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The judge hearing an injunction request over the Quebec government’s decision to cancel more than 18,000 immigration applications will render a decision early next week.

Representatives of an association of Quebec immigration lawyers argued Friday the province is ignoring laws currently in place in anticipation of a new law, Bill 9, that would overhaul the system for selecting newcomers to the province.

The 18,139 outstanding applications involve skilled workers’ cases, which are managed by the province. They include about 3,700 people who are already residing in Quebec.

Doug Mitchell, a lawyer representing those affected, told the court the province’s move essentially amounts to ignoring the law of the land, causing great prejudice to those affected.

Mr. Mitchell told Quebec Superior Court Justice Frédéric Bachand that society wants government to follow the laws.

“It’s your role to remind politicians that society expects them to respect the law at all times,” Mr. Mitchell told the judge. “We are, sadly, confronted with a situation where the minister has declared that, because he foresees a new shift, he can simply make it as though the law in place doesn’t exist and isn’t important.”

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled Bill 9 on Feb. 7, setting out a framework that would permit the province to be more selective with immigrants, ensuring they speak French, respect Quebec values and meet labour market needs.

People whose applications were already being processed were informed they would have to start afresh under the new system. They are seeking a certificate from the Quebec government that would allow them to obtain permanent residency in Canada.

The province defended its decision by saying it hadn’t stopped processing files; it simply stopped rendering decisions.

Quebec government lawyer Thi Hong Lien Trinh said the law gives the minister broad discretion. She argued the government’s decision to stop rendering decisions was a question of “efficiencies” as the bill in its current form would require those applicants to reapply in any case. The province also argued that the level of urgency claimed in the case falls short of meeting criteria required for an injunction.

If granted, the injunction would oblige the Quebec Immigration Department to resume processing the applications.

Ho Sung Kim, an immigration lawyer, said the government could process thousands of files as it waits for the law to be adopted. “While the bill is pending at the national assembly, it’s not a law,” Kim said.

He said applicants spent time and money putting together their applications. That those applications are now being tossed is where the urgency lies. “They were so devastated by the news their applications were going to be shredded to garbage,” Kim said.

The request involved Seeun Park, a Korean woman in Montreal, but it is being argued on behalf of all of those who have seen their applications set aside.

“We must remind the government and the minister of the primordial obligation … the obligation of respecting the law,” said lawyer Olga Redko, also representing the association. The failure to do so creates “a serious and irreparable prejudice to those who expected their cases to be treated,” she said.

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