On March 31, 2015, the Quebec Superior Court rendered a declaratory judgment (Stasenco c. Quebec, 2015 QCCS 1769) to the effect that a candidate applying for a Quebec Selection Certificate (“QSC”) in the Skilled Worker category had to be assessed in accordance with the criteria applicable to that category at the time of the submission of the application, rather than on the basis of any modified criteria that had been established thereafter.  The decision is of significance to potential employees and over 50,000 applicants who applied for a QSC prior to August 1, 2013 when the new selection criteria that may impact their applications came into force.

The Applicant for the declaratory judgment made her application for a QSC in April 2013, at which time she filled out forms containing a clear statement to the effect that her application would be assessed in accordance with the regulations applicable at the time of submission.  Shortly after the Applicant made her application, the requirements pertaining to language proficiency were raised by way of two amending regulations enacted by the Government of Quebec and the Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities and  Minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language (the “Minister”).  The Applicant, whose chances for being selected for an interview prior to these changes were allegedly excellent, was thus rendered unlikely to succeed in her application.

Reflecting on the  undertaking of the Minister – as per the statements printed in the official immigration forms which the Applicant had filled out – the Court ruled that a promise had, indeed, been made and that the doctrine of promissory estoppel applied.  The Applicant had, in effect, made her application in reliance on the Minister’s promise, paying the requisite fees and even engaging a lawyer to assist her with certain steps of the application process in order to ensure its success.  Her application was expected to be reviewed in accordance with the criteria in force at the time when it was made.

The Court rejected representations made by the government of Quebec that the alleged promise had not been authorized.  The fact that the new criteria were envisaged to apply only to those applications the preliminary processing of which had not yet begun also failed to save the government’s position.

The decision lends security and stability to the immigration process, and preserves the rights of qualified skilled workers who may have been impacted by frequently changing selection criteria.  For retailers looking to hire skilled workers, this means greater certainty of outcome with respect to pending applications which might have been affected by ever changing immigration norms.