New Brunswick mayor beckons Quebec students who feel betrayed by immigration reforms

MONTREAL – The mayor of Edmundston, N.B., took to Twitter Tuesday to extend a hand to international students who may feel betrayed by Quebec’s fast-track immigration program reform.

“I’d like to remind international students in Quebec who find themselves at an impasse that they can always look east, to New Brunswick and even Edmunston, for jobs,” Cyrille Simard wrote. “There is a place here for you.”

Wednesday, the Quebec government backtracked on its decision to restrict access to the popular Quebec experience program (PEQ), saying international students and foreign workers already in the province may apply under the old rules.

“We may not have properly evaluated the more human aspect [of the reform],” admitted Quebec Premier François Legault.

However, the government says it stands by its decision to reform the program as it is the only way to “respond to the needs of each labour market in every region.”

Interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, Pierre Arcand, says he’s not surprised by the Maritime mayor’s message to students.

“You’re going to get that from New Brunswick and you’re going to get that from other provinces in Canada,” he said.

“I think in the end, it’s very bad. This government is anti-economic and anti-immigration.”

Under the new rules, only seven doctoral, 24 master’s, 54 bachelor’s and 59 college-degree programs will be admitted to the PEQ. The list of professions allowed will change every year, the government states.

“All the diplomas in social sciences, arts, culture have been evacuated from the program,” argued Quebec Solidaire MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

“That’s an ideological choice that’s a business-like way to see immigration. It’s a very narrow-minded way to see immigration to Quebec society.”

Opposition parties in Quebec City said they do not understand where the reform was coming from.

“We are one of the only societies in today’s world where having too much talent is something negative,” said Gaetan Barrette, a Quebec Liberal MNA.

“You saw a premier and his minister who were both totally insensitive to what those people are living today.”

In 2018, 11,000 people were admitted to the program. The reform is expected to be put in place as of Nov. 1.

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