WATCH: Help for foreign students left in lurch after taking French courses for permanent residency
A local civil rights group, lawyers, and students' associations are ramping up support for international students accused of defrauding the Quebec government after taking French courses aimed at getting them permanent residency.
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) is getting involved in the case that's implicated hundreds of students who say they were misled and cheated out of a chance at getting permanent resident status after they thought they were following the proper channels.
Students who passed a government-approved vocational program and French courses offered by the English Montreal School Board and the Lester B. Pearson School Board - that cost them thousands of dollars - were eligible to get a selection certificate that would help fast-track their application for permanent residency. The courses cost as much as $30,000.
But over the past few months, many students have been getting letters from the immigration department saying there may be problems with their documents and that they would have to undergo an interview that ended being a French test.
Many failed the test, had their application rejected, were accused of committing fraud and were told they were not able to apply for permanent residency again for five years.
This man's cousin was among those students and who has now moved to Alberta.
"They go and change the rules," said the man who wished to remain anonymous to protect his cousin.
"That requirement (for the oral proficiency) was not satisfied by the ministry and now they are changing the rules but ironically, they still recognize this course."
CRARR executive director Fo Niemi said they're helping any students who'd like to file a legal challenge and they're asking the Quebec ombudsman to investigate.
"They're just blaming the student without doing anything about the school boards. That, to us,... that's why we're talking about profiling, but unfortunately they're profiling the wrong people," said Niemi.
Yannick Yang has a website that has fielded dozens of complaints and is helping students sort out their options.
Yang said he went through the course himself and found it was a good program. He said he didn't have to go through any final interview or French oral test after passing it and wonders why the rules have changed suddenly.
"They don't know what to do, they come to my website and ask me what to do," said Yang.
"They're very scared. They're afraid to go out or talk to their parents - their parents in China, they don't know what's going on here. They spend a lot of money on French courses."
There is a UPAC investigation underway at both school boards.