‘We are reduced to labour’: Protesters rally at minister’s office against CAQ immigration reform

Quebec government backtracks on changes to PEQ immigration program
WATCH: The CAQ is backtracking on changes it made to a popular immigration program that affects international students and temporary workers. Raquel Fletcher reports.

Protesters gathered outside Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette’s office at the Place de la paix on Friday to condemn the government’s new immigration reform.

Québec Solidaire’s Andrés Fontecilla, MNA for Laurier-Dorion and leader of the demonstration, collected foreign students’ CVs and dropped them off at Jolin-Barrette’s office to symbolize their worth being reduced to their economic value to the province.

“I am deeply saddened and upset that [we] are reduced to labour,” said international student Yarijey Techer from France.

READ MORE: Coalition Avenir Québec government continues to face backlash over immigration reforms

“Quebec goes to France and recruits us, tells us [there] are universities and jobs and how easy it is to come to Quebec,” Techer said.

She said the government goes recruiting them in their own countries, only to treat them like objects once they arrive.

Last week, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government announced changes to the popular Quebec Experience Program, also known as PEQ, which aims to fast-track residency for international students and foreign workers.

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READ MORE: Opposition parties demand Quebec government undo changes to immigration program

The reforms to the program did not include a grandfather clause protecting international students and foreign workers from the changes. They were set to be implemented retroactively, which caused a public outcry. The government immediately faced pressure from the opposition and the public alike to drop the reforms.

After the outcry, the government softened its stance on Wednesday to include a grandfather clause, guaranteeing people already in the program would not lose their eligibility even if they don’t meet the new selection criteria.

READ MORE: ‘We have to be human with people’: Quebec backtracks on changes to popular immigration program

Prior to the reforms, all degrees were eligible to apply for permanent residency under the PEQ program. Under the CAQ’s new regulations, however, the list was curtailed to seven doctorate programs, 24 masters, 65 bachelors and 59 collegiate diplomas.

As for temporary foreign workers, the new regulations stipulate they must hold a job appearing on a special list of “in-demand” occupations when they apply for permanent selection.

That list, however, is subject to change.

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Both Premier François Legault and Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette maintained the reforms are necessary to meet the specific needs of Quebec’s labour market.

— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier

Quebec government won’t back down on immigration reform
Quebec government won’t back down on immigration reform