Quebec Premier François Legault is looking at ways to give asylum seekers working in the province’s care homes a pathway to permanent residence.
Government care homes – known as CHSLDs – are Quebec’s front line in the coronavirus pandemic, seeing thousands of cases and many deaths as a staffing crisis emerged in March and April.
Legault was forced to put out an appeal for anyone willing to assist with staff shortages, and many asylum seekers – particularly of Haitian nationality – stepped in.
Now the Premier has instructed Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to see how they can be offered a route to immigration to say thank you for their help during the crisis.
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The shift in Legault’s stance comes after he previously said no such preferential treatment would be considered.
In his regular COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, Legault said it was important to find the right balance in any new policy.
“We have to be careful. I don’t want to send the message that in the future we will accept everybody if they find a job in Quebec,” he said.
“But we also have another situation where it’s really critical to get more people working in our CHSLD. Those people are already working in CHSLDs. How can we bring them via the normal immigration process? That’s what I’m looking at.”
Rallies have taken place recently in both Montreal and outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence in Ottawa, calling for action to be taken to support these asylum seekers.
Since it was elected, Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec has moved to cut immigration to the province. He said any decision on how to assist asylum seekers would have to take place in discussion with the federal government, which handles applications for refugee status.
Many of the Haitian nationals currently in Quebec crossed the border from the US in a wave of irregular migration that began in the summer of 2017, when American President Donald Trump threatened their status.
Many have already had their refugee claims rejected, and face deportation once coronavirus travel restrictions are removed.