Montreal

Quebec immigration minister admits he made a mistake on controversial reforms

Simon Jolin-Barrette has apologized to Quebecers for his handling of changes to the province's immigration program for foreign students and said he plans to consult this time around.

Simon Jolin-Barrette apologizes for his handling of file but says changes going in 'right direction'

Simon Jolin-Barrette apologized Tuesday for mishandling his government's proposed immigration reforms. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has apologized to Quebecers for his handling of his reform of the province's immigration program for foreign students.

The Nov. 1 changes to the Quebec Experience Program, known as by its French acronym, PEQ, put in jeopardy the future of thousands of students and temporary workers who expected to be on a fast track to become permanent residents. They were slammed by opposition parties, business groups and university administrators.

Jolin-Barrette abandoned his reform Friday, three days after foreign students studying in Quebec, some of them in tears, went to the National Assembly to implore the government to let them stay

He did not specifically apologize to the students who said they felt "abandoned" after risking losing their path to permanent residency.

Still going 'in the right direction'

Speaking Tuesday afternoon at the National Assembly, Jolin-Barrette acknowledged that last week was "not a good week."

"I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made on the reforms on immigration," he said, although he said he still thinks his government is going "in the right direction" on immigration.

Some opposition MNAS have called for Jolin-Barrette to quit as immigration minister. Jolin-Barrette said he has no intention of doing that, but that he'll do better next time.

Premier François Legault said the "intention" of the reform was good, but it "wasn't done perfectly."

Legault also apologized Tuesday, "especially for the students" affected.

The premier said that "when we make large and important changes, sometimes you can make errors if you want to go too fast."

But change is necessary, he said, to take into account the labour shortage in certain areas when implementing immigration policy.

He said what happened last week was his fault, and he needs to make sure different ministers work together more closely.

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