Quebec to change refugee sponsorship program that left people waiting in line for days
MONTREAL -- The Quebec government says it will change the process currently in place for people who want to sponsor refugees.
Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette admitted Tuesday that people shouldn't be left waiting in line for days to get one of the 100 spots a year available under the program.
"We see there were difficulties yesterday on the deposit of the demands, so we will change the way the demands are tabled and change the structure to be sure that what happened yesterday won't happen in the future," he said.
People lined up for days to ensure they could sponsor a refugee to Quebec, meaning they'll provide for them when they arrive in the province.
Quebec only accepts 750 sponsorships each year, and of those, 650 go to religious organizations or community groups, leaving only 100 that can be sponsored by, for example, relatives.
People waited in line through the weekend to secure a spot, but many found the process to be unfair.
Out-of-town sponsors could send their demand via couriers, who charged up to $500, and there were also talks of people accepting money to save a spot in line for someone else.
Many people said they felt the government complicated matters for potential sponsors.
Jolin-Barrette said he was only applying the rules put in place by previous governments.
"That was not my idea. That's the same program with the Liberals in 2018," he said.
Premier Francois Legault defended that assertion.
"You cannot change 15 years of not doing the right thing in 15 months. You have to make changes one by one and that's what Simon is doing," he said.
Immigration activists say the government should make the sponsorship program more widely accessible, but that could pose a political problem for the CAQ, which was elected with the promise of reducing immigration to 40,000 people a year, but has demands for more.
"We have 150,000 people that would like to immigrate to Quebec. 150,000! So of course we cannot accept all of them. So we have to put some criteria. The way it was managed with refugees -- which is first come, first served, that you have to use a messenger -- clearly it doesn't work. It's not humane. So we'll have to change this way of doing it," he said. "We'll have to find another way to choose the (refugees) that will become immigrants. We know there will be more demand than what we can accept."