Quebec, Legault threatens ‘referendum’ on immigration and “on other subjects”

QUEBEC – “Referendum”. A word that, associated with “Quebec”, makes the Canadian federal government tremble. It was pronounced on Tuesday by the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, who once again asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reduce the number of temporary immigrants in the province, threatening to hold a “referendum” on the issue and, maybe “on other subjets”.

Legault told reporters that launching a referendum is not part of his provincial government’s short-term plans, but suggested that could change if Trudeau fails to meet Quebec’s immigration demands. “Do we hold a referendum on this eventually? Do we do it more broadly, on other subjects? It will depend on the results of the discussions” Legault said.

During a meeting between the two leaders in March, Trudeau rejected Legault’s demand that the Quebec government have full powers over who can immigrate to that province. But Legault said the Prime Minister had shown remarkable “openness” on other immigration issues and that the two would meet again by June 30. “I expect results” Legault said on Tuesday.

Quebec’s Premier says the 560,000 temporary immigrants in Quebec – including asylum seekers, temporary foreign workers and international students – are straining social services and putting the French language at risk. And he underlines the vast majority of Quebecers agree with him. “What I want to tell Mr. Trudeau is that the majority of Quebecers think that 560,000 temporary immigrants, it’s too much” Legault said.

As The Canadian Press reminds us, the debate on immigration is a long-standing one between the two governments. Earlier this year, the Premier wrote to Trudeau about the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec. In recent years, the province has welcomed “a disproportionate share”: more than 65,000 of the 144,000 potential refugees who arrived in Canada last year. Quebec has asked Ottawa to repay $1 billion, the amount the Province says it has cost to care for asylum seekers over the past three years.

Legault said it is his intention to gain the “support” of the public, adding that holding a referendum on the issue depends on whether or not Trudeau gives the province more powers over immigration. However, the Premier did not provide details on the potential questions that Quebec citizens will have to answer in the event of a possible referendum.

Quebec already controls the number of economic immigrants in the province, but shares responsibility with Ottawa for refugees, newcomers arriving through the family reunion stream and temporary foreign workers. And the Province wants to directly control the arrival of temporary foreign workers to ensure that they speak French and that their numbers are limited. Otherwise, Legault threatens, the people of Quebec will go to the polls. And perhaps not just for immigration.

In the pic above, Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault (from Twitter X – @francoislegault)