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Quebec backtracks on change to popular student immigration program

The Quebec government will allow students already in the province under a popular immigration program to finish it.

The Quebec experience program (PEQ) gives foreign students studying here a fast-track toward permanent residency. But last Friday, the government announced some fields of study will be removed from the list of eligibility, leaving thousands of people hoping to settle in Quebec without a clear path forward.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette now says he will allow students who are already studying under the program to continue. However, he said despite the backlash over the lack of grandfather clause, he is standing by the other reforms made to the program.

Jolin-Barrette said he was moved by the testimonials he heard from people who would be affected by the change. Students from around the world, some of them in tears, went to the National Assembly Tuesday to implore the government to let them stay.

“I heard them yesterday. And today, this morning, at 8:15, I announced to you that I heard them, and I made some changes about the reforms to answer their questions and their preoccupations. So I think I’m quite sensitive to them,” he told reporters in Quebec City.

Jolin-Barrette said he informed Premier François Legault of his decision to create the grandfather clause late Tuesday​​​​​​, and that the premier did not instruct him to make the change.

Criticism had been mounting over the decision to tighten the program’s rules. Earlier this week, Legault said he was open to tweaking the changes. But just yesterday, Jolin-Barrette was adamant that he would not budge and that the new, stricter rules would stay.

The government plans to slash the number of professions that qualify for the program from 500 to 162.

The lack of grandfather clause meant some participants who already invested time and money to meet the immigration requirements would have had to leave the province.

CBC

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