That the House call on the government to review its immigration targets starting in 2024, after consultation with Quebec, the provinces and territories, based on their integration capacity, particularly in terms of housing, health care, education, French language training and transportation infrastructure, all with a view to successful immigration.
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by informing you that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague for Mirabel.
I am pleased to go before him. This way, knowing the quality of his speeches, mine will not be too overshadowed. I know I could say the same of all my colleagues who will be speaking after me today.
Let me throw out words like anti-immigration, intolerant, racist and xenophobe. It is often said that an insult is an argument made by someone with nothing to say. As I am the first to speak today on this Bloc Québécois opposition day, I will express my wish: I hope that everyone who speaks after me, regardless of the political party they represent, submits arguments to the House that elevate the debate and provoke thought.
What the Bloc Québécois is proposing today is to hold a serious, responsible discussion. What we are proposing is to bring to the heart of the debate on immigration what should have always been there but has been overlooked by the government. The thing that should be at the centre, the foundation, the pillar of the entire discussion on immigration, is the actual immigrant. If the immigrant is at the heart of our discussion on immigration, then, by extension, our capacity to provide him or her with all the necessary tools to successfully navigate the immigration process will also be at the heart of our discussion. That is precisely the goal of our motion today.
Let us make something clear from the start. We are not asking the government to review its immigration targets because we are not welcoming. Take, for example, my hometown of Saint‑Jean‑sur‑Richelieu, which I represent. There was a really nice article about it in La Presse just last week. It said that many newcomers were choosing to settle in Saint‑Jean‑sur‑Richelieu instead of Montreal, some of them after having lived in both cities. That is the case for many of the asylum seekers who crossed at Roxham Road and who stayed with us before leaving for the big city.
The article reported that many of them decided to come back because Saint‑Jean is quieter and Montreal is too busy. Also, it was a little bit easier to find housing and the cost of housing was a little lower. It was also somewhat easier to find work. We are indeed welcoming, and the word is getting around among newcomers, who are talking to each other about Saint‑Jean‑sur‑Richelieu's reputation.
As the article also indicated, nothing is perfect, far from it. It stated, and I quote, “However, the fact that newcomers are settling in the regions has an impact on those communities, which have less experience with immigration and, more importantly, do not have the integration facilities and services needed to properly support these newcomers.
Organizations back home, like L'Ancre, ably led by its director, Lyne Laplante, whom I salute, do amazing work, but there are not enough resources available to make sure that increased immigration remains successful.
To properly welcome newcomers, being not as bad as Montreal is simply not good enough. Resources levels and existing infrastructure cannot sustain the increased immigration targets proposed by the government. In Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, when arrivals through Roxham Road were at their peak, families that took Ukrainians under their wing could not find French classes for them, because even asylum seekers were on waiting lists. Without any French training, finding work was extremely difficult for them—assuming that the government bothered to give work permits to asylum seekers in the first place.
As mentioned in the article, services for children are also essential. It reads as follows:
The migratory journey of asylum seekers is an extremely difficult one. These students have seen and experienced things that can have lasting effects. Some of them are very challenged and can have severe educational deficits. We must not only teach them French, but offer them customized support that is adapted to each child's experiences.
On the issue of integration capacity, the Liberals simply tell us that all we have to do is bring in immigrants with construction qualifications and they can build their own homes. I hope I am never invited to dinner at the Liberals' house, because it looks as though I would be cooking my own meal. All joking aside, this proposal is utterly ridiculous, and if we were to follow the logic that newcomers should provide the services they themselves need, it would mean that in addition to construction credentials, they should also be teachers, speech therapists, nurses, doctors, early childhood educators, French as a second language teachers, and the list goes on.
If we look solely at the housing shortage situation, which we know is urgent, CMHC predicts that 1.2 million additional housing units will be needed in Quebec within the next six years. This calculation is based on the assumption that the federal government will reverse its decision to raise immigration thresholds. The Liberals' magical thinking about bringing in more construction workers will not solve the problem.
For one thing, as we have seen so many times in the past, and as my colleague from Longueuil—Saint‑Hubert has often shown us, the federal government is nowhere to be found, when it should be stepping up with its share of funding for housing. Quebec is constantly fighting to access funds promised by the federal level. The national housing strategy agreement was signed in 2017, but it took years for that $1.4 billion to get out the door. Again, not long ago, it was like pulling teeth to get another $900 million released.
For another thing, new housing cannot be built if the infrastructure, particularly water and sewer facilities, is not ready. That is what is happening where I am from. Developers are ready and willing to build, but new development would put too much pressure on existing infrastructure. Here, too, the federal government is a major hindrance when it comes to infrastructure. Members may recall the excellent work done just last spring by my colleague from Pierre‑Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, who had to hound the government to prevent it from deciding of its own accord to withhold $3 billion that was meant for Quebec in an infrastructure funding agreement.
Throughout the day, my colleagues will be talking about various aspects related to integration capacity and how successful immigration depends on it. Housing, French language training, education, infrastructure and health care are all parameters providing a framework for newcomers that Quebec and the provinces are responsible for. It is therefore essential that the government consult with them to fully assess the amount of support they can provide to immigrants.
Consultation is just the first aspect of our motion today. Some people say that consultation is about seeking the approval of others for a project that has already been decided on. Quebec, however, is taking steps to try and challenge this adage, since it has called on a number of stakeholders to examine its immigration planning for the period from 2024 to 2027. Several briefs have been submitted on various aspects of immigration, including French language training, integration and regionalization. The necessary debate is intended to be healthy and, above all, useful as we move forward.
In the issue now at hand, federal targets, the consultation we are asking for definitely cannot be confined to just continuing to talk; it has to be followed up by an actual review of immigration thresholds that considers observations made by Quebec and the provinces. The Bloc Québécois leader often says that a known consequence constitutes intention. If Quebec and the provinces tell the government that, for 2024, the proposed thresholds do not allow us to adequately welcome newcomers, and the government still stubbornly maintains its targets and even raises them, there is only one possible conclusion: The government's decision to increase immigration is utilitarian and serves only its own purposes, period. We would then be forced to conclude that successful immigration is simply not a priority for this government.
Ultimately, those who will suffer the most are those lured by the promise of a generous welcome.