New reports about a 2016 UPAC fraud investigation are raising suspicions.
Reports have resurfaced of the province’s anti-corruption unit investigating cases in which foreign students who don’t speak French were accepted through a fast-track immigration program, allowing them permanent residence in Quebec.
The Quebec Experience Program is the same program Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tried to reform just a few weeks ago, proposing to restrict it to certain fields of study.
After massive backlash, the minister relented.
On Tuesday, Parti Québécois (PQ) interim opposition leader Pascal Bérubé questioned why this investigation — which was opened in 2016 — is making headlines again.
“I don’t want to know the sources of the journalists, that’s secret, but if it comes from the minister himself…” Bérubé said, before wondering if his intentions were “for good reasons, or political reasons.”
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge denied this was a government strategy.
“It’s not a political game,” said Roberge.
He said he is concerned about three English school boards who are alleged to have passed students on their French language exams even if they didn’t speak French.
The boards have never been charged and have always denied this.
“This incident apparently dates to 2016,” said Russell Copeman, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).
“I don’t think there’s anything particularly new in the reports, the timing of which is very interesting.”
The government recently placed the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) under trusteeship. It’s also facing fierce criticism from the English community for its bill to abolish school boards, which Roberge said he hopes to pass by the end of next week.
“It tends to be a pattern with this government that every time the educational network speaks out about Bill 40, there’s some statement by the government that tries to discredit school boards,” Copeman said.
The government says it still plans to bring in reforms to the Quebec Experience Program, which will fix any loopholes.