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Foreign students and temporary workers who were already in Quebec on November 1 will not have to meet new eligibility criteria for the Quebec Experience Program, the province’s immigration minister has announced.
The reversal comes a day after opposition parties, student groups, foreign workers and foreign students converged on Quebec’s National Assembly and called on the minister to show “a little humanity.”
Since their unveiling on October 30, many lawyers and experts have also objected to the measures, saying they could damage Quebec’s international image and its attractiveness to immigrants. The business community and prominent academics have also expressed concerns.
The Quebec Experience Program, or PEQ, allows eligible graduates of Quebec schools or temporary foreign workers living and working in the province to apply for selection for permanent residence in Quebec. Approved applicants can receive a Quebec Selection Certificate in as little as 20 days working days.
The new measures introduced last week limit eligibility to only those graduates with a Quebec-earned degree or diploma in an eligible field of training and to temporary foreign workers employed in an eligible occupation.
Quebec’s Immigration Ministry initially said the new criteria, which took effect November 1, would apply immediately to all PEQ candidates, rendering many already living in the province ineligible.
“I’m sensitive to the realities people are facing that were expressed yesterday by a number of those affected by the reforms,” Simon Jolin-Barrette said in an interview on Montreal’s 98.5 FM Wednesday morning.
“So today I’m announcing that I am putting in place an acquired rights clause for people who are already in Quebec, whether they are students or temporary foreign workers.”
Jolin-Barrette said he made the decision and informed Quebec Premier François Legault late Tuesday night after witnessing the testimonies of numerous students affected by the new rules at the National Assembly and reading about them in the media.
“The premier agreed with me and respects my decision,” he told host Paul Arcand.
The grandfather clause will apply to people already studying or working in Quebec on November 1, 2019, and the reforms that took effect that day will no longer be applied retroactively.
The Minister of Immigration stood by the reforms, saying immigration candidates need to match existing labour needs in Quebec.
“What I did in the spring with the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, to select candidates coming from abroad based on their profiles and matching that with the needs of the labour market, we’re going to do the same thing with the Quebec Experience Program,” he said.
When asked if it is possible that the lists used to determine eligibility are flawed, Jolin-Barrette said they come from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity and reflect the professions that are facing a deficit in Quebec’s 17 administrative regions.
“It’s a list that many governments have used and it’s updated annually based on a five-year employment perspective,” he said.
“When we’re granting CSQs, we have to ensure that candidates truly respond to labour needs.”
On Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault said the list of eligible programs under the PEQ’s Graduate Stream could be revised to address concerns raised by business and academic leaders in the province.
“If it’s necessary to adjust the list, we’ll adjust it,” Legault told Radio-Canada.
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