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Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller informed Quebec in a letter that he plans to process more permanent resident applications in the family reunification category, even if means exceeding the province's limit.PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

Quebec is accusing Ottawa of violating provincial jurisdiction after the federal immigration minister unilaterally decided to accelerate the time it takes to reunite people with their foreign family members.

On Monday, two Quebec ministers denounced the federal government’s plan, with Immigration Minister Christine Frechette saying Ottawa’s decision is a “direct affront to Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction.”

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller told the province in a recent letter that it is taking too long to process family reunification immigration applications.

Quebeckers who wish to bring a spouse into the country from abroad must wait 34 months, compared to 12 months for other Canadians. To bring in a parent, Quebeckers must wait an average of 50 months, while the delay is only 24 months elsewhere in Canada.

The process takes longer in Quebec because the province has set a cap of approximately 10,000 admissions per year in the family reunification category.

In response, Miller told the province that since the two governments “have not found common ground” on the issue, he has decided to instruct his department to process about 20,500 pending files over the next three years. The department will process the backlogs – and any new applications – even if doing so exceeds the established limits.

He said the delays can have a “very significant” impact on families and the country has a “moral duty to find a solution to this issue.”

In a written statement, Frechette said Miller’s decision would have a “considerable impact on Quebec’s permanent immigration limits … It is unacceptable.”

Under an agreement with the federal government, Quebec sets its own annual immigration targets, but the province only has complete control over the economic immigration stream – not the refugee and family reunification categories.

Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette also denounced what he said was interference by Ottawa. The federal government, he said, should respect the will of the Quebec nation. “The limits are set,” he told reporters in Shawinigan.

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