Immigration minister says adding immigrants doesn’t have to dilute French

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says as Canada increases immigration levels, it has to do so in a way that strengthens both official languages

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OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said adding more newcomers to Canada doesn’t have to dilute the French language, as he announced Monday that the government had hit targets for francophone immigrants.

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According to new numbers, 16,300 French-speaking immigrants arrived in Canada last year to settle in francophone communities, 4.4 per cent of the 437,0000 immigrants who came to the country in 2022.

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The government has only been tracking that percentage since 2006, when only 1.4 per cent of new immigrants settled in francophone communities. Last year’s total is the highest it has ever been and in line with the government’s current target.

Fraser said as Canada increases immigration levels it has to do so in a way that strengthens both official languages.

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“We need to do more to demonstrate to Canadians that regardless of which official language you speak, you have a future in this country,” he said.

The federal government has set large immigration targets, with the goal of adding 500,000 newcomers per year by 2025. Quebec’s government has resisted those targets, with Premier François Legault arguing it would be “suicidal” to the French language and Quebec’s culture. The province is pushing to ensure all economic immigrants to Quebec speak French.

The Quebec government has control over how many economic immigrants it accepts and has limited the province to 50,000 newcomers per year. Under that strict limit, Quebec took in 15.7 per cent of immigrants last year, even though the province represents 23 per cent of Canada’s population.

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Fraser said he doesn’t believe Quebecers or other francophones are anti-immigration, but rather want to ensure they can protect their language.

“One of the first things I came to realize was that there’s not widespread opposition to immigration in francophone communities, but they want to make absolutely certain that they’re still going to have the opportunity to live their life in the official language of their choice,” he said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that we can actually significantly grow our immigration ambitions, while we actually increase the demographic weight of francophones in this country.”

Fraser said the communities he represents in Atlantic Canada have been able to prevent school and hospital closures by bringing in more new Canadians. He said he understands that is a particular challenge in francophone communities.

“Imagine that situation in a francophone community. If so many families have left over the course of the generation that the school closes down. You can’t depend, in many francophone communities in Canada, that there’s just another school down the road,” he said. “Communities can cease to exist, and people lose their ability to live their life in the language of their choice.”

Email: [email protected]

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Sherri Crump

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