Immigration issues continue to dominate Canadian politics, and acutely so in Quebec. The 2018 provincial election in Quebec saw the unprecedented rise to power of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party. From promising to slash immigration levels in the province to advocating for more control over immigration in Quebec City, the CAQ’s election campaign was dominated by immigration and language issues. Most significantly, as leader of the CAQ, François Legault envisioned testing would-be immigrants to the province for their French language abilities and knowledge of Quebec’s values. At one point, he threatened to remove immigrants who did not pass such test. That vision has now become a reality – at least in part.
On June 16, 2019, Premier Legault’s government passed An Act to increase Quebec’s socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs through successful immigrant integration into law. This Act amended the Quebec Immigration Act by adding a new legislative objective: to promote the integration of immigrants, specifically through their learning French and learning about democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the provincial Charter. As such, effective January 1, 2020, many prospective immigrants destined for Quebec must first obtain an “attestation of learning about democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms” as administered by the provincial government. For the attestation to be obtained, applicants must successfully pass what has been colloquially coined the “values test”.
Immigration to Quebec
Quebec has significant control over immigration to the province. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec is responsible for the selection of economic immigrants who wish to settle in the province, and applicants must first obtain a certificat de sélection du Québec (a Quebec Selection Certificate) from the provincial government before an application for permanent residence can be processed federally. As such, Quebec imposes its own selection criteria and conditions for its economic programs based on its immigration goals.
Once selected, applicants will apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada with their Selection Certificate for admission to Canada. Quebec’s newest selection criterion for immigration applicants under an economic program is to obtain their attestation of learning about democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by successfully writing the “values test”. Immigrants via family sponsorship or refugee claimants remain under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, and therefore are not required to pass the “values test”.
Format, elements, and goals of the test
The Quebec government has released a French-only Practical Guide which is intended to be used by applicants as a means to self-study in preparation for their test. The Guide explains that learning about Quebec’s values is a shared responsibility between the government and the prospective immigrant: the government is responsible for helping and accompanying immigrants fulfil their responsibility of learning and acquiring the necessary competencies to participate in Quebec’s society, specifically, learning the French language, and respecting democratic values and values expressed in Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
As of January 1, 2020, all applicants for permanent residence under an economic stream in Quebec must pass the “values test” to receive an attestation which is a condition of being granted a Selection Certificate. Specifically, this new condition applies to the following immigration programs: (1) the Regular Skilled Worker Program; (2) the Quebec Experience Program; (3) the Entrepreneur Program; (4) the Self-Employed Worker Program; and (5) the Investor Program. In addition to principal applicants, all accompanying dependents, including spouses and children, who are 18 years or older, must obtain their attestation. The provincial immigration department, Immigration, Francisation et Intégration Québec, will contact principal applicants and those required to obtain their attestation. Attestations that are not obtained within 60 days of that communication will result in a rejected application for a Selection Certificate. The attestation will generally be obtained by receiving a grade of 75% or higher on an online test consisting of 20 questions. However, attending an in-person information session will also be available for temporary residents in Quebec and mandatory for candidates who fail to obtain their attestation after two attempts at the online examination. Attestations are valid for two (2) years.
The test and Practical Guide have been designed to promote Quebec’s values, rights, and freedoms, with the aim of better integrating immigrants into Quebec’s society. The Practical Guide lists five “key” values of Quebec society, on which the test is based: (1) Quebec is a francophone society; (2) Quebec is a democratic society; (3) equality between women and men; (4) rights and responsibilities of Quebeckers; and (5) Quebec is a secular society. Although much of anglophone Canada and some Quebeckers have described it as controversial, the CAQ and its supporters have ardently defended the “values test” and the effective screening out of newcomers who they believe will not successfully integrate with Quebec’s key values. The Quebec government has defended itself in arguing that the integration of immigrants into Quebecois society is key for the province’s economic success.
The split jurisdiction over immigration for Quebec between Quebec City and Ottawa has left Premier Legault unable to perhaps fully implement his party’s immigration program. However, the use of the “values test” as a new selection criterion signifies another attempt taken by the CAQ government to reduce, or at a minimum, screen, newcomers entering the province. Whether the intended results of the “values test” are realized remains to be seen.