New Quebec law stresses migrants' skills, thousands must reapply

Controversial bill that replaces first come first served standard will prompt shredding of 18,000 existing applications.

    The bill was approved by 62 legislators against 42 [File: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters]
    The bill was approved by 62 legislators against 42 [File: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters]

    Canada's Quebec provincial legislature has approved a controversial immigration bill that will replace a first come, first served standard for accepting migrants with one tied to an applicants' skills.

    The 62-to-42 vote on the bill took place on Sunday at the end of a marathon session convened by the governing centre-right Coalition Avenir Quebec, immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced on Twitter.

    "We are modifying the immigration system in the public interest because we have to ensure we have a system which meets the needs of the labour market," Jolin-Barrette told the National Assembly.

    The law is similar to a proposed plan from US President Donald Trump that would shift his country's visa system from family-based immigration towards bringing in more skilled workers.

    The law will attempt to more closely match the skills offered by would-be immigrants with the needs of the labour market in Quebec, Canada's second most-populous province.

    Under the new law, about 18,000 applications now on file will be shredded, affecting as many as 50,000 people, many of whom already live in the province.

    The 18,000 existing applicants will have to restart the immigration process.

    The provincial government promised to expedite processing of their new applications, saying qualified workers would have answers within six months rather than the current 36 months.

    'Inhuman' measure

    All three opposition parties opposed the measure, calling it "inhuman" and saying the government did not justify dropping the 18,000 pending applications.

    "Honestly, I don't think this bill will be seen positively in history," Liberal Party MP Dominique Anglade said, according to the Montreal Gazette. "It's the image of Quebec which gets tarnished."

    Premier Francois Legault's government resorted to a special parliamentary procedure to limit debate over the proposal.

    His party won power in October with a promise to slash by more than 20 percent the number of immigrants and refugees arriving each year in Quebec.

    The assembly reconvened on Sunday and after sometimes acrimonious debate passed a bill banning the wearing of religious symbols by public servants including police officers, judges, lawyers, prison guards and teachers.

    However, the new law will only apply to new recruits, with existing employees unaffected.

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    SOURCE: News agencies