A few hundred demonstrators protested changes to the Quebec experience program in Montreal, calling on the province’s new immigration minister to overturn proposed changes expected to come into effect soon.
Similar demonstrations were held in Sherbrooke, Quebec City and Rouyn-Noranda — an initiative of labour unions, student associations and migrants’ rights groups.
Under a light rain, they gathered at the foot of Mount Royal, keeping their distances amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while holding signs that read “A promise is a promise” and “Quebec is us too.”
The experience program permits foreign students and workers already established in the province to quickly obtain a Quebec selection certificate to gain permanent residency.
A new version of the program was introduced in May, following an ill-fated attempt to reform it last November that forced the provincial government to backtrack and apologize.
Requirements will be broadened in terms of work experience and French knowledge, and processing time will also be extended.
Last November, the Legault government was forced to backtrack after a proposed reform would have seen hundreds of temporary workers and foreign students sent back to their countries due to a retroactive tightening of the program rules to include specific university and technical junior college programs in industries the government said were facing labour shortages.
The government has since dropped the limited list.
International Relations Minister Nadine Girault added the immigration portfolio this week following a cabinet shuffle.
An official in her office says it will take her some time to get up to speed on the reforms, expected to take effect imminently