More than 100 people gathered in front of the office on Boulevard Crémazie, wearing masks and waving Haitian signs and flags.
Many asylum seekers in Quebec are from Haiti – thousands entered Canada at Roxham Road in 2017, a well-visited entry point for asylum seekers from the United States.
“We are here to ask the government to recognize the sacrifices of our workers,” said Wilner Cayo, one of the organizers and president of Stand Up for Dignity, an advocacy organization.
“Give them their permanent residence. They work too hard for us, for our seniors. Please, please, let’s be human. “
A woman was holding a sign with the image of Marcelin François on it. François was a Haitian asylum seeker working in a long-term care home, who died last month from complications from COVID-19.
His death was first reported in La Presse and has fueled appeals to the provincial and federal governments to ensure that asylum seekers like him can stay.
The health crisis has highlighted the crucial role that refugee claimants and others in precarious situations play in the province’s economy, with thousands of people working as patient attendants in long-term care homes. and holding other essential jobs.
They work long hours in meat packing plants and warehouses, or care for the elderly in long-term care homes – low-paid jobs that are difficult to fill.
But they may not be able to stay in Canada when the evictions, which almost stopped during the COVID-19 crisis, resume.
No indication governments will listen
Despite growing calls from community organizers, opposition supporters and politicians in Quebec and Ottawa for the federal government to create a special program for asylum seekers, neither Trudeau nor Prime Minister François Legault said that they were in favor of doing it.
In a statement sent by email on Saturday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said that “frontline health workers play an essential role in keeping Canadians healthy. We are all deeply grateful for their dedication, commitment and bravery.
But that “all eligible asylum seekers receive a full and fair hearing on the merits of their claims”.
Alexandre Boulerice, New Democrat MP for Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, was at the demonstration.
“They literally give their lives to take care of our seniors,” said Boulerice. “The least we can do is keep them safe, a status that allows them to stay here because they work for the common good of our society. “
Boulerice helped lead a petition on behalf of a Montreal community group asking Trudeau to “demonstrate leadership by implementing a special program to regularize the status of refugee claimants who fight COVID-19”.
Boulerice said he was disappointed with the way the Quebec government has so far responded to the issue.
When asked about this on Thursday, Legault said of the claimants: “We need it, we are fortunate to have it”, but “there are rules [to follow] for people who wish to become immigrants. ”
Frantz André, one of the founders of the Action Committee for Stateless Persons, an advocacy group that helps asylum seekers settle in Montreal, helped organize the protest.
He says there is no point in putting pressure on the provincial government because he waged a campaign to reduce the number of immigrants to Quebec.
“We are asking for permanent residence; I think Mr. Trudeau has this moral and human opportunity to make sure we are welcome here. “