They worked on the front lines of health care in Canada during COVID-19. Now these refugees have the opportunity to stay here

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Starting Monday, Canada will accept permanent residence applications from asylum seekers who worked on the front lines of this country’s health care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

News of the opening of the special program came nearly four months after Ottawa initially announced the Guardian Angels’ Way on August 14 to honor the contributions of asylum seekers to risk their lives to care for Canadians during the crisis.

“We recognize the dedication of the many asylum seekers who have raised their hands to help us through a unique and unprecedented situation,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Canadians value refugee claimants and the work they are doing during the pandemic. With this special measure, we recognize their important contribution in providing them with a more secure future in Canada.

A large number of asylum seekers in Canada, particularly in Quebec, work in various capacities in the health sector, many of them as personal support workers in the long-term care facilities most severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreaks.

Since there may be asylum seekers who contracted COVID-19 and subsequently died, Mendicino said the spouses and common-law partners of those people who are in Canada and arrived before August 14 may also obtain permanent residence under this policy.

Paid and unpaid work experience as an intern will also be counted, provided they were part of a post-secondary or vocational training program in one of the designated occupations.

The program has two components, one for Quebec and the other for the rest of Canada. However, all applications under the Guardian Angels program must be submitted to the Federal Department of Immigration.

New Brunswick Immigration Minister Arlene Dunn, who co-chairs the Forum of Ministers Responsible for Immigration, hailed the program as a collaboration of federal and provincial authorities.

“We welcome these special measures for refugee claimants who have stepped up to serve our communities during these unprecedented times,” said Dunn.

“Together with our federal, provincial and territorial colleagues, we strive to help newcomers participate and succeed in a welcoming Canadian society.

There are other criteria for applicants, who must:

  • Have applied for asylum before March 13, 2020;
  • Have obtained a work permit after submitting an asylum application;
  • Have worked in hospitals, long-term care homes, home care through an organization or agency, assisted living facilities;

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  • Have worked for no less than 120 hours between March 13 and August 14 in one of the designated professions – orderlies, nurses, orderlies and patient service associates, orderlies and some home care attendants ; and
  • Meet existing eligibility requirements, including those related to criminality, safety and health.
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto reporter who covers immigration for The Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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