A French doctoral student has been denied residency in Quebec after officials in Canada’s francophone province ruled that she had an inadequate command of her mother tongue.
Emilie Dubois, a graphic designer who has lived and studied in Quebec City for eight years, was stunned to find her recent residency application denied on the grounds that she failed to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of French.
“I have a diploma from a francophone university, the first in Canada. I’m a French citizen, too, and I did all of my studies in French,” she told Radio-Canada.
The provincial government based its controversial decision on her dissertation on cellular and molecular biology. The first chapter of her work – a response to a scientific journal article – was written in English, while the remaining four sections were written in French.
“The first letter said you are not proving you know how to speak French because your thesis is considered to be written in English,” Dubois told the National Post.
The letter read: “You did not complete program of study in Quebec entirely in French, including the dissertation or thesis.”
The decision left Dubois dumbfounded.
“It’s like an avalanche fell on my head and I don’t know why,” she told Radio-Canada.
Her initial application was submitted under a program meant to expedite foreigner workers applying for residency, something she was confident she qualified for.
Dubois then took a government-approved French language test to prove she could speak her native tongue, immediately submitting the results. But months later, she was notified that the government had chosen to uphold its original decision.
Quebec, the only province which is majority French-speaking, has at times taken provocative steps to preserve French as its official language. In October, the government proposed banning the popular greeting “Bonjour-hi”, only to quickly backtrack amid outrage and ridicule from residents.
Dubois left her home in France in 2012 to pursue a doctoral degree at Quebec’s Laval University. After completing the program, she started her own graphic design firm. Because she runs her own company, the government also views her as self-employed, further complicating her efforts to obtain residency.
Following media reports on her plight, a representative of the governing Coalition Avenir Québec tweeted that the decision is being reviewed.
Dubois, who still has nearly two years remaining on her current work permit, is optimistic the situation will be resolved.
“My life is here,” Dubois told Radio-Canada. “You cannot tell me that I cannot prove that I speak French.”