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The Government of Quebec’s controversial immigration reforms were passed by the province’s National Assembly over the weekend, officially cancelling around 16,000 unprocessed applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
Known as Bill 9, the legislation was introduced in February and proposed the immediate termination of pending applications to the program submitted prior to August 2, 2018.
At that time, the pending applications numbered around 18,000, but a court order forced the government to continue processing the applications until the National Assembly voted on Bill 9 and around 2,000 applications were processed in the interim, of which 258 were approved.
Bill 9 was passed by a vote of 62 to 42 after 19 hours.
The goal of the legislation, the government says, is ensuring that immigrants to Quebec are better integrated and therefore better equipped to succeed in Quebec’s labour market.
“We are changing the immigration system in the public interest, because we have to make sure that we have immigration that is tied to the needs of the labour market,” Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said prior to the vote.
Prioritizing expressions of interest
Jolin-Barrette has argued that cancelling the backlogged applications, which represented around 50,000 people including applicants’ families, was necessary given the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP)’s switch to an online Expression of Interest system last summer.
The applications in question were submitted when the QSWP operated on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis, which Jolin-Barrette has said was not in touch with the actual needs of employers in the province.
The new online system allows Quebec to select candidates based on the details provided in their Expression of Interest, which they submit electronically through a portal called Arrima.
An Expressions of Interest details a candidate’s education, training, work experience and language abilities, among other factors.
Quebec’s Immigration Ministry, MIDI, then invites candidates to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de séléction du Québec, or CSQ) based on a variety of considerations, including labour needs in outlying regions of the province where worker shortages are more acute.
Jolin-Barrette has said the Expression of Interest system is a better fit for the government’s efforts to tailor the selection of skilled workers in order to address these shortages.
Those whose applications have been cancelled can submit an Expression of Interest, Jolin-Barrette said.
The Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce, the FCCQ, welcomed the passing of Bill 9, saying the government’s efforts to align immigration with the needs of Quebec employers “will have a very important impact.”
“The concerted efforts of the government will lead to a better link between the skills of immigrants and those required by Quebec companies, “said Stéphane Forget, President and CEO of the FCCQ.
The president of the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers, meanwhile, condemned the move, calling it “absolutely devastating” to those whose applications are now cancelled.
“Some of them have been waiting three, four, five years or more,” Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said.
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