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Navigating immigration policy in Quebec and Canada

by Ian Down October 2, 2018
Navigating immigration policy in Quebec and Canada

“Who should the state let in? What is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to immigration public policies?” These are the first questions that appear on the website of the Centre for Immigration Policy Evaluation (CIPE).

Mireille Paquet, the centre’s co-director, said the first question alone could fill up a two-hour lecture.

Paquet is a professor in Concordia’s Department of Political Science who specializes in immigration policy. She was also the recipient of a Concordia University Research Award in the 2016-17 academic year. The following year, she was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Postdoctoral Fellow of the Canada Program at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Paquet co-directs the CIPE with Antoine Bilodeau, a professor of political science at Concordia who focuses on integration and “understanding the roots of views toward immigration and ethnic diversity,” according to the CIPE website. Paquet said that one of the centre’s goals is to educate students and the broader public on issues of immigration.

The CIPE offers a number of lectures and workshops for students interested in learning more about immigration policy, including talks that lay bare the experiences of those who pass through Canada’s immigration system. “CIPE is a research centre whose activities are based on the premise that informed decision-making regarding immigration-related issues must rest on clear knowledge about public policies and their impacts on immigrants as well as on receiving societies,” according to the centre’s website.

On Oct. 11, the CIPE will present “Recruiting Migrant Careworkers: The exploitation of financial needs, immigration precarity, and relationship,” a lecture that will discuss the exploitative practices of for-profit recruitment agencies in Canada, and the role that community organizations play in supporting those affected by these organizations.

In November, the centre will present a public lecture on a research paper entitled “From refugee protection to double punishment: Examining the institutional production of immigration penality.” According to the CIPE’s website, this lecture will explore the experiences of trans migrant women in the immigration and criminal justice systems.

Immigration has been a topic on the minds of many Quebecers—and people in the West more generally—over the past few years. The year 2015 is usually considered to mark the beginning of the migrant crisis in Europe, in which a wave of migrants sent political shockwaves throughout the continent, and the entire Western world. In the recent provincial election, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Leader François Legault famously pledged to cut Quebec’s annual immigration numbers from 50,000 immigrants to 40,000. He also promised to give new immigrants three years to learn French, after which point they would be subject to deportation should they fail a language test.

The CAQ’s policies were roundly criticized by Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard. “To say if you don’t pass the test you could be expelled? Horrible. You can’t talk about people that way,” he told the Montreal Gazette’s editorial board.

In addition to the intensive media coverage of the migrant crisis in Europe and the border crossing at Lacolle in southern Quebec, Montreal made headlines when it was declared a sanctuary city in 2017. Paquet said this is a noble gesture, but being a sanctuary city requires more than just a promise to refrain from deporting undocumented migrants. She said a true sanctuary city must commit to providing migrants with essential services.

Paquet said that in all of the discourse surrounding immigration, the voices of the migrants themselves are often lost. Immigrants are too often thought of as a burden, when in reality they bring economic benefits given the right conditions, according to Paquet. She added that the media has a role to play in promoting the voices of migrants.

Paquet said there was a large immigrant population at her high school when she was a student. Interacting with people whose parents had gone through Canada’s immigration system sparked a lifelong interest in immigration policy.

Students can learn more about the CIPE’s research and upcoming lectures and workshops by visiting the centre’s website.

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