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Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wants to change the way the skilled worker category is administered. The budget implementation bill would eliminate all backlogged cases and force would-be immigrants to apply again. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A federal court judge has quashed the hopes of hundreds of would-be immigrants seeking to force the government to review their files.

Over 800 skilled workers have seen their applications languish in a massive backlog that's set to be eliminated by the federal budget bill.

They are suing the government over the delay in processing their files and had sought an injunction that would force the immigration minister to keep their applications open while the case is before the courts.

That's because the budget bill is likely to pass before the case is over, meaning they would lose their applications.

But in a decision released Wednesday, the judge said he can't force the immigration minister to keep the files open.

He called their request devoid of merit in part because the bill hasn't passed and the courts can only get involved once legislation is enacted, not before.

He also ruled that the law as it stands doesn't give the minister power over the affected files so the courts can't stop the minister from doing something he doesn't have the power to do.

The case is still expected to be heard in court next month.

Second lawsuit pending

The lawsuit is one of two currently pending against the government over its decision to erase the files of 280,000 people and return their application fees. The second case has not been heard yet.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says they were pleased and not surprised by the ruling.

Ana Curic says the government believes the bill will withstand any legal challenges and she called the backlog a roadblock to Canada's ability to respond to labour market needs.

The case at hand involved skilled workers who had applied to come to Canada prior to 2008, when the government made major changes to the immigration program.

As a result, their applications sunk to the bottom of the pile and they allege that's violated a promise to them that their files would be reviewed in a timely fashion.

In his decision, the judge says that there may be an issue with how long it has taken to process the files but he says it's unclear that a contractual obligation was created.

And he says even if there was, there's no legal reason Parliament can't extinguish such a right.