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Quebec shelves experience program changes that took effect on November 1

Government promises to review eligibility lists with academic and business communities

The Government of Quebec has suspended controversial changes to the Quebec Experience Program that took effect on November 1.  

The province’s immigration minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, confirmed the suspension in a Facebook post-Friday evening after media reports of the decision emerged.

The temporary suspension of the new rules followed a broad public outcry that earlier this week prompted Jolin-Barrette to exempt students and workers already living in Quebec.

The Quebec Experience Program, or PEQ, is a popular fast-track immigration program that allows eligible international graduates of Quebec schools and temporary foreign workers living and working in the province to apply for permanent residence selection.

The new rules would have limited those who can apply for selection through the PEQ to only those graduates in an eligible area of training and temporary foreign workers employed in an eligible in-demand occupation.

These restrictions did not exist prior to November 1 and would have disqualified many previously eligible students and workers in Quebec.

Public outcry led to the suspension

The rules sparked a torrent of criticism from affected students and workers as well as universities and colleges and business leaders in the province.

The outcry led the government to the first grandfather those already living in the province before moving this evening to temporarily suspend the changes pending a review of the lists governing the eligible areas of training and the occupations that are considered in-demand in Quebec.

In his Facebook post, Jolin-Barrette said the decision to temporarily suspend the changes is meant to reassure those in the academic and business communities, saying the lists in question “will be revised in collaboration with the actors concerned.”

Earlier Friday, a Radio-Canada report identified numerous problems with the area of training list, including programs that never or no longer existed and others that prioritized Canadian citizens.

The decision to suspend the new PEQ rules was welcomed by universities and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, which had questioned the move to limit PEQ applications.

On Twitter, Michel Leblanc, the chamber’s president, said Quebec Premier François Legault “made the right decision,” adding that international students “can now feel welcome in Quebec and in our businesses. Bravo!”

This is the second time this year that Jolin-Barrette has been forced to backtrack on immigration policy. In February, the CAQ’s decision to cancel 18,000 pending applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program with immediate effect led to a court injunction that forced the government to continue processing the applications until the proposed legislation was passed into law.

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