Empty chairs at an Immigration Quebec welcome centre in 2015.
John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette file photo
After hearing arguments on Friday, a Quebec Superior Court judge will rule next week whether to grant a court challenge against the provincial government’s plan to discard 18,000 backlogged immigration files.An association of Quebec immigration lawyers is seeking an injunction against the plan, arguing it causes “serious and irreparable prejudice” for thousands of people who have already started building new lives in Quebec.The plan is part of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s controversial immigration reform legislation, Bill 9.Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced the bill on Feb. 7. The same day, people whose applications were already being processed received notices informing them they would need to re-apply under the government’s eventual new system.The applicants are seeking a Quebec certificate of selection, a process that can take years and is needed to then apply for permanent residency in Canada.The injunction request argues the government’s decision to stop processing the pending applications before the bill has even passed into law is illegal.It accuses Jolin-Barrette of “crushing the common dream of tens of thousands of people” through the bill.Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, immigration lawyer Ho Sung Kim said the Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration has been contacted by numerous families worried about what’s going to happen to their cases.“We’re talking about people’s lives,” he said. “It’s not just numbers and stats. It’s not just paperwork. There are people behind that.”Calling the situation “clearly urgent,” the association is asking the court to order the government to restart processing the pending certificate applications while the bill is being studied.In court, immigration lawyer Doug Mitchell argued the request is simple: it only wants the government to respect the law in place today.“It’s your role to remind politicians that society expects them to respect the law at all times,” Mitchell told Quebec Superior Court Judge Frédéric Bachand. “The minister can’t simply pretend the law in effect doesn’t apply to him.”Jolin-Barrette has defended his plans to reform the system and has said he would find a way to fast-track applications from people who are already in Quebec, who speak French and who have been employed for a year.Lawyers representing the government Friday argued Jolin-Barrette is acting within his rights as the minister in charge of immigration, saying that by law he’s allowed to “develop guidelines or policies on immigration.”Lawyer Stéphanie Garon said that if the matter truly was urgent, the association wouldn’t have waited until this week to file the injunction request, given that notices went out to applicants on Feb. 7.She added the CAQ government was “democratically elected” and has been clear in its intentions when it comes to immigration reforms.“It is not the tribunal’s role to force the minister to make decisions,” Garon said.The association filed the request on behalf of Seeun Park, a Korean nurse who came to Quebec on a study permit with her two children in 2017.Park had applied for Quebec selection certificates for herself, her husband and two children in November 2015 as part of the province’s skilled workers program. The couple is enrolled in French classes, the request says, and their children have been attending elementary school in Montreal.On Feb. 7, she received an email from the government saying it would no longer be processing her application.“If Ms. Park’s pending application is not processed before the coming into force of Bill 9 and she does not receive a certificate,” the request says, “there is a strong possibility that she will need to give up her life in Quebec, relocate her family from the city and province that has become their home, and leave the country.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/jessefeithRelated