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Quebec immigration lawyers to take province to court over cancellation of 18,000 files

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled Bill 9 in February. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec immigration lawyers are taking the provincial government’s decision to suspend 18,000 immigration requests to court.

The Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI) filed an injunction Wednesday morning in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of a Montreal resident who immigrated from Korea in 2017.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s decision is “completely illegal,” according to the association, which represents about 250 members.

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“Faced with such a striking illegality that is likely to cause serious and irreparable damage to hundreds or even thousands of people, it is up to this court to intervene,” wrote the lawyers in the injunction.

In February, the CAQ government tabled Bill 9, which lays out proposed changes on how the province selects its immigrants. It includes the implementation of a French-language test and a Quebec values test.

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Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette also announced the province would cancel about 18,000 applications which have already been filed in the Regular Skilled Worker Program. Applicants would have to re-apply using the new criteria.

WATCH: Quebec’s immigration minister tables Bill 9

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Quebec tables controversial immigration bill – Feb 7, 2019

Jolin-Barrette said the new approach would better match applicants to the needs of the labour market.

Since Bill 9 has not been adopted, the AQAADI is asking the Superior Court to order the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion to continue to process applications for a selection certificate filed under the program.

“This refusal stems only from the premature application of a bill that has not yet been adopted by the National Assembly and therefore has no binding force,” the association wrote in its motion.

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The immigration lawyers are also asking for the ministry to provide a report on the number of immigration applications processed, accepted, refused or rejected every two weeks.

‘It was not a good decision’: immigration critic

In Quebec, opposition parties have been critical of the CAQ government’s proposed legislation.

Dominique Anglade, the Liberal immigration critic, said she was not surprised to hear about an impending legal challenge.

“It was not well advised. It was not a good decision,” said Anglade. “We said it right at the beginning, two weeks ago.”

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Immigration applications cancelled in Quebec – Feb 12, 2019

She said Bill 9 lacks structure and Jolin-Barrette failed to master the immigration file.

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“I’m not surprised about the situation today because that’s what happens when you’re not structured enough, when you don’t master your file, when you don’t know the numbers affecting your files,” she said.

In the wake of the injunction, she called on Jolin-Barrette to act.

“He can decide today this was not a good decision,” Anglade said.

Consultation hearings begin Thursday

The province’s public hearings on Bill 9 will go ahead as planned on Thursday, according to Jolin-Barrette.

In Quebec City, Jolin-Barrette addressed criticism that the two-week window between when the proposed legislation was introduced and the hearings wasn’t enough time for groups to prepare.

“I think it’s a reasonable delay,” said Jolin-Barrette. “These are issues that aim to modernize the immigration system. All the groups who are invited know the immigration system (well).”

READ MORE: McGill farming grad fears she’ll have to leave Quebec because of CAQ immigration plan

— With files from Global’s Raquel Fletcher and The Canadian Press