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Lawyers fight Quebec in court over plan to scrap 18,000 immigration applications

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Quebec immigration lawyers are trying to overturn the province’s decision to cancel thousands of immigration applications, saying the policy has left thousands of people “very devastated, very surprised and very shocked.”

The Coalition Avenir Québec government announced earlier this month it is discarding 18,139 unprocessed immigration files from skilled workers, the immigration program managed by the province, as part of sweeping changes to the way it takes in newcomers.

An association of immigration lawyers, known by its French acronym AQAADI, is seeking an injunction in Quebec Superior Court.

The group argues the provincial government must respect the existing rules — and continue processing applications  — until the proposed reforms are passed into law.

“For a week or more now, we’ve had hundreds of messages from people all around the world,” said Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, the association’s president.

“It’s very devastating for these people and what we’re asking is for the government to do their job on the basis of the law now.”

The CAQ says applicants will be able to reapply under the new system and be refunded the cost of their application.

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette outlined the reforms in Bill 7, tabled on Feb. 7 at the province’s National Assembly. 

Jolin-Barrette has said the new approach would better match applicants to the needs of the labour market, emphasize French-language skills and adhere to Quebec values.

Ho Sung Kim, another lawyer with the AQAADI, called the government’s decision to throw out the old applications “irresponsible” and said it will leave thousands of families in limbo.

“It’s not just the numbers and stats,” he said outside the courtroom. “It’s not just the paperwork. There are people behind that who have been [devoting] their lives to immigrate to Quebec.”

Ho Sung Kim said some of the people whose applications were thrown out put a lot of time, energy and money into coming to Quebec. (CBC)

The court challenge was filed on behalf of Seeun Park, a trained nurse from South Korea who has applied to settle in Quebec as a skilled worker.

The AQAADI presented three additional affidavits detailing the consequences the policy has had on other prospective immigrants, some of whom have been waiting to come to Quebec for more than a decade.

Prospective immigrants, including Park, have already received a notice saying their applications will no longer be processed.

Plan derided as ‘cavalier’

A number of groups, including unions, business groups and the Canadian Bar Association, have lined up against the CAQ’s plan.

The CSQ labour federation, which represents 200,000 workers, issued a statement Thursday calling the CAQ’s decision “cavalier” and “heartbreaking.”

The Conseil du Patronat, which represents Quebec’s biggest businesses, said it “undermines Quebec’s credibility on the international scene and reinforces cynicism about our immigration system.”

The Quebec chapter of the Canadian Bar Association sent a letter to Jolin-Barrette, saying it considers the move illegal.It said cancelling the applications “tarnishes Quebec’s image among the applicants it seeks to attract.”

Guillaume Cliche-Rivard is the president of the association of Quebec immigration lawyers (AQAADI). (Radio-Canada)

Jolin-Barrette declined to comment Thursday on the bar association letter and said the government will defend itself in court.

The CAQ’s promises to cut the number of immigrants and introduce a values test for new arrivals were key to their election campaign last fall.

The government tabled a plan last December to reduce the number of immigrants Quebec accepts this year to 40,000, down from more than 50,000 last year.

The immigration cuts have raised concerns from businesses already facing a labour shortage.

Quebec’s unemployment rate reached a historic low of 6.1 per cent last year.

Government lawyers are expected to present their arguments this afternoon.

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Ottawa sets monthly record for total COVID-19 cases with 99 new cases on Friday

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Sixteen days into October, Ottawa has already set the record for most cases of COVID-19 in a single month.

Ottawa Public Health reported 99 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa today, and three more deaths linked to novel coronavirus.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health had reported 108 new cases of COVID-19, but there is sometimes a lag in COVID-19 case reporting between Ontario and Ottawa Public Health. On Wednesday, Ontario reported 39 new cases in Ottawa, while Ottawa Public Health reported 45 new cases.

There have been 1,511 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa in October, surpassing the September record of 1,413 new cases.

Since the first case of COVID-19 on March 11, there have been 5,908 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 301 deaths.

Across Ontario, there are 712 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 213 new cases in Toronto, 135 in Peel Region and 62 in York Region.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

One more person was admitted to an Ottawa hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses on Friday.

Ottawa Public Health reports 47 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, including eight in the intensive care unit.

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

The number of active cases of COVID-19 increased on Friday.

There are 792 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, up from 777 active cases on Thursday.

A total of 4,806 people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

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Ottawa mayor rejects possible return of Ottawa-Gatineau border checkpoints, ‘I really don’t think they work’

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Mayor Jim Watson does not want to see police checkpoints return to the five interprovincial crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau, saying “I really don’t think they work.”

Earlier this week, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told the Ottawa Citizen that police checkpoints could return to the Ottawa-Gatineau border at “any time,” with the final decision in the hands of the Quebec Government. Earlier this month, Dr. Brigitte Pinard of the Centre Integre de sante et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais said border checkpoints were “possible,” adding “right now, our message is to limit large gatherings.”

When asked by CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts about the possibility of police checkpoints returning to the Ontario-Quebec border, Watson said he did not think they worked back in the spring.

“There were so many gaps when the police were not there, and people just figured out I’ll go at an earlier time or a later time. We saw police officers sticking their heads in the car with no masks, so that was not healthy for those individuals,” said Watson Friday morning.

“It’s a costly expense when our police are stretched already to the limit trying to do the work, to have them set up at five different bridge points potentially 24 hours a day would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every month and I think the money is better spent.”

On April 1, Gatineau Police and the Surete du Quebec set up checkpoints along the Ottawa-Gatineau border to limit non-essential trips into Gatineau. Gatineau Police estimated the random police checkpoints between April 1 and May 17 cost the service more than $400,000.

Mayor Watson tells CTV Morning Live that the Quebec Government’s decision to move Gatineau into the “red zone” two days after Ontario moved Ottawa to a modified Stage 2 should help.

“We are a close relationship and when things happen in Gatineau there’s often a trickle effect over here and I think the fact that we’re both in the red zone, and Quebec of course is the worst hit province, at least levels the playing field for our restaurants and bars,” said Watson.

“I think in the past what had happened was our restaurants and bars would close and then the ones in Gatineau would stay open, and then people from Ottawa would go over there irresponsibly, in my opinion, and then come back potentially with the virus and spread it here.”

While border checkpoints would limit the non-essential travel across the Ottawa-Gatineau border, Watson says that’s not the way to beat COVID-19.

“The message is very clear, stick to your household. This is not the time to have an AirBNB party or a keg party in your backyard, or have 20 people or 30 people in for an engagement party. I know a lot of these get-togethers are important socially for people and emotionally, but we have to ask people to be reasonable and responsible, and this is not the year to do those kinds of things.”

Roberts asked the mayor if he would have a conversation about border checkpoints with Gatineau’s mayor.

“I had it the first go-around, but at the end of the day I also respect their jurisdiction and their autonomy. It is the province that would have to impose that, not the municipality,” said Watson.

“From our perspective, we don’t think it’s an effective use of resources. We want to continue to get the message across that we can win this battle against COVID-19 if we socially distance, we wear a mask, we actually follow the simple rules that are put forward.”

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Ottawa woman breaks 14-day quarantine rule to work at long-term care home: police

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OTTAWA — A 53-year-old Ottawa woman is facing charges under the federal Quarantine Act after Ottawa police say she failed to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad and returned to work at a long-term care home.

Ottawa Police say information was received indicating that an Ottawa woman had travelled abroad. She returned to Canada on Sept. 26, so she was required under federal law to quarantine for 14 days, until Oct. 9

“The woman decided not to respect this order and went to work on Sept. 30 at a long-term health facility in Ottawa,” police said in a news release. “When management was apprised of the situation, she was immediately sent home. The facility immediately activated mitigating self-isolation and cleaning protocols and informed all persons that had been in contact with the subject.”

Police say none of the residents of the long-term care facility have tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of the woman attending work.

Ottawa police say this is the first person they have charged under the Quarantine Act during the pandemic.

The woman is charged with failing to comply with entry condition under section 58 of the Quarantine Act and cause risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm under section 67 of the Quarantine Act.

The maximum penalty for causing risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm is a $1 million fine and three years in prison. For failing to self-isolate for 14 days, she faces a $750,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Police did not release the name of the woman, nor where she worked. The woman is due in court on Nov. 24.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office issued a statement following the announcement of the charges.

“Mayor Watson was disturbed to learn about the alleged carelessness of the individual in question. This type of reckless behaviour could have harmed their colleagues, and more importantly, the residents of the long term care home. We must all do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

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