Proposed program to give Canadian permanent residency to asylum seekers working in health care

Program, if approved, would extend to all asylum seekers who have been working in the health system during the COVID-19 pandemic, including some security guards

The federal government is working on a special program that would grant Canadian permanent residency to asylum seekers who have worked in the health care roles during the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line workers have been risking their health to care for others. In Quebec’s long-term care homes, called CHSLDs, many of these front-line workers are asylum seekers. Because these essential workers may face deportation when the pandemic is over, advocacy groups have been calling on the government to recognize their work and grant them permanent residency as thanks for their service. 

According to CBC, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have come into Quebec from the United States by Roxham Road since 2017. In response to the calls to give permanent residence to asylum seekers working in CHSLDs, the Quebec Premier François Legault said last month that he would have Quebec’s Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette consider the individual cases of asylum seekers.

The provincial government in Quebec can issue a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) to applicants wishing to settle in that province. An applicant can use their CSQ to apply for Canadian permanent residence from the federal government. 

Because asylum seekers and permanent residence is ultimately a federal decision, Legault also said that Quebec would have discussions with the federal government. Radio-Canada obtained details about the proposed program which Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino presented on Tuesday, but discussions are still ongoing. 

The proposed program would extend to asylum seekers working in CHSLDs and other parts of the health system, including security guards, according to CBC, and would not apply to other sectors. It is uncertain how many asylum seekers would benefit from the program. 

According to Radio-Canada, for the program as outlined by Mendicino, both asylum seekers whose original application failed and those whose application is pending would be eligible. Applicants must have requested asylum before the program is announced. Applicants must also hold a valid work permit and have worked in the health sector. They must have worked for a minimum of four weeks, or 120 hours, between January 25, 2020, and the announcement date of the program. 

In an interview on Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin, Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly acknowledged that it is important to recognize the work that is being done on the front lines but was unable to provide any further details on the program other than that it still had not been approved by the cabinet committee.   

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