Quebec Premier François Legault, in an announcement that took many by surprise, said is looking at ways to give asylum seekers working in the province’s care homes a pathway to Canadian permanent residence.
Government care homes – known as CHSLDs – are Quebec province’s front line in the fight against coronavirus pandemic, seeing thousands of cases and many deaths as a staffing crisis surfaced in March and April.
François Legault was forced to put out an appeal for anyone willing to volunteer with staff shortages, and many asylum seekers – particularly of Haitian origin – stepped in.
Now the Premier has ordered Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to see how they can be offered a pathway to permanent residency to say thank you for their help during the crisis.
The shift in Legault’s stance comes after he recently declared no such preferential treatment would be considered.
In his regular coronavirus pandemic press briefing on Monday, the premier said it was important to find the right balance in any new policy.
“We have to be very careful. I do not want to send the message that in the future we will accept everyone if they find a job in Quebec,” he stated.
“But we also have another situation at hand, where it’s really important to get more people working in our CHSLD. Those people are already in the front line, working in CHSLDs. How can we bring them through the normal immigration process? That’s what we’re looking at.”
Lately, rallies have taken place in Quebec and outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence in Ottawa, calling for action to be taken to assist these asylum seekers.
Since he was elected, Legault has moved to cut down immigration to the province. He said any decision on how to support asylum seekers would have to take place in discussion with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which handles applications for refugee status.
Many of the Haitian nationals presently in Quebec crossed the border from the United States in a wave of irregular immigration that began in the summer of 2017 when U.S President Donald Trump threatened their status.
Many have already had their refugee claims turned down, and face deportation once COVID-19 travel restrictions are removed.