Quebec immigration overhaul would be unfair, Gatineau advocates say

People who advocate for immigrants in the Outaouais region are upset over recent proposed changes to Quebec's immigration rules.

Bill 9 would toss out thousands of skilled-worker applications

YouYou Nsembe, an employment counsellor for a settlement service for new immigrants, said she has no idea what will happen to her own brother's application now that Quebec has proposed changes to its immigration rules. (Radio-Canada)

People who advocate for immigrants in the Outaouais region are upset over recent proposed changes to Quebec's immigration rules.

Minister of Immigration Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled Bill 9 at the National Assembly on Thursday, proclaiming that the new rules would do a better job of meeting the needs of the Quebec workforce. 

Bill 9 includes an amendment to the Quebec Immigration Act to "clarify" its goals, including ensuring that immigrants learn French and integrate the "democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms."

"So we make a match — it's like the Tinder of immigration," explained Jolin-Barrette.

Other changes would include speeding up the application process and addressing regional labour needs.

But the new law would also mean tossing out more than 18,000 applications from skilled workers — some of which, according to the minister, have been in the backlog for 15 years.

'This affects me too'

That cuts particularly close to home for YouYou Nsembe, an employment counsellor for immigrants working in Gatineau.

Her brother, a computer engineer in the Congo, applied in 2017 to come to Canada. She worries he could be affected by the proposed changes, even though he has a degree and letters of recommendation from a Canadian employer.

"As his sister, this affects me too," said Nsembe in a French-language interview.

Roxana Merello, the director of Service Intégration Travail Outaouais (SITO), an immigration services organization, said she doesn't understand how the government's approach — which also includes a reduction in the total number of immigrants coming to the province by 10,000 this year — will help the Quebec job market.

Job demand already high

She said SITO is constantly getting requests from employers for workers. Merello said research suggests in the coming years, 22 per cent of jobs will have to be filled by immigrants. 

"We can't meet employer demands now," said Merello. "We're wondering what [we'll] we do if we get rid of 18,000 files."

While the plan is to refund skilled worker applicants their application fees, that doesn't include other costs like legal and travel fees, said Jean-Marie Mondésir, chair of the board representing Accueil Parrainage Outaouais, a settlement organization working with new arrivals.

Mondésir said he's not against improving the system, but trashing so many applications in the queue seems "really unfair."​