MONTREAL (Reuters) - The Quebec government must continue processing suspended applications from skilled immigrants, a judge ordered on Monday, in a win for thousands of new arrivals who had been left in limbo by a program overhaul in the Canadian province.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Frederic Bachand awarded a 10-day injunction that would oblige the province’s center-right government to continue processing applications.
Lawyers had asked Bachand last week to reverse the suspension of about 18,000 applications as the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government works to overhaul the province’s immigration system.
Recent draft legislation by the CAQ led to the suspension of the immigrants’ applications made under existing laws.
“There is no doubt that these candidates would be subjected to” prejudice if the injunction were not granted, Bachand wrote in a decision.
The CAQ, which won power in October, has said its immigration reforms would improve newcomers’ integration into the workforce of the predominately French-speaking province.
Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said in a statement that his government would respect the court’s decision and continue to process applications.
The Montreal-based Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association (AQAADI) had argued that the government should still process existing applications from newcomers as the CAQ’s new bill is being debated.
“We are very happy with this decision,” said immigration lawyer Olga Redko, noting that the group would return to court to seek a longer-term injunction.
The question of how many outsiders should be let into the province - the second most populous in Canada - has eclipsed arguments over separatism that have dominated politics in Quebec in recent decades.
Quebec Premier and CAQ leader Francois Legault had campaigned on a controversial plan to take in 10,000 fewer immigrants a year and to expel new residents who fail tests on French and Quebec values within three years.
Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Alistair Bell