The Quebec government has overturned a decision to deny a French woman her Quebec immigration documents because a chapter of her PhD thesis was written in English.
The controversial ruling was invalidated abruptly on Friday after Emilie Dubois’ case gained international attention this week.
Dubois, a native of France whose mother tongue is French, had been denied a Quebec selection certificate after bureaucrats ruled her level of French wasn’t adequate under the Quebec experience program, a popular fast-track immigration program for foreign students and workers.
Dubois said she’s been assured a certificate will soon be sent that will allow her to move forward on her efforts to get permanent residency in Canada, to continue to operate her own business as she has since graduated and to remain in Quebec City.
“I cried,” she said. “I really felt like a weight on my shoulders had been lifted.”
In place since 2010, the popular program allows foreign students with a qualifying diploma or people with work experience in Quebec to receive an expedited selection certificate, which fast-tracks residency and makes it possible to stay in the province.
Dubois, a Quebec City-based scientific graphic designer who completed her doctorate at Université Laval in January 2018, said she wrote one of five chapters of her thesis on cellular and molecular biology in English because it was based on an English article in a scientific journal.
Flabbergasted by the response, Dubois said she contacted the government.
“I told them, ‘I don’t understand, I’m French, I’ve been speaking French since my childhood … so it’s nonsense you’re telling me I don’t speak French,”’ she recounted this week.
She then completed a ministry-recognized French test and sent the results by registered mail, but was told that her French still wasn’t good enough.
After not getting clear answers, she enlisted the aid of her local member of the national assembly, Catherine Dorion of opposition party Québec solidaire, which got the case noticed.
After her story made headlines worldwide, she was told on Friday the initial decision was overruled.
“I got a call from someone from the Immigration Department who said the file had been reopened, revised, they looked at the documents and the final decision had been reversed,” Dubois said.
Dubois, 31, has lived in the provincial capital since 2012 after she moved from France to study at the university.
Also late Friday, François Legault’s government backtracked on changes to the Quebec experience program made by the province’s immigration minister amid a week of heavy criticism from students, businesses and university leaders across the province.
After teary pleas at the legislature from some of the students affected by the decision, Quebec announced Wednesday students already enrolled in the program would be grandfathered under the old rules, but changes would remain for new entrants that included reducing the number of programs.
Then on Friday evening, Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette wrote on Facebook the government was ordering a temporary suspension to reassure all involved.
Dubois said she hopes her case highlights problems with the way immigration decisions are made.
“I don’t want it to stop at me,” Dubois said. “It’s to help the whole community — all of Quebec — to make better decisions when it comes to immigration.”