The office of Canada’s immigration minister Marco Mendicino has confirmed to Global News that the federal government is working with the province on ways to recognize refugee claimants working in the health care system.
The statement comes on the heels of a news report by Radio-Canada suggesting Ottawa could grant permanent residence status to asylum seekers on the front lines.
It’s estimated that 1,000 of those health-care workers are asylum seekers in Quebec.
“It’s like Christmas for me. I cannot ask more for the people that I’ve been working with for the past five years,” said Franz André, a spokesperson for the Action Committee of the People without Status.
The report says the federal government is working on a special program that would grant permanent residency to asylum seekers who have worked in the health-care system during the pandemic.
However, advocate Marjorie Villefranche is disappointed it won’t apply to other essential workers.
“I think they deserve to be in that special program,” said Villefranche, executive director of Maison d’Haïti, an organization working with asylum seekers.
The program would be a temporary measure that is expected to apply across Canada.
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The news comes after protests have taken place in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Montreal.
Advocates were demanding the government acknowledge the essential work asylum seekers are doing.
“Today they realize that they were patient, they were very resilient, going to work every day taking chances and it’s paid off,” said André of asylum seekers.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said discussions are still ongoing with the federal government.
“We aim for the same objective, which is to recognize the contribution of these people during the unprecedent crisis.” the spokesperson told Global News.
“We will analyze the proposal in due time.”
Villefranche says the workers are clearly needed.
“My message to the Quebec government is to work in good faith with the federal government and that we are here to help,” said Villefranche.
The program would still need approval from cabinet.
— With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter