Posted on October 3, 2022

Quebec Election Raises the One Issue Canadian Politics Never Touches

Tristin Hooper, National Post, September 30, 2022

With Quebec going to the polls next week, the final stretch of the campaign has featured the surprise entry of an issue that almost never gets raised in Canadian politics: immigration.

On Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault told a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal that immigration above 50,000 per year would be “suicidal” to the province.

If we increase the number of immigrants while French is in decline, it would be a bit suicidal for French,” said Legault.

Ironically, the statement came only hours after Legault had denounced anti-immigration sentiments coming from his own immigration minister, Jean Boulet.

At an all-candidates debate in Trois-Rivières last week, Boulet was quoted as saying “80 per cent of immigrants go to Montreal, do not work, do not speak French or do not adhere to the values of Quebec society.”

Boutet swiftly apologized and later added in a radio mea culpa that the basis of his claim — that immigrants don’t work or speak French — was “totally false.”

Legault said Wednesday that Boulet is “sad about what he said” and had “disqualified” himself from continuing to serve as immigration minister.

Both sets of comments were seized upon by the Quebec Liberals and Quebec Solidaire, the far-left separatist party current polling at number two behind Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec.

“Suicide is to kill oneself. Is (Legault) saying that welcoming people to Quebec would bring death to the Quebec nation?” said Quebec Solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

The issue of immigration was also raised earlier this week by Éric Duhaime, leader of the newly formed Conservative Party of Quebec, which polls have shown is vying for third place against the Quebec Liberals and the Parti Québécois.

In response to an ongoing stream of illegal border crossings at the Quebec-New York State border, Duhaime hinted at the possibility of building a border fence between Canada and the United States.

“We have to find a way to stem the flow. You’ve mentioned one way. There are plenty of others,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about a border fence. The question, in turn, was sparked by a 2017 Facebook post in which Duhaime wrote, “If illegal immigration continues, we should think seriously about building a wall between the United States and Canada.”

The election is occurring against the backdrop of the highest rates of immigration ever experienced by Canada since the years before the First World War, when mass immigration was used to homestead the prairies. By 2024, Canada will be welcoming roughly half a million permanent residents per year.

However, given that Quebec exercises uniquely autonomous control over its own immigration, this influx of new Canadians is mostly occurring in Ontario and Western Canada. According to Statistics Canada projections, the next 19 years could see a net population increase in Quebec of as little as 100,000 people.

A more pressing issue in Quebec is that it is the focal point of one of the largest influxes of illegal border crossers in Canadian history.

Since 2017, tens of thousands of migrants have illegally crossed the border at Roxham Road on the Quebec-New York border. Once on Canadian soil, they claim asylum and are able to remain in Canada until their application can be reviewed — a process which, given current backlogs, can take years.