SSMU Statement on Proposed Reforms to the PEQ

SSMU Statement on Proposed Reforms to the PEQ

Dear SSMU Members,

Recently, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government Minister for Immigration, Francisation, and Integration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, unveiled proposed reforms to the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ), a popular immigration program that offers international students and temporary foreign workers already in Quebec an expedited pathway to Canadian permanent residency. Through the PEQ, graduated international students holding a post-graduation work permit can receive the Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) – a document necessary for permanent residency – often in as little as 20 business days. In 2019, 86% of all CSQs were issued in this way. Without the PEQ, this process takes several months.

Under the new reforms, international university students would have to acquire 12 months of full-time work experience in Quebec after graduation to be eligible for the PEQ. Only occupations in the categories 0, A, and B of the National Occupational Classification would be eligible, excluding such occupations as food and beverage service workers and general office workers. In contrast, under the current PEQ, no work experience is required. Further, the new requirements would apply to all new applicants to the PEQ, including those already living in Quebec. The new processing period to obtain a CSQ through the PEQ applications is now expected to increase from 20 days to 6 months, in order to harmonize the program with the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. This is in addition to the ordinary 22 months it takes for the federal government to process permanent residence applications. For graduate and post-graduate students, for whom the grace period on student visas is considerably shorter, this rules out permanent residence – a “non-starter” in the words of McGill’s Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning, Fabrice Labeau.

The SSMU opposes the reforms to the PEQ in their entirety, and condemns them in the strongest terms. By restricting the eligibility criteria for PEQ applications to require 12 months of full-time work experience, and by limiting the eligible occupations, the proposed reforms create unnecessary socio-economic barriers to permanent status in Quebec, discriminating especially against those less able to work full time. By failing to include any kind of protection for international students and workers already in Quebec – many of whom moved to the province under the assumption of the present accessibility of the PEQ – the Quebec government has thrown the life prospects of many of its residents into uncertainty. Further, to do this in the midst of a public health emergency and economic fallout is unspeakably cruel. Finally, by creating stricter, more complicated eligibility requirements than other provinces, the proposed reforms make Quebec incredibly unattractive for prospective international students and workers, thereby discouraging immigration to the province.

In all, the proposed reforms to the PEQ are inequitable, unjust, self-destructive, and yet consistent with the xenophobic political agenda of the CAQ government, manifested most prominently in the passage of Bill 21 almost exactly one year ago. They display total contempt for the lives and livelihoods of international students paying exorbitant, deregulated tuition fees, and temporary foreign workers, especially those in occupational levels C and D – only now touted as essential workers – whose labour is the foundation of Quebec’s economic stability. Simply put, the proposed reforms are designed to extract labour and money from international workers and students, all the while hindering their permanence in the province.

We call on the McGill University administration to join us in supporting its over 12,000 international students by publicly opposing the proposed reforms, as it did last November, and by demanding their immediate and total withdrawal. For our part, the SSMU is committed to helping organize broad community opposition to the PEQ reforms and the xenophobic political agenda of the CAQ. To this end, we invite you to the physically distanced protest outside the National Assembly of Quebec on June 10, and the sit-in and press briefing in Montreal on June 16, marking an entire year since the passage of Bill 21. As the proposed PEQ reforms further impede equitable access to immigration for non-status individuals, we urge you to join us in signing the Solidarity Across Borders petition, which demands that the federal government regularize the status of all non-status individuals living in Canada and include them in government measures, without exception. More regular updates to the SSMU’s organising efforts around this issue can be found on the Facebook page of the External Affairs office.

Signed,

Jemark Earle / President | president@ssmu.ca
Brooklyn Frizzle / Vice-President (University Affairs) | ua@ssmu.ca
Ayo Ogunremi / Vice-President (External Affairs) | external@ssmu.ca
Gifford Marpole / Vice-President (Finance) | finance@ssmu.ca
Maheen Akter / Vice-President (Student Life) | studentlife@ssmu.ca

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