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Immigrantsat 10:34 - 10th, November 2008
Values pledge 'a slippery slope' Immigrant groups uncomfortable with Charest's plan
Â The Gazette Thursday, October 30, 2008
A Quebec government plan to force new immigrants to sign a declaration saying they will respect Quebec's common values is a political stunt designed to increase the Charest government's support prior to a provincial election, opponents of the new plan said yesterday.
Starting in January, immigrants applying to come to Quebec will be required, as part of their application process, to sign a declaration promising to learn French and acknowledging that they understand that men and woman have equal rights and that political and religious powers are separate.
The declaration will be translated into several languages so that immigrants can understand what they are reading, but they must sign the French version.
Anyone who refuses to sign the declaration will not have their application accepted, Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James said yesterday after unveiling a series of measures designed to help immigrants better integrate into Quebec society.
"Coming to Quebec is not a right, it is a privilege," James said. "If you refuse to sign the declaration, you won't be able to come here."
James said she doesn't foresee opposition to the declaration from prospective immigrants because they probably would already have knowledge of Quebec society.
"When people leave their country and come to Quebec, it is because they see the potential that Quebec has to offer," she said.
Ehab Lotayef, the vice-president of Parole Arabe, an Arab community organization, said: "It is a political move to gain votes, and I hope that most Quebecers see through this.
"I don't know what it can achieve. I am all for new immigrants learning more about the place they are coming to, but this is a place that already has a Charter of Rights."
The director of a Montreal organization that helps immigrants said she believes the new plan is designed to appease a segment of the population that is worried that too many newcomers don't share the values of Quebecers.
"I am uncomfortable with making people sign this," said Anne Marie Rodrigues, director of the Centre d'Action Socio-Communitaire de Montréal.
James defended the decision to make prospective immigrants sign the declaration, saying the values in it are based on principles in Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the French Language Charter.
She admitted there wasn't much the government could do if immigrants refused to abide by Quebec values once they are here.
Rodrigues said she doesn't think prospective immigrants will refuse to sign the declaration "because they want to move here."
By the end of December, about 47,000 people will have immigrated to Quebec this year.
Although the Charest government announced the new plan yesterday, his party first floated the idea back in December 2007 when it appeared before the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation.
Hïrouxville town councillor André Drouin said last night that he was thrilled with the contents of the declaration.
"It is everything that Hïrouxville has been asking for," he said. "They say that French is our official language and that (immigrants) should learn French before they come here. We want them to tell people: 'This is how things are done in Quebec. Do you agree or not?' ''
Hïrouxville, a town in the Mauricie, made international headlines in January 2007 after its council adopted a "code of life" in which foreigners were advised that public stonings, burnings and genital mutilations of women are not allowed in the community.
Although he supports the plan, Drouin said that he is worried that the declaration will be hard to enforce.
"If an immigrant signs the declaration and then decides he can't wear a security helmet at work because of his religion, what will happen?" he asked.
"That's why we want no accommodation. When you enter the country, there should be no religious accommodations."
Salem Elmenyawi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, said he was alarmed to learn that the government is going to force people to sign a declaration. "This is very serious," he said. "This is a slippery slope, especially when we already have the Charter of Rights."
He said immigrants who are desperate to come to Quebec will "sign anything you put in front of them."
Some of the measures announced yesterday were suggested by the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation, which was set up by Premier Jean Charest to examine the treatment of religious minorities in Quebec after several highly publicized cases of religious accommodation.
They include increasing funding for groups that support immigrants and promoting interculturalism, or diversity. Immigrants who have been accepted to Quebec will now be able to take free French courses before they leave their home country - either online or at the Alliance Française.
Once they arrive in Quebec, the government will ask immigrants to attend a seminar on adapting to life here, called How to Live in Quebec. The course will be given in several languages to accommodate the 35 per cent of immigrants who don't know French when they arrive here.
The province also plans to favour immigrants who have the job skills needed in the Quebec labour market and says it will step up efforts to support immigrants who are having trouble finding work.
In an effort to combat inequality, discrimination and prejudice directed toward cultural communities, particularly visible minorities, Quebec plans a host of measures to help Quebecers better understand immigrants.
The plan includes a publicity campaign attacking racism and discrimination and educating employers about the importance of hiring immigrants.
Lotayef said it is crucial that professionals coming to Quebec have their credentials recognized more quickly.
"You come in as an engineer and you have to work at a gas station or as a computer data entry person," he said. "If you feel you are accepted by the society, it would create more harmony. These are the issues we should be working on."
- - -
The declaration of common values contains several statements including:
- Quebec is a free and democratic society.
- French is the official language.
- Men and women have equal rights.
- Quebec is a pluralistic society.
- Quebec is governed by the French Language Charter. French is the common language of work, teaching, communicating, commerce and business.
- Political and religious institutions in Quebec are separate.
The declaration ends with the following statement:
Je déclare vouloir vivre au Québec dans le cadre et le respect de ses valeurs communes et vouloir apprendre le franÃ§ais si je ne le parle pas déja.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008
My thoughts: it's about bloody time. though i think he's trying to steal a bit of dumont's idea here because i think dumont said something about closing off the border after a certain amount of immigrants came in. which i'm lso totally for. quebec is losing who it is because of the influx of arabs(muslim) and chinese coming here. there are a small proportion of them who do change their way of life to suit quebec and north america a little more but the majority are either coming in with their beliefs intact and converting people or switching back afterwards.
it's time this stops.
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