|The federal government is granting permanent residency to some asylum seekers who cared for patients in hospitals and long-term care homes at the height of the pandemic last spring, in a one-time program that became more restrictive as Ottawa negotiated with Quebec. Announcing the program this morning in Montreal, federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said it is a way to thank those who “put themselves at the greatest risk” of contracting the coronavirus.
The compromise with Quebec, where most of the affected asylum seekers live and which has an agreement with Ottawa to oversee immigration, is to grant permanent residency if they worked in a hospital or other health-care institution and meet other eligibility requirements. The decision would affect about 1,000 claimants across Canada. Those working in hospitals and understaffed care homes risked exposure to COVID-19 — sometimes with fatal consequences — and have come to be known as “guardian angels” in Quebec.
To be eligible for permanent residency, asylum seekers must:
· Have applied for asylum before March 13 and have a work permit.
· Have worked in patient care at a health-care institution for at least 120 hours between March 13 and Aug. 14.
· Have six months of experience in patient care at a health-care institution by Aug. 31, 2021.
· Meet other criteria related to permanent residency, notably health and safety 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.