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Protesters denounce changes to Quebec experience program

Last Updated Jun 28, 2020 at 11:17 am PDT

People hold up signs during a protest against changes to the Quebec experience program in Montreal, Saturday, June 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — A few hundred demonstrators protested changes to the Quebec experience program in Montreal, calling on the province’s new immigration minister to overturn changes that came into effect on Saturday.

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.