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Roxham Road, a “primary issue” for the new minister



The three priorities targeted by the Minister of Immigration of Quebec, Christine Fréchette, could be summed up in three words: francization, regionalization and simplification.

But the subject that concerns her in the immediate future is the Roxham road.

“For us, it is certain that Roxham Road is a major issue because we have come to a time when there is a need to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement, to ensure that places like Roxham are no longer of interest to asylum seekers who want to come to Canada,” she says.

Last year, 39,171 asylum seekers were intercepted at Roxham Road. A peak was reached in December with 4689 interceptions, 26% increase compared to the previous month, which seems to indicate that the phenomenon knows no respite.

At present, only official crossing points are subject to the Safe Third Country Agreement, recalls the Minister.


Christine Fréchette, Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration

Unofficial, irregular crossing points, such as Roxham, are not. This flaw needs to be corrected. It is really essential to correct this flaw.

Christine Fréchette, Minister of Immigration of Quebec

That said, his game plan, exposed during an interview granted to The Pressdoes not herald major heartbreaking debates in 2023.

On the one hand, the topics she wants to address next month with her federal counterpart, Minister Sean Fraser, are not the source of deep disagreements between Quebec and Ottawa – any more the future of Roxham Road than the increase the number of study permits granted to Franco-African students.

On the other hand, Fréchette does not intend to review the threshold of 50,000 permanent immigrants, set out by Premier François Legault. At most, it undertakes to listen to “everyone who has something to say about the concept of immigration”, during the consultation on the multi-annual strategic planning scheduled for this year.

“I really want us to cast as wide a net as possible to get the most complete picture possible,” she says. And from this portrait, we will see to define what will be the thresholds for the years 2024 to 2027. ”

Mme Fréchette adds that she will go to this exercise “with openness”, without assuming the results.

Temporary residents

But what is striking in his remarks is that if Quebec’s immigration policy concerns the 50,000 permanent residents, in fact, its priorities are largely aimed at temporary residents, skilled workers, unskilled and foreign students. And that if there is a target for permanent residents, there is no ceiling for temporary residents, whose number reaches 170,000 in Quebec.

“There have been no targets set for foreign workers,” confirms Frechette. For the time being, it is often a passageway to compensate for the shortage of short-term workers. After that, if they want to become permanent, that’s another question. Of course, we will look at their file in a different way. And we, our wish, is to ensure that there are bridges between the temporary and the permanent. We are looking at what is possible on this side. »

In fact, these gateways already exist. We often get the impression that permanent residents, whose number is capped at 50,000, are newcomers who settle in Quebec every year. But the data provided to The Press by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration rather indicate that almost half of them had already been on Quebec territory. In 2022, of the 68,000 new permanent residents (the planned annual ceiling, plus a catch-up of 18,000 due to the pandemic), no less than 32,600 had already had a work or study permit.

Francization and regionalization

As for francization, Fréchette recalls that the objective is to move towards 100% Francophone or Francotropic economic immigration. “It’s important for us because the French fact has declined,” said the minister. So, of course, for us, knowledge of the French fact is important. That’s why we want to go down that road. »

Another of its priorities is the regionalization of immigration. She intends to visit several regions over the next few months to see what are the expectations and reception capacities.

“I have the greatest respect for immigrants,” assures Christine Fréchette. These are people whose resilience I salute, whose courage I salute. For me, it is important to highlight all the contribution that immigration generates, the enrichment that it brings to us on the social, economic, cultural and linguistic levels. »

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