Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, April 18, 2017 — The recent practices of the Quebec Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) to scrutinize and penalize international students about their French proficiency may be racially discriminatory, in violation of these students' constitutional rights, and should be legally challenged.

Recently, many international students, notably from China, India and the Middle-East, have seen their application for the Certification of Selection of Quebec (CSQ), which paves the way for permanent residency in Canada, rejected by MIDI officials.

Since January 2017, several students have received a letter summoning them to an interview at the MIDI office, for the stated purpose of checking whether they meet the requirements of the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ), a fast-track program for international students to obtain a CSQ in view of gaining permanent residency.

In this letter, the department states that “[there are] grounds to believe that you have provided information or a document that is false or misleading regarding your level of knowledge of the French language.”

At this meeting, the students were met by a French language evaluator, who was sometimes accompanied by an immigration official, and were asked to converse in French. The interview usually lasted for 30 minutes. Afterwards, the students received a letter from MIDI stating that their CSQ application has been rejected on the basis that they have shown a level of oral French below level 7 or 8 of the Quebec ranking of the French competency level.

The impacted international students have submitted, as part of their CSQ application, a certificate of French language training issued by local schools or school boards. Most of them have disbursed thousands of dollars in tuition to study French, often during an entire year, in order to receive this official certificate of French language competency, an essential document for the issuance of the CSQ.

For MIDI, the purported failure of the oral French evaluation is an indication that the students have provided false or misleading information or documentation. Consequently, they may be banned from re-applying for the CSQ for a period of five years.

CRARR considers these MIDI practices to be constitutionally suspect since they disproportionately impact racialized students more so than those from France and the United States, the two other major groups of international students.

“MIDI engages in heightened scrutiny and suspicion of mostly racialized international students by singling them out for differential treatment, while failing to inform them why their French language certificate is 'false or misleading', when this document is legally issued by a Quebec school board,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“Key elements of profiling based on race, language and national origin are present,” he noted.

“The process lacks transparency and fairness, and may involve arbitrary testing methods, as the evaluation is strictly oral, without known evaluation criteria, and conducted by individuals without proper identification and known credentials”, Niemi added.

It is clear that the MIDI process operates under the presumption that the international students have knowingly or deliberately submitted a fraudulent certificate pertaining to French language competency.

“In its letter of summon, the MIDI informs the CSQ applicant, at the outset, of the department's intent to reject their application on the grounds that the submitted certificate is 'false or misleading', without presenting any evidence to this effect, before, during or after the interview, ” said Me Stephen De Four-Wyre, a member of CRARR's legal team.

“This presumption of guilt is a clear violation of the students' constitutional right to the presumption of innocence because it is an arbitrary reversal of the burden of proof onto each student who now has the onus to prove that he or she did not commit fraud”, added De Four-Wyre.

CRARR's legal team is set to help any international student who has been denied the CSQ or banned from reapplying. As a first step, CRARR has formally requested the Quebec Ombudsman to launch an investigation into MIDI's administrative practices.

“MIDI’s treatment of these international students goes right against the Quebec government's laudable objective to entice them to stay in Quebec as productive permanent residents, and future citizens,” Niemi noted.