Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Unintended Xenophilia

One of the first things one realizes when one gets a job in Quebec is that you have to go through two immigration processes: Quebec's and then Canada's.  Quebec has a system that gives points for a variety of things including fluency in French.  Once you make it through the Quebec process, Canada can only say no (as far as I can tell) to you if either you have a criminal past (the CA process includes fingerprints* processed by your home country's police--the FBI in the US case) or if your medical check is problematic (less about contagion and more about expensive health care risk for public insurance system).
* Fun part of the process: one of the local agencies permitted to do the fingerprinting only took cash.  That is, it was essentially hiding income despite being responsible for doing something that was supposed to be about preventing crime and fostering security.  We ended up walking a few blocks to a cash machine since we had not expected tax evasion by such a business.  Ah, we were so naive back then.  
So, if you do not qualify to get into Canada through the normal system, you can take advantage of asymmetric federalism by going through the Quebec process. Apparently, the system is weighted enough that Chinese folks can get in if they master French.  Which means that there are now full classes in China.

This is kind of entertaining to me because the intent behind the Quebec immigration process (having a separate process and focusing on French as a key qualifier) was quite nationalist, of course, but it is now leading to immigration by people who are as far from "pure laine" as one can imagine.  This is not really news, as Quebec has seen a significant wave of immigration from the Middle East, Africa, Haiti and Vietnam--wherever France had colonies.  This is great for the cuisine, but I am not sure these folks will be voting for separation once they become citizens. And, of course, this has created problems given that Quebec nationalism has multiple threads, with some parts of it related to language but other parts focused more on xenophobia. 

The challenge Quebec faces is a declining population unless there is enough immigration, but even French-educated immigrants are not likely to be super-friendly to the nationalist cause.  Plus they will be the targets of nationalists who focus more on the color of their skin or the accent with which they speak French, rather than welcomed as part of the French-speaking community.  Which makes me wonder whether the recent Halal "crisis" was reported back in China and what the potential immigrants might think of it.

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