Chinese learning more French to enter Quebec, many then leave the province, some stay

Friday, March 23, 2012

That's kind of the gist of an article in French here that shows some positives and some negatives to the current situation where Quebec has more lax immigration controls than the rest of Canada at the moment. As a result, learning French (or seeming to learn French) to become an immigrant there is now a method to enter the country.

This is a bit of a delicate situation for both Canada and Quebec. Quebec wants the immigrants it chooses (Francophones or immigrants who agree to learn French) and any restrictions Canada tries to impose on this would be seen as an unwelcome interference; on the other hand, as a part of Canada there is no way for Quebec to stop any immigrants who have entered, because officially they have entered Canada and cannot be stopped from moving to Ontario or any other province they choose.

Thousands of Chinese citizens who have given up on emigrating have found a way out: taking French courses and applying as immigrants to Quebec, hoping to be able to cope well enough with the language.

While learning French as a second language has lost ground in several regions of the world, and Chinese is gaining popularity due to the growing Chinese economy, several Chinese citizens are working hard to learn French.

Many governments have tightened immigration quotas, reducing the number of programs for skilled workers, and increasing the amount of financial commitment necessary to obtain exemptions. Quebec, on the other hand, selects its own immigrants and does not impose limits similar to the Canadian ones. The province, however, requires that new arrivals demonstrate a knowledge of French.

Immigration agencies in Beijing have begun francization programs last year, seeing it in some cases as the only way to emigrate for some. These immigrants must commit to live in Quebec during their application, but later can live in Toronto or Vancouver, the two preferred destinations of investor immigrants.

"During the interview one must sign the document, but once in Canada the Charter of Rights and Freedoms lets you live where you want", added Mrs. Li (interviewed in the article). Only about 10% of Chinese who use the investor immigrant program in Quebec come there, or even fewer. You don't see them. It's too cold for most Chinese. There are no direct flights.

Many Chinese in the past used the federal program based on skills, taking advantage of the fact that their families were already in the country, or benefited from the Canadian investor immigrant program. But a surplus of applications forced Ottawa to suspend family reunification for two years, and limiting the number of investor immigrants to 700.

(repeating that this is why Chinese immigrants now tend to focus on Quebec...)

The Quebec Minister of Immigration, Kathleen Weil, said that the province welcomed with pleasure the increase of interest from these potential immigrants. "We are happy with this situation and we want them to stay here", she added.

This new interest in Quebec has caused a strong increase in the number of hours of French learned in China, including Beijing, where the Alliance Française has had to turn away students. The head of the executive there, Laurent Croset, spoke of a "huge increase" in the number of French classes in China. In fact, the number of lesson hours in China from October 2010 to September 2011 increased 14 percent.

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