POLITICS
11/01/2011 07:10 EDT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 EST

Quebec Immigration: Record Numbers Expected In La Belle Province

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QUEBEC - Quebec's Liberal government says the province will continue to welcome record numbers of immigrants, despite complaints that it's not doing enough to integrate newcomers, many of whom don't speak French.

Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said Tuesday that Quebec would let in between 51,200 and 53,800 new arrivals in 2012 with basically the same number expected in 2013 and 2014.

About 18,900 of those arriving next year are expected to be unable to speak French.

Both the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois and Francois Legault, who filed papers on Tuesday to create a new political party, say the government should put a lid on immigrants until they could be better integrated into the French majority.

However, employers have been urging the government to boost the number of immigrants so there will be an adequate workforce after baby boomers start picking up their pension cheques.

Weil said that the government will not relent in its promotion of French and the integration of immigrants and that it plans to focus on people who already speak French before they arrive.

A series of reports released in September by the Office de la langue francaise indicated that most immigrants still speak their mother tongue at home, something the PQ says shows they are not really embracing French.

PQ legislator Yves-Francois Blanchet said at the time that that was evidence that Quebec should lower its immigration rate, although he would not say by how much.

Legault, who is fronting the Coalition pour l'avenir du Quebec (Coalition For Quebec's Future), has said that resources to integrate the new arrivals should be doubled and that in the meantime the number allowed in should be cut to 45,000.

The government has already been criticized by its own Conseil superieur de la langue francaise for not providing enough French classes to immigrants.

About 31 per cent — the majority — of the new arrivals are expected to come from Africa.