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Quebec backtracks on restricting access to fast-track immigration program for students

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MONTREAL – Quebec is backtracking on its decision to restrict access to a fast-track immigration program meant for new graduates, saying students already in the province may apply.

“It’s necessary to reform the program if we want to make sure to respond to the needs of each labour market in every region,” said Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette Wednesday morning.

“All students and temporary foreign workers that are currently in Quebec and are eligible can apply, under the old criteria, once they finish their studies.”

He went on to say that he is aware of the “reality of people” and after hearing how worried the international students were, decided to “inform the premier of his decision to modify the reform.”

“I knew there would be consequences to the choices of the Quebec government,” he said. “All day yesterday, I said that this program isn’t the only option, there are many others… Today, I’m responding to the worries of international students.”

Quebec Premier François Legault adds he was touched by the students’ response to the reform.

“We may not have properly evaluated the more human aspect [of the reform],” he admitted.

He says his goal is to create wealth in the province, and that means being “careful” about who is allowed to immigrate to Quebec. Legault insists he wants young people to study pure science, “because that’s where innovation is, that’s where the future is.”

“In some fields, if people want to go to other provinces, that’s fine,” Legault argued. “But I don’t want to miss one engineer. I want to have as many engineers as I can in Quebec.”

‘Cold and calculated’

Some Quebec politicians say they were surprised at the government’s “insensitivity.”

“When someone takes the risk of moving abroad and they follow the rules, and within the process, the rules are changed, this is something we should be ashamed of,” said Gaetan Barrette, a Quebec Liberal MNA.

“We are one of the only societies in today’s world where having too much talent is something negative.”

He pointed out Quebecers don’t deserve this kind of government.

“You saw a premier and his minister who were both totally insensitive to what those people are living today,” Barrette said. “They are cold. It’s about calculation.”

Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Pascal Bérubé says he understands why some students were in tears after hearing about the change in the program.

“They [the CAQ] changed the rules in the middle of the game,” he said. “Now, they’re saying, ‘OK, stop crying, you win. We don’t think it’s a good idea, but you’re crying and we see your face on TV.’”

Pierre Arcand, interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, argues the government should revisit its entire decision to reform the program.

“Even if this is a victory on the part of the students, we think the issue is far from being settled,” he said.

“If you are a student or a qualified worker and you really want to come to Quebec, do you think it’s very motivating when the government can change the rules?”

‘Cruel and insensitive’

Tuesday, Jolin-Barrette was called cruel and insensitive for proposing changes to the popular program after hundreds of international students learned they may be forced to leave the province due to changes to the Quebec experience program (PEQ).

Jolin-Barrette had insisted that the program only be open to graduates seeking work in industries the government says are facing labour shortages.

“All the diplomas in social sciences, arts, culture have been evacuated from the program,” argued Quebec Solidaire MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

“That’s an ideological choice that’s a business-like way to see immigration. It’s a very narrow-minded way to see immigration to Quebec society.”

Under the new rules, only seven doctoral, 24 master’s, 54 bachelor’s and 59 college-degree programs will be admitted to the PEQ. In 2018, 11,000 people were admitted to the program in the province.

The list of professions allowed will change every year, the government states.

“It’s like a moving target — maybe next year, maybe next year?” Bérubé said. “Wait and see, come to Quebec and maybe next year it’s going to be something else. You’ll end up working at McDonald’s or another job, not the one you want — because we say so. This is the kind of government we have right now.”

The students rallied Tuesday, saying the government’s actions are inhumane and a betrayal to those who travelled to Quebec, paid school fees and started lives in the province with the expectation they would have access to the program.

“I think some of the students who are here like me already have a family,” said student Jin Xing, who moved to Quebec three years from China.

“We left so many things in our original country. It is not simple for us. … We have a big dream out here. We love this country and we are working so hard.”

The reform is expected to be put in place as of Nov. 1.

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Yukon gold rush of 1890s photo appears lookalike Greta Thunberg

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TORONTO – The appearance of a child in a 120-year-old photo taken during the Yukon gold rush — has sparked jokes suggesting that the picture features a “time traveller.”

But not just any time traveller: the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The black-and-white photograph entitled “Three children operating rocker at a gold mine on Dominion Creek, Yukon Territory, circa. 1898,” belongs to the archives at the University of Washington.

One of the children, with braids and a stoic stare, bears a striking resemblance to the Swedish teenager and climate change activist.

The resemblance between the gold miner and Thunberg has sent conspiracy theorists into a tailspin.

Among the many tweets, one person tweeted: “So, ‘Greta Thunberg’ is in a photo from 120 years ago, and it’s my new favourite conspiracy. Greta’s a time traveller from the future, and she’s here to save us.”

In a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Wednesday, Kristin Kinsey, the digital and visual materials specialist at the university archives, called all the attention “really insane.”

But the story behind the photo is not as not as far-fetched as the jokesters suggest.

SWEDISH PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURED THE GOLD RUSH

The photo is actually part of a large collection from Swedish photographer Eric Hegg, who documented the Alaska-Yukon gold rush as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

Kinsey says that the set was one of the first collections the school ever received. She dubbed it one of the “core collections” the university has on the gold rush.

“He, along with a lot of photographers, went up and dragged their equipment by dogsled, by boat,” Kinsey said. “He took various aspects of the gold mining — that big adventure, the big explosion of gold-seekers.”

According to the university’s page on Hegg’s life, during the summer of 1898, he and his brother Peter made their way up the Yukon River to document the stampede of prospectors.

“Before Hegg left in June, he turned the majority of his work which was produced in the British Columbia town of Bennett over to the photographer Edward Hamacher who later relocated to Whitehorse,” the site explains.

The biography adds that many of the photographs were developed under “arduous circumstances,” which included a travelling darkroom in the bow of a specially-designed small boat.

But the image featuring the Thunberg-lookalike was of note because the photos didn’t usually capture many children mining for gold, Kinsey said. And the identity and nationality of the children remain a mystery because the photographer didn’t list their names.

“It’s this kind of mini-operation and that little kid looks like he’s around five,” she laughs. “I mean, you don’t see too many families sitting around doing this.”

Since 1997, the university has been digitizing and cataloguing all of their photo collections on a searchable, public online database.

Although staff at the university are unsure how the photograph ended up on the internet’s radar, they’re delighted by all the attention it has brought to their collection.

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Alberta Government launches financial audit of CBE

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Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement that the CBE has shown “a clear pattern of mismanagement.” Larry Wong/Postmedia

As the Calgary Board of Education prepares to cut nearly 300 teachers on temporary contracts as a result of a “budget gap,” the province is launching an independent financial audit of the board along with a governance review.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday that the CBE has shown “a clear pattern of mismanagement … that must be corrected.”

She described the layoffs as “reprehensible” and “reckless.”

“When you look at the fact that they have a $1.2 billion budget servicing 130,000 students and their only recourse in their decision-making is to cut teachers, it’s unacceptable,” said LaGrange.

LaGrange stated it’s “another example of this board’s inability to appropriately manage its finances and prioritize student learning in its operations.”

On Tuesday, CBE Supt. Christopher Usih said teachers affected by those cuts have received notice that their contracts will end as of Jan. 2, 2020. The teachers will be placed on the substitute teacher roster on Jan. 3 and a number of them “may be considered for future temporary contracts.”

Usih said the UCP government’s budget, tabled last month, left the CBE with a $32-million shortfall. He added the CBE was in the process of making “several other decisions to cover our budget gap,” which will be communicated to staff and parents as soon as possible.

Budget reductions discussed at a board meeting last week included cutting the overall funding allocated to 246 schools by $22 million, or 2.5 per cent. Officials said that will mean some temporary employee contracts will be eliminated and some central and area-based staff will be redeployed to schools.

“This budget decision impacts many of our schools, classrooms, and students,” Usih said.

LaGrange said the CBE “has a history of questionable, irresponsible decision-making when it comes to its finances,” pointing to the 20-year lease of a downtown building in 2010-11.

“I have been extremely clear that I expect all boards to minimize impacts on front-line staff and teachers, and to prioritize the educational experience of our students. Alberta Education offered the Calgary Board of Education assistance in achieving this, assistance that the board refused,” she stated.

But NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said LaGrange was warned repeatedly that the UCP budget would lead to layoffs.

“Of course it’s because the UCP government said that they were going to fund enrolment growth — they didn’t. They said they were going to protect education — they’re cutting it,” she said. “And now here we are mid-year dealing with those consequences and kids are paying the price and teachers are losing their jobs.”

When asked by reporters whether the review could result in “firing” or “disbanding” the school board, LaGrange did not rule it out.

“I am looking at a governance review and an independent financial audit and all my options,” she said.

In 2017, the former NDP government also launched a review of the CBE’s finances. The review found that the board’s per-student spending was comparable to Alberta’s other three metro boards but that it could look to find efficiencies through busing services.

LaGrange said the province has no plans to audit the Calgary Catholic School District or other school boards.

The Calgary Catholic School District says it’s facing a $17-million deficit following October’s provincial budget.

But board chair Mary Martin said the shortfall won’t mean fewer teachers working at its schools across Calgary and Rocky View County. Martin said the board asked its administration to come up with a recommendation “to preserve classroom conditions and our staff.”

“One of the things that makes this budget along with some of the grant reductions and eliminations challenging is the midyear nature of it,” she said.

“At this point in time we’re comfortable that we will be not laying off anyone. We’ll be using reserves. One of the challenges is it’s not a good long-term measure.”

Martin said the school board is looking for other efficiencies, but wouldn’t go into detail on what options are on the table. She said some vacant positions at the school board’s central office would not be filled.


Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s statement released on Wednesday, Nov. 20:

—With files from Janet French and Lisa Johnson

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Justin Trudeau 2019 New cabinet list

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The full list of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s new cabinet being sworn in Nov. 20 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa:

-Chrystia Freeland becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
-Anita Anand, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
-Navdeep Bains becomes Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
-Carolyn Bennett remains Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
-Marie-Claude Bibeau remains Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
-Bill Blair becomes Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
-Bardish Chagger becomes Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth.
-Francois-Philippe Champagne becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs.
-Jean-Yves Duclos becomes President of the Treasury Board.
-Mona Fortier, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance.
-Marc Garneau remains Minister of Transport.
-Karina Gould becomes Minister of International Development.
-Steven Guilbeault, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Canadian Heritage.
-Patty Hajdu becomes Minister of Health.
-Ahmed Hussen becomes Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
-Melanie Joly becomes Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
-Bernadette Jordan becomes Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
-David Lametti remains Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
-Dominic LeBlanc becomes President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
-Diane Lebouthillier remains Minister of National Revenue.
-Lawrence MacAulay remains Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.
-Catherine McKenna becomes Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
-Marco E. L. Mendicino, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
-Marc Miller, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Indigenous Services.
-Maryam Monsef becomes Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.
-Bill Morneau remains Minister of Finance.
-Joyce Murray becomes Minister of Digital Government.
-Mary Ng becomes Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.
-Seamus O’Regan becomes Minister of Natural Resources.
-Carla Qualtrough becomes Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
-Pablo Rodriguez becomes Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
-Harjit Sajjan remains Minister of National Defence.
-Deb Schulte, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Seniors.
-Filomena Tassi becomes Minister of Labour.
-Dan Vandal, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Northern Affairs.
-Jonathan Wilkinson becomes Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
-Also, Jim Carr will serve as the prime minister’s special representative for the Prairies.

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