Demonstrators rally against Quebec's updated immigration reforms squib

Protesters in Montreal and around the province gathered Saturday to denounce upcoming reforms to a Quebec program to fast-track immigration for foreign students and temporary workers.The reforms, announced in late May, mark the Coalition Avenir Québec government's second attempt to adjust the Quebec Experience Program after it backed down on a first set of changes last fall.Those changes were criticized as disorganized and poorly thought out by opposition parties and decried as unfair by students and other members of the public. Simon Jolin-Barrette, the immigration minister at the time, eventually said the reforms had been a mistake.On Saturday, demonstrators — who marched from Mont-Royal Park to Quebec Premier François Legault's office in downtown Montreal, as well as others in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Rouyn-Noranda —  said the new reforms still compromise the future of international students and temporary workers."They are totally unjust and unfair to international students like me who just graduated," said Carla Trigoso, who is from Peru and studied sociology at McGill University. "There are no acquired rights for us. We are terribly, terribly disappointed with the changes in general."Among other things, the reforms add or increase work experience requirements for applicants. Foreign students, who previously did not need work experience in addition to completing their studies, now do: two years of full-time work for those with a professional diploma and one year for those who complete a university degree or technical diploma.The reforms allow the work experience to be unrelated to a field of study, but they exclude certain professions, such as waiter, cashier or agricultural worker."Now a diploma in Quebec is not enough to integrate someone," said Thibault Camara, an organizer with Quebec Is Us Too, one of the groups behind the demonstration.Trigoso said meeting the work experience conditions would be exceptionally difficult "now that we're in the middle of an economic crisis and a world pandemic."Temporary workers will have to work more to qualify. Until now, one year of work experience was required, but the reforms raise the requirement to the equivalent of three years of full-time work over 48 months.Camara said his group was also concerned about certain jobs being removed from eligibility altogether."All the préposés and all the truck drivers, for example, they aren't part of the Quebec of tomorrow because of this reform," he said.The reforms also impose new requirements around French-language knowledge and increase the processing time for applications from less than a month to six months. Opponents to the reforms want Quebec to maintain the shorter time for applicants who were already in the province.
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