Letter to the Editor – A majority Francophone society

I read with interest the editorial by Antoine Robitaille, who described my annual report (which dealt with immigration) as an example of “blind symmetry.” I think he misread my recommendations and misunderstood my intentions. Far from applying some principle of symmetry, my recommendations take Quebec’s distinct reality into account. Of the nine recommendations concerning Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), only the last two deal with Anglophone immigration in Quebec.

Let’s face facts—Canada’s immigration system is fundamentally asymmetrical. The Canada-Quebec Accord, which dates from the era of the Cullen‑Couture Agreement 35 years ago, gives Quebec full autonomy over immigration. Quebec sets its own targets, and Quebec recruits, selects and assists the immigrants it receives. Nothing in my annual report should be construed as wanting to change those facts.

However, CIC has some overall responsibilities when it comes to immigration. And, like all federal institutions, it has a legal duty to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.

CIC has committed to studying Anglophone immigration in Quebec, a topic we know very little about. However, the way it is going about it is making it difficult for institutions in Quebec’s English-speaking communities to access the funding that has been provided. I therefore recommend that the research be more focused to take the communities’ needs into account.

The second recommendation is that CIC should remember it has a duty to take positive measures for the English-speaking communities, in particular to make it easier for their members to settle in the regions, where their numbers are fewer.

Some of the reactions to my annual report ignore the fact that I also mention successes in it. For example, there is the initiative by Québec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, who helped organize a forum on the integration of English-speaking immigrants in the Québec City Region, an event that also showcased the important role of English-speaking community organizations in welcoming English-speaking immigrants and helping them to integrate into Quebec society. At the Mayor’s forum, I heard eloquent personal stories about the help that Voice of English-speaking Québec has given to English-speaking immigrants who needed tools to help them adapt to Quebec society.

An existential question underlies these reactions to my annual report. Is Quebec a majority or minority Francophone society? If—as I believe—it is a majority Francophone society, whose public language is French, with a television, movie, music, entertainment and publishing industry in French; and if it is, as I believe, a host society for immigrants, with an English-speaking minority, then it should see that minority as an asset—with community institutions entitled to thrive—and not as a threat.

If, as Mr. Robitaille claims, I have been blinded, it is not by some desire to achieve symmetry, but rather by a sense of regard for the strength of Quebec society, for its ability to integrate immigrants, and for its respect for pluralism and its English-speaking minority.

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages

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