Montreal

Quebec agrees to process immigration application backlog, at least until new law is passed

The Quebec government has agreed to continue processing immigration applications until the National Assembly votes on a bill that seeks to overhaul the current system.

Province drops opposition to injunction issued last week that forced it to delay immigration reforms

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette's controversial legislation aims to scrap the existing skilled-worker program and terminate its 18,000 outstanding applications for a Quebec selection certificate. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec government has agreed to continue processing immigration applications until the National Assembly votes on a bill that seeks to overhaul the current system.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette's controversial legislation aims to scrap the existing skilled-worker program and terminate its 18,000 pending applications for a Quebec selection certificate.  

Jolin-Barrette had ordered his ministry to immediately stop processing all outstanding applications, even though the bill is not yet law.

The move drew protests from lawyers, immigration advocates, employers groups and unions. Many said it cruelly thrust as many 50,000 people, including the applicants' families, into a state of limbo as they wait for an alternative to be established. 

But last week a Quebec Superior Court judge issued an 10-day injunction, forcing immigration officials to resume work on the applications from aspiring immigrants hoping to secure skilled-worker status.

On Monday afternoon, the government made a joint submission to the court with the association of immigration lawyers that sought the initial injunction.

They are asking the court to approve an injunction that would remain in place until the reforms become law or until a court can consider the legal validity of the bill — a process that could take at least six months. 

The injunction was made in the name of Seeun Park, a Korean nurse already living in Quebec who is awaiting a decision on her application to immigrate as a skilled worker. (Matthew Lapierre/CBC)

The Coalition Avenir Québec has a large majority in the National Assembly and is likely to pass the bill before the legislature breaks for the summer. 

"The application is ... filed by consent between the parties," Ho Sung Kim, a member of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association, said in a statement. "Its renewal is not contested."

A judge still has to sign off on the joint application before its becomes official.

Of the 18,000 pending skilled-worker applications, as many as 3,500 were made on behalf of people already living in Quebec. Many fear being forced to leave the country if their applications are tossed out without a decision.  

The government says its proposed reforms will make the province's immigration system more responsive to labour market needs, as well as place more emphasis on French-language skills and knowledge of Quebec values.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Montpetit is a journalist with CBC Montreal. He will be a William Southam Journalism Fellow at Massey College in 2021-2022.

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