Marcelin François died of coronavirus this past April. An asylum seeker who was engaged as a part-time nurse’s aide, François was one of about 1,000 asylum seekers who are employed in Quebec’s health sector and is contributing to the fight against the coronavirus crisis on the front lines.
A large number of asylum seekers are devoid of access to healthcare since they do not have any status in Canada. Currently, the federal government is working out a program that can provide a pathway for permanent residence to asylum seekers who are working in the healthcare industry during the pandemic. The Cabinet is yet to approve the measure.
Precursors to the reform:
The spirit of Canadian hospitality comes through in this measure by the government. Before Minister Mendicino presented the details of the program, the Quebec government was engaging in a problematic discourse. Quebec’s premier, François Legault, had bestowed the title of “guardian angels” on frontline health care workers but had not given heed to the idea of giving permanent residence to asylum seekers in the healthcare sector. For him, they were separate issues.
He has softened his stance since then. Quebec has introduced a pilot program, as part of the recent provincial immigration system reforms that will allow certain healthcare workers to gain permanent residence.
Why is the measure important?
The refugee class and the economic class in Canada act as separate entities with allocations fixed by the federal government. The immigration levels are evaluated on the basis of labor market demands as well as support capacity. They do not affect anyone else’s opportunity to work. Moreover, medical jobs, especially nurse’s aides, are considered to be in high demand throughout the province. These jobs are essential for vulnerable people, but the demanding nature of the work keeps many people from applying.
Asylum seekers with jobs in healthcare are dealing with a pandemic and risking their lives every day. It is important to honor their contribution.