Protesters outside Trudeau’s riding office demand residency for asylum seekers

A group of protesters called for Ottawa to grant residency to asylum seekers working on the front lines of Quebec’s COVID-19 battle during a demonstration outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Montreal riding office on Saturday.

Participants said the way the federal government is treating its "guardian angel" healthcare workers is unjust and cruel.

“Those people who are illegal here with temporary citizenship, they are losing their lives to save others,” a man from Haiti who came to Canada with his wife almost three years ago told CTV News. The couple crossed at Roxham Road, which became famous as the site where many asylum seekers crossed the border irregularly. 

He said his wife has been working double shifts at seniors’ homes during the pandemic, where she washes, feeds and supports residents.

“She’s protecting seniors at this critical time,” he said.

Frantz Andre of Action Committee for People Without Status, the group behind the protest, estimated there are at least 800 asylum seekers currently working as orderlies in long-term care facilities with no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay in Canada.

“A lot of them are from Haiti and other countries and they don’t have the choice but to be working because they don’t have the financial potential to take care of themselves,” he said . “If we don’t take care of them… who’s going to take care of us?”

While Premier Francois Legault has praised the efforts of some asylum seekers, he also hasn’t advocated for them.

“We cannot open the door to say, ‘if you come illegally, find a job, that’s okay, I will accept you as an immigrant,’” said Legault at a press conference. “That’s not how it works.”

The group has sent letters to the prime minister, but the only response has been that legitimate refugees will get a “full and fair hearing.”

Protesters say it’s not good enough.

“In extraordinary times, we take extraordinary measures,” protest organizer Wilner Cayo told CTV News, adding that those people who are now giving all they can during the pandemic should be reassured they’re not being exploited.

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