better, integrate them better."

The comment suggested the catching-up would be added to the increase already planned.


The agreement with Montreal provides for investments of $24 million over three years, funded equally between Quebec and the city, to facilitate the integration of new immigrants.

Roughly 70 per cent of immigrants who arrive in Quebec settle in Montreal. One of the goals of financial assistance is francization or integrating them into French-speaking life, authorities say.

"The reality of the metropolis presents challenges in terms of francization and integration," said Girault. "If we want to ensure the survival of this francophone character of Montreal, we must take great strides so that immigrants can be part of the solution."

Girault also pointed out in passing that her government had added $70 million to the francization effort in the last budget, bringing the total to $170 million.

Plante said the agreement "will give us the means to pursue our actions to promote [newcomers'] integration, their inclusion and their full participation in Montreal society."

The sums will go to around 100 organizations, to support the completion of nearly 200 projects.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2021.