Quebec is set to relax the criteria for the province’s Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) – or Quebec Experience Class immigration program.
The PEQ is an accelerated immigration program for international students and temporary workers, a pathway for them to get their permanent residency in Canada’s only francophone province.
When Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) first formed the government after a landslide victory in 2018, it undertook a controversial reform of the PEQ after deciding the immigration program was letting in too many newcomers.
The PEQ is similar to the federal Canadian Experience Class (CEC) pathway to permanent residence but offers an even more simplified process.
Reforms to the PEQ started as soon as the CAQ formed the government. It added a requirement that international students and temporary workers needed to have 12 to 18 months of work experience before being able to apply.
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In a news report, Radio-Canada, the French-language network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, claims to have obtained information that this work experience criterion will be softened for international students, meaning those foreign nationals will soon be able to apply to the PEQ with less work experience provided they are studying in French-language program.
Legault has repeatedly indicated he wants to protect the French language in Quebec and feels a need to control immigration to promote that language.
Quebec’s department, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), also routinely administers its settlement funds in such a way as to ensure newcomers to the province can operate in the French language.
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“Our position has remained the same: we need more control over immigration to protect the French language,” tweeted Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette last year.
Opposition politicians in Quebec’s National Assembly this week claimed the government’s need to backtrack on its earlier reforms to the PEQ demonstrates the CAQ’s incompetence.
“The failure of the reforms to the PEQ is a perfect example of the incompetence of a slapdash government that, instead of solving problems, creates more of them,” said Marc Tanguay, the Quebec Liberal Party’s interim leader.
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“The PEQ was a program that had proven its use to our economy. This backtracking by the Legault government comes too late. The damage to our economy has already been done.”
The Quebec Liberal Party’s immigration critic, Monsef Derraji, accused the governing CAQ of putting ideology ahead of practicality in making its earlier reforms to the PEQ and alleged the greater restrictions on the program have over the past few years cost Quebec entrepreneurs dearly.
“After three years, it is now evident that (previous Immigration Minister) Simon Jolin-Barrette’s flavour of the PEQ is a failure and that we suffered an important loss of francophone talent which has left Quebec after being educated here,” said Derraji.