By Yahia Hatim | Morocco World News
A new reform to the Quebec experience program, known as PEQ, has sparked outrage among Moroccan students and workers in Quebec, Canada, who were hoping to apply for permanent residency in the French-speaking province.
The restrictions could affect a large number of Moroccan students in Quebec who pay much higher rates for their university education than would be required in Morocco or much of Europe, hopeful for professional opportunities.
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The PEQ is a program that allows immigrant students who earn their diploma in Quebec and temporary skilled workers to quickly obtain a permanent residency permit in the Canadian province.
However, on May 28, Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced new rules for immigrants to apply to the program, including more work experience, Canada’s Global News reported.
Under the new rules, temporary foreign workers in Quebec must accumulate 36 months of full-time work experience during the 48 months preceding their application to be eligible for permanent residency. Immigrant workers needed only one year of full-time work experience prior to the changes.
As for foreign students who obtained a diploma from a Quebec university, they must acquire 12 or 24 months of full-time work experience before becoming eligible for the PEQ.
“Moroccan students can no longer get the permanent residency easily in Quebec,” a Moroccan graduate of Quebec’s University Laval, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity, told Morocco World News, adding that many who have already enrolled or even graduated “will probably have to go back home.”
Jolin-Barrette also announced boosted requirements in French language ability. In addition to demonstrating their own fluency, applicants who are applying with a spouse must prove their partner has the ability to hold a conversation in French—a level four in French knowledge on a scale of one to 12.
Le Quebec, c’est nous aussi
The announcements gave birth to “Le Quebec, c’est nous aussi,” “Quebec is us, too” in French. The movement brings together immigrants and Quebecois who fight for “an inclusive and dynamic Quebec,” according to a press release received by Morocco World News.
The movement demands a complete withdrawal of the PEQ reform, said the June 4 statement, a move which organizers argue “represents a major step backwards and heralds dark years for Quebec.”
“Le Quebec, c’est nous aussi” considers the new work experience requirements as a clear message that foreign talent is no longer welcome in Quebec and that international students are welcome to “pay their tuition fees [in Quebec], and then go work elsewhere,” since the required “work experience [is] longer than what the post-graduation permit allows for certain degrees.”
Another Moroccan student told MWN that the movement hopes Jolin-Barrette will hear their call and understand that “this is not the best way to thank [foreign students] for choosing Quebec and believing in the promises they heard from universities.”
She wants to prevent newcomers from investing in a career plan “that is no longer eligible to PEQ and immigration programs of Quebec” by garnering attention for the “urgent situation.”
The movement also denounced the exclusion of some categories of essential workers from eligibility for the PEQ.
“Quebec is telling thousands of essential workers: thank you for your help, too bad for the next ones,” the press release said.
“We have read the consultations briefs … which is why we can say with confidence that the Minister of Immigration … did not listen to us in developing this reform,” said Claire Launay, one of the movement’s instigators.
The activists considered the reform “a slap in the face to diversity and inclusion,” warning of the impact it would have on the Quebec province: “While the other Canadian provinces will continue to welcome students and workers ready to help in the wake of this pandemic, the Quebec economy will slow down at the same rate as the number of immigrants who will come here.”
The movement, organized through a group on Facebook, so far counts more than 1,400 members.
Moncef Derraji questions the government’s decision
The new changes did not only anger citizens but also raised questions from Parliament members.
Moroccan-Canadian MP Moncef Derraji questioned the government’s approach, especially as workers are still crucially needed in Quebec amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Is this how we are going to respond quickly to the shortage of labor? I want to remind you that [in] several countries where we used to recruit, there are no flights yet,” he said, quoted by Global News.
“How are we going to go on recruitment missions? How are we going to recruit these people in French-speaking areas, knowing that gatherings are prohibited in these countries?” Derraji continued.
Quebec is one of the main destinations in Canada for Moroccan migrants. According to recent statistics, the French-speaking province hosts more than three-quarters of all Moroccans living in Canada.
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