What to expect from this week’s Bill 9 hearings

Coalition Avenir Quebec MNA Simon Jolin-Barrette responds to reporters questions on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

After getting off to a chaotic start on Thursday, National Assembly hearings on Bill 9, the government’s immigration bill will continue Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: ‘Unjust and arbitrary’: Québec Solidaire calls out government over 18,000 cancelled immigration files

The government has been under fire for its decision to cancel a backlog of 18,000 immigration applications filed under the Regular Skilled Workers Program, even though Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has said this won’t affect the status of applicants already living in Quebec and that that applicants can re-apply under a new system called Arrima, which he says is more efficient.

Still, on Monday, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled in favour of immigration lawyers who argued for an injunction Friday  to keep processing the applications. The injunction is valid until Mar. 7, 2019.

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READ MORE: ‘Tinder of immigration’: Quebec outlines plan for how to welcome newcomers

As surprising as it may seem, on Tuesday, these same immigration lawyers, representing the Association québecoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI) will present their views at the Bill 9 hearings at the National Assembly in Quebec City.

But other groups will not be part of the hearings, including the City of Quebec, originally scheduled to present last Thursday. Mayor Régis Labeaume has been an advocate of immigration to address the labour shortage.

“There is not a day where we don’t see companies affected by the labour shortage, so we’re searching for solutions,” said Labeaume’s press secretary, Paul-Christian Nolin when reached by phone on Monday.

The Bill 9 hearings will run only until Thursday and Quebec City is hosting it’s own immigration and the labour shortage conference also on Thursday. Nolin said that the city didn’t think it would be appropriate to testify in front of the committee studying Bill 9 before it had the chance to listen to the business community it had invited to its conference.

Nolin said the city was happy that Ministers Geneviève Guilbault, Jean Boulet and Simon Jolin-Barrette will be present at the daylong conference, although Minister Jolin-Barrette will only be able to stay for the opening comments and first part of the conference before he has to return to the National Assembly hearings that begin at 11:15 a.m. that day.

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READ MORE: CAQ and Liberals battle over public hearings on Quebec immigration

After Quebec City pulled out of the hearings, the schedule was redrafted so that the Quebec Bar Association would take its place, but last Thursday, it also pulled out due to lack of notice. A spokesperson for the Bar said she didn’t know if they would be invited to speak at a later date.

“The way they seem to be working when it comes to government commissions, they want most of the time to have people who will support their ideology, so I think that’s why you have a lot of turmoil,” said interim Liberal leader, Pierre Arcand on Thursday.

In response to this, Jolin-Barrette said the Liberal Party was being uncooperative and that the two parties could not come to an agreement on the list of who should be invited to speak in front of the committee.

Since the first schedule was released on February 18th, it has been updated five times.

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