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Quebec Judge Orders Province To Continue Processing Skilled Worker Program Applications

10-day injunction granted in legal battle against government's move to dismiss 18,000 pending Quebec Skilled Worker Program applications

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered the provincial government to continue processing a backlog of around 18,000 pending applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program that the government wants to cancel.

The ruling by Justice Frederic Bachand granted a 10-day temporary injunction in response to arguments by an immigration lawyers' group that the move to dismiss the backlog was "completely illegal" and would have "devastating" consequences for affected applicants.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government proposed terminating all pending Quebec Skilled Worker Program applications submitted prior to August 2, 2018, in legislation tabled February 7.

The legislation, known as Bill 9, said the termination order was to take effect immediately.

"This is great news, and great news for Quebec society," Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, president of the Association quebecoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l'immigration (AQAADI), told Canada's French-language public broadcaster, Radio-Canada.

The injunction request was made by AQAADI in the name of Seeun Park, a South Korean nurse whose application to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) was one of those affected by the government's move.

A CSQ must be granted by the Government of Quebec before a Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) candidate can apply for Canadian permanent residence.

AQAADI asked the court to order the government to continue processing CSQ applications "at the usual pace" until the legislation known as Bill 9 is passed by Quebec's National Assembly.

The association argued that Quebec's Immigration Minister is required by law to issue decisions on the pending applications and does not have the discretionary authority to refuse to do so.

AQAADI's injunction request called the situation "urgent" and noted that the 18,000 applications represent tens of thousands of individuals when spouses and dependent children are factored in.

Groups ranging from the Canadian Bar Association to the Conseil du Patronat, which unites top business leaders in Quebec, have also voiced concerns about the CAQ's move to dismiss the application backlog.

The CAQ government's proposal has been widely criticized as unfair given the length of time that many applicants have been waiting for a decision on their file and the fact thousands are already living and working or studying in Quebec as temporary residents.

The government says affected applicants will instead have to create a profile using the province's new online Expression of Interest system, which was introduced last August to manage the pool of candidates for the QSWP.

The applications the government wants to terminate were submitted when the QSWP accepted paper-based applications on a first-come, first-served basis.

When the proposed legislation was introduced, Quebec's Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said the Expression of Interest system is a better fit for the CAQ government's efforts to tailor the selection of skilled workers to labour shortages in regions around the province.

When Bill 9 was introduced, Jolin-Barrette said dismissing the application backlog was necessary so the government could focus on selecting candidates in the Expression of Interest pool and reduce processing times from 36 months to six months.

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