Testy exchange between Quebec immigration minister and UN representative

Testy exchange between Quebec immigration minister and UN representative

Quebec has spent hundreds of millions of dollars resettling refugees and asylum seekers over the past few years, which is more than its fair share, Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told a UN representative during a testy exchange.

In response, Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the representative in Canada of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said Jolin-Barrette seems to consider asylum seekers a “burden” on Quebec society.

“We have to be careful about this dichotomy, which tends to says refugees are a burden, as you are trying to emphasize right now,” Beuze said. “This is not necessarily the reality.”

Jolin-Barrette’s snapped back: “I never said that refugees were a burden …. The comments you attribute to me are not acceptable.”

Beuze was addressing a legislature committee studying the province’s immigration plan. Quebec plans to reduce immigration by 20 per cent in 2019, to 40,000 people. The province plans on slowly increasing the number over the next few years, to reach about 52,500 people in 2022.

Business groups had told the committee earlier in the week Quebec needs to accept significantly more immigrants to meet labour needs. While Beuze said Thursday the United Nations encourages Quebec to resettle more refugees.

Jolin-Barrette and his government, however, have promised to reduce annual immigration amid concerns newcomers weren’t properly integrating.

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