Que. Libs want 'moral commitment' from immigrants
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 10, 2007 11:18AM EST
MONTREAL - Aspiring newcomers to Quebec should be made to sign a "moral commitment" to the province's core values as part of the immigration process, the Quebec Liberal party said Sunday.
The party will make the recommendation on Monday to the contentious government commission looking at the accommodation of minorities.
Liberals claim their proposal will provide a frame of reference for those immigrants thinking about coming to Quebec.
"It is simply important to make sure that there is no misunderstanding before the future new immigrants come to Quebec," Saul Polo, a member of the party's working group on identity and federalism, told a news conference.
"We live under a certain structure and values."
The proposal would see hopeful immigrants sign a pledge to Quebec values, and appears aimed at dealing with concerns that mainstream culture does too much to accommodate the lifestyles of newcomers.
Liberal party officials indicated that secularism, gender equality and respect for the francophone majority are among the values immigrants should promise to respect.
But they demurred to Liberal members of the provincial legislature to elaborate on the details of their proposal.
"We agreed more on a principle," admitted Christian Ouellet, who heads the party's policy commission. "What will go in it? We didn't address the words that would be in the declaration."
The party's brief to the commission asks that immigrants respect Quebec values even before coming to the province. And while the brief stresses that "we must ensure they (immigrants) adhere" to Quebec values, party officials were careful to play down the implications of the commitment.
"In this declaration there are no coercive measures, there are no police," Ouellet said. "It's a declaration based on honour. People will be aware of a document that testifies to the Quebecois reality and Quebecois values. It's as simple as that."
The proposal to have immigrants sign a social contract of sorts is included in the five key recommendations the party will make to the commission.
The Quebec Grits are also calling for higher immigration levels, more knowledge about the benefits of immigration, better recognition of foreign credentials and guarantees for gender equality.
Premier Jean Charest has already pledged to amend the province's charter of rights to give gender equality precedence over religious freedoms.
His party will be among the last groups to present briefs before the so-called reasonable accommodations hearings, also known as the Bouchard-Taylor commission after co-chairs Gerard Bouchard and Charles Taylor.
Charest called the commission prior to last spring's provincial election, and since then it has served as a forum for xenophobic comments and indignation at racism.
The Parti Quebecois is also expected to present a brief to the commission before it wraps up its hearings in Montreal later this month.
Liberal party president Marc-Andre Blanchard took advantage of Sunday's news conference to blast the official Opposition Action democratique du Quebec for not presenting its own recommendations to the commission.
He accused ADQ Leader Mario Dumont of exploiting anxiety over immigration during the spring election campaign, only to now balk at entering the debate.
"Imagine the ADQ not participating in this commission after what they did in the last election campaign," Blanchard said. "In the last election campaign, Mr. Dumont... was creating fires all over the province on this issue."
The Bouchard-Taylor commission will deliver its final report next spring.