MONTREAL – Students are protesting in front of Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette's office in Montreal against the Quebec government's reform to a fast-track immigration policy for graduates.

It's a demonstration Quebec Solidaire's critic for immigration, Andrés Fontecilla, is calling "bring your CV to the minister," inviting all international students and foreign workers to participate.

Wednesday, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) lost a vote on a motion presented by the opposition to cancel the reform.

Only three of the majority party’s members were present at the National Assembly at the time of the vote.

The rest of the team, including Premier François Legault, was at a fundraiser to support the party's candidate in the upcoming Jean-Talon riding byelection, according to opposition parties.

The motion isn’t binding, but opposition parties are calling it “excellent news.”

CAQ backtracks on reform

The Quebec government backtracked Wednesday on its decision to restrict access to the immigration program, saying students already in the province may still apply under the previous criteria.

The about-face came after tearful testimony from several international students the day prior, as well as claims from opposition parties that the reform was cruel.

The immigration minister, who didn't meet with the students, says their words led him to change his mind.

While those currently in the program will be spared, the new restrictive rules will apply to future participants as the province attempts to address labour shortages by targeting specific fields where workers are needed.

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. In 2018, 11,000 people were admitted to the program in the province.

The CAQ insists the reform will be put in place as of Nov. 1.