Quebec universities call for more flexible immigration system

Two universities in the predominantly French speaking province of Quebec have said that they would like to see the immigration rules changed to make it easier for them to hire needed workers.

The province’s two major English-language universities – Concordia and McGill – believe that the province’s stringent French language requirements when it comes to the immigration system puts them at a hiring disadvantage compared to other Canadian and American institutions.

Ghyslaine McClure, associate provost at McGill, said her university has difficulty hiring distinguished professors for research chairs, as many applicants, especially older ones, don’t want to spend time taking French language classes in addition to their research.

“We would like a special recognition that university professors are highly specialized workers and they should not have that many obstacles,” McClure explained. “Professors and other eminent specialists are a different ball game.”

Last month, Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil revealed that she would be looking at ways to make the province’s immigration system – the only completely provincially-administered programme in Canada – more flexible over the coming months.

While Weil said that she would be open to loosening the French language requirements in some circumstances, she has insisted that Quebec also needs to protect its French heritage.

“Employer groups have raised the issue about language requirements, should we relax them or not,” she said. “The overall opinion (of the government) is that we need to be very careful and it’s important to have people speak French.”