CAQ government drops controversial reforms to PEQ immigration program

WATCH: The CAQ government is backing down on its controversial immigration reform. The changes would have restricted access to a popular program that fast tracks new arrivals. This comes after the CAQ insisted it was moving ahead with the plan. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government announced Friday it is suspending a set of controversial reforms to a popular immigration program, the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ).

The move comes following public outcry this week over recently-announced changes to tighten the rules around program eligibility.

In a short statement Friday night, Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette attributed the change to pressure from “different players in the economy and education fields.”

The minister said the list of eligible degrees and jobs will be revised in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

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

The PEQ is a fast-track to permanent residency in the province offered to international students and temporary foreign workers.

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Last week, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government announced changes to the PEQ.

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.

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

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.

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. This list was however subject to change.

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.

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

The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal applauded the news, saying it’s important to retain more international students.

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“The consultations that minister Jolin-Barrette will lead will help determine the best way to continue to attract international students who want to learn in our educational institutions and who will likely later contribute to our economy,” wrote the chamber’s president Michel Leblanc.

Quebec Liberal Party leader Pierre Arcand says the government made the right decision but added that Jolin-Barrete should step down.

“I don’t think that Mr. Jolin-Barrette has the credibility right now to really continue to lead this ministry,” Arcand told Global News.

“I think that he has lost a lot of support from a lot of people after that. We clearly ask the premier to reconsider the situation and make sure Mr. Jolin-Barrette does not continue as Minister of Immigration.”

The suspension of the reforms is effective immediately, but no details were made available on when the consultations will begin or who will participate.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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