The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s plan to reform the immigration system continue to make waves. With the government forced to insist nobody will be shipped out as a result of the changes, the Liberals blasted the government saying it is again showing is amateurism.
QUEBEC – The immigration minister has moved to calm a storm sparked by his plans to reform the system for new arrivals, saying the government is not about to expel people already living and working in Quebec.
One day after Quebec’s Liberals described the plan to trash 18,000 immigration applications to clear the backlog as inhuman, the government revealed that 3,800 of those requests were filed by people already in Quebec and covered by the Regular Skilled Worker Program.
None of the workers will be expelled because they are working with federally issued worker permits and can have those permits renewed, officials said.
The government is also inviting these individuals — many of whom speak French and have been working here more than 12 months — to apply for entry to the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ), which is designed for immigrants who have completed higher education programs.
The fact they are already here means they have a better chance of being fast-tracked in that program and issued a Quebec selection certificate allowing them to stay longer or permanently, said Marc-André Gosselin, press aide to Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.
As for others already living in Quebec, Gosselin said they have the option of re-applying for entry through the Expression of Interest Program, which Quebec is now promoting aggressively because it matches education and skills with available jobs.
Quebec believes it is the key to ending situations where highly educated immigrants arrive in Quebec only to find there are no jobs in their field and they end up washing dishes or driving taxis.
But confusion over the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s reforms persisted with the media filled with stories of immigrants saying their dreams of moving to Quebec have been dashed because the surprise changes to the system will mean they have to start the application process over.
Even if the CAQ government Monday focused its media damage control efforts on the 3,800 cases involving people already here, hundreds of other applications – largely filed from overseas — hang in limbo.
While the government says some of those files date as far back as 2005 and have probably been abandoned by the individuals, most of files in the backlog date in the last three or four years.
The government Monday again steered the blame for problems in the system to the backlog left behind by former Liberal government. Making an announcement in Terrebonne, Premier François Legault said it was the Liberals who “dragged their feet,” allowed the backlog to grow.
“There won’t be any more broken dreams (after the reforms) because people will know what waits for them in Quebec,” added Jolin-Barrette in a TVA interview in reference to the new skills-job matching program.
“What I want to do is ensure that when people arrive in Quebec they always have a job that matches their skills.”
But with the Liberals describing the CAQ’s reform launch as amateurish, the government struggled to explain the reforms it has proposed and which are included in Bill 9 tabled in the legislature last week.
Quebec, for example, changed twice in the same day their estimate of how many people those files actually represent.
And the CAQ government faces trouble getting Ottawa to agree to the reforms which involve both levels of government.
On Friday, federal intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic Leblanc dismissed Quebec’s request that Quebec be allowed to set its own conditions for the granting of permanent Canadian residency to all new arrivals in Quebec.
Legault responded to that statement saying Ottawa will pay a political price for its refusal in the looming federal election campaign.