The federal government is granting a pathway to permanent residency to some asylum seekers who worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for patients in hospitals and long-term care homes in Canada.
Under the ad hoc measure announced by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino on Friday, asylum claimants across the country who provide direct care to patients in health-care institutions will be able to apply for permanent residency if they meet certain criteria.
The province of Quebec, which has wide ranging powers to select its own immigrants, will select those qualifying for this special measure who wish to reside in Quebec, Mendicino said.
The announcement came in response to public demand that the so-called “Guardian Angels” — many in Quebec — be recognized for their work in the health-care sector during the pandemic.
“The government recognizes the extraordinary contribution of asylum claimants working in Canada’s health-care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in long-term care centres,” Mendicino said in a statement.
“As these individuals face an uncertain future in Canada, the current circumstances merit exceptional measures in recognition of their service during the pandemic.”
Ordinarily, asylum seekers must wait for their claims to be accepted before they can become permanent residents, but the new program waives that requirement.
To apply for residency now, they must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as an orderly, nurse or other designated occupation since then.
Applicants must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of this month to meet that requirement.
Quebec sought tougher requirements
The federal government had initially envisioned broader eligibility requirements, which would have included other workers in hospitals and care facilities, such as security guards and maintenance staff.
But after weeks of negotiations with Quebec, Ottawa decided to tighten the program. As is the case with all who settle in the province, the asylum seekers will still need to obtain their Certificat de sélection du Quebec (CSQ), a certificate of selection granted by provincial immigration authorities.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News