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An immigration lawyers’ group is seeking a court order that would force Quebec’s government to continue processing backlogged applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
The province’s Coalition Avenir Québec government proposed terminating the backlog of around 18,000 pending applications in legislation tabled February 7.
The legislation, known as Bill 9, said the termination order was to take effect immediately.
In an injunction request filed Wednesday, the Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI) says the government’s proposal is “completely illegal” and would have “devastating” consequences for affected applicants.
“It destroys the ability of these individuals, many of whom are already well engaged in and at the final stage of the process of selection, to realize their plans for a new life in Canada,” the request reads in French.
The request argues that Quebec’s Immigration Minister is required by law to issue decisions on the pending applications and does not have the discretionary authority to refuse to do so.
AQAADI is asking Quebec’s Superior Court to order the government to continue processing applications for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) “at the usual pace” until the legislation is passed by Quebec’s National Assembly.
A CSQ must be granted by the Government of Quebec before a Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) candidate can apply for Canadian permanent residence.
“With each passing day, dozens of applications for a CSQ that could have been processed are not,” the request reads.
“The situation is clearly urgent.”
The request says each application potentially concerns not just the applicant, but their spouse and children.
“These 18,000 applications represent tens of thousands of individuals,” the request reads.
The AQAADI is expected to argue its case in court on Friday.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s proposal has been widely criticized as unfair given the length of time that many applicants have been waiting for a decision on their file and the fact thousands are already living and working or studying in Quebec as temporary residents.
The government says affected applicants will instead have to create a profile using the province’s new online Expression of Interest system, which was introduced last August to manage the pool of candidates for the QSWP.
The applications the government wants to terminate were submitted when the QSWP accepted paper-based applications on a first-come, first-served basis.
When the proposed legislation was introduced, Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said the Expression of Interest system is a better fit for the CAQ government’s efforts to tailor the selection of skilled workers to labour shortages in regions around the province.
When Bill 9 was introduced, Jolin-Barrette said dismissing the application backlog was necessary so the government could focus on selecting candidates in the Expression of Interest pool and reduce processing times from 36 months to six months.
“It’s a strong measure,” he said, “but it’s the only one capable of breaking a stalemate that we can no longer accept.”
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