French-speaking immigrant settlement in francophone minority communities outside Quebec sets record

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (January 24, 2023, 8:30 AM EST) -- As Ottawa works on its pledged “robust” new francophone immigration strategy featuring “objectives, targets and specific indicators that will ensure the sustainability of the French language,” the federal government has announced that 2022 saw a record number of French-speaking immigrants settle in francophone-minority communities outside Quebec.

In 2022, more than 16,300 French-speaking immigrants were admitted to Canada who settled in francophone-minority communities across the country, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced Jan. 23, noting this is the largest number since data began to be recorded in 2006.

IRCC said this means that the Liberal government achieved its target of 4.4 per cent of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec in 2022.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

“It is a significant milestone and reflects the importance and contribution of French-speaking immigrants to the vitality and development of Francophone communities outside Quebec,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement. “We will continue to welcome French-speaking immigrants to ensure the viability of these key communities that are helping to shape the future of our country.”

(By way of comparison, during the first census year in 2006, the number of admissions of French-speaking residents outside Quebec was just over 2,800. The latest number represents a jump of 3.02 per cent (from 1.38 per cent to 4.4 per cent) between 2006 and 2022.)

IRCC said Canada is continuing its work on francophone immigration outside Quebec, a “key priority” in the years ahead. “The government reaffirms its commitment to promoting population growth and economic prosperity and is currently developing a francophone immigration policy that will strengthen and guide our work,” IRCC said. “We are on the road to success and will continue working to achieve ambitious francophone immigration objectives in the years to come.”

“Today's announcement is a step in the right direction and will give us the momentum we need to adopt a robust new francophone immigration policy, presented in Bill C-13, with objectives, targets and specific indicators that will ensure the sustainability of the French language,” Minister of Official Languages Ginette Petitpas Taylor said.

Under Bill C-13, the Liberal government’s proposed Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages Act under study by MPs following its introduction in the Commons March 1, 2022, the minister of citizenship and immigration will be required to adopt a policy on francophone immigration which must include, among other things, objectives, targets and indicators.

(Notably, Bill C-13 also stipulates that any final decision, order or judgment of a federal court “that has precedential value” is to be made available simultaneously in both official languages. It would also oblige the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that every Supreme Court judge who hears a matter can understand the language of the proceedings without the assistance of an interpreter.)

The government said that over the past five years, the number of francophone immigrants has increased by 42,470 permanent residents.

IRCC said French is the first official language spoken by a growing number of Canadians, but the proportion that French-speaking Canadians represents dropped from 2016 (22.2 per cent) to 2021 (21.4 per cent). From 2016 to 2021, the number of Canadians who speak mostly French at home increased in Quebec, British Columbia and Yukon, but decreased in the other provinces and territories.

IRCC said the achievement of the target of 4.4 per cent of admissions of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec represents an increase in the proportion achieved each year since 2006. Over the past five years the percentages were: 1.82 per cent (4,922) in 2018; 2.82 per cent (8,470) in 2019; 3.61 per cent (5,756) in 2020; 1.95 per cent (6,949) in 2021; and 4.44 per cent (16,371) in 2022.

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