February 25, 2019 – A Quebec judge on Monday ordered the provincial government to continue processing existing applications under the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
The decision comes after the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec’s attempt to suspend 18,000 existing applications while it tries to pass its new immigration law. Bill 9 would see the applications cancelled altogether. The new bill is currently being debated in Quebec’s National Assembly.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Frederic Bachand awarded a 10-day provisional injunction requiring the immigration minister to continue processing applications under the current Quebec immigration rules.
It follows an injunction request mounted by the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers. The legal challenge describes the government’s stated intention to stop processing pending applications, which Bill 9 provides, a ‘flagrante illegality’.
The lawyers and two lead petitioners plan to continue to push for the injunction to be extended until such time as Bill 9 becomes law. It is not yet certain if requirements will be met for such continued protection.
Quebec is mired in controversy as more than 45,000 individuals including applicants and dependents, who applied under the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, await processing of their pending applications. Some date as far back as 10 years.
Watch the video:
|Did you know?||Applications||Dependents|
|Number of pending applications||18,000||45,000+|
|How many working/studying in Quebec||3,700||9,250|
|Number of applications concluded monthly 2015||2,000||5,000|
|Number of applications accepted monthly 2015||1000||2,500|
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The court voiced particular concern there was no legal authority for the Quebec Immigration Minister to begin applying the new law, by suspending the processing of applications submitted before August 2, 2018 and not yet decided by February 7, 2019, as section 20 of the bill will allow.
It also rejected the Minister’s position claiming it retained the power to implement the effect of this new law, on the basis of the general powers it holds to implement immigration policies that are relevant and efficient.
The court held the immigration minister to act in conformity with the principle of the rule of law. It must exercise its powers under the law in force and not on the basis of a proposed legislative modification even if this was not the most efficient use of its resources. Applicants are entitled to have their applications reviewed, under current rules.
What can applicants with pending applications expect?
Evidence presented suggests that MIDI will unlikely issue more than 1000 approvals from the pool of pending applications for the rest of 2019. Many of the applications in the backlog have outdated documents, or do not meet more stringent amendments put into place in August 2018.
The court will not attempt to define the pace of usual treatment the Quebec Immigration Minister must follow in processing existing applications. MIDI has wide latitude to manage its case load, but must follow a processing time which is reasonable.
Candidates who are currently working or studying in Quebec will be invited to apply under the Quebec Experience Program. Candidates who meet such rules, will be given priority processing and will not be subject to Bill 9.
The vast majority of the 18,000 pending applicants who are outside Quebec, will not find any relief from today’s judgement. Once the law ultimately comes into effect, most applicants who are not issued approvals by that date, will find their applications cancelled under Bill 9.
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