Quebec 'guardian angel' faces deportation as activists call for status for CHSLD janitor

They were called "guardian angels" and promised a fast track to residency, but long-term care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Quebec can't count on asylum here.

Activists held a news conference outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Montreal’s Papineau riding Tuesday to call for status for Mamadou Konaté and others in his position.

From Côte d'Ivoire, Konaté immigrated to Quebec in 2016 and worked as a janitor in three long-term care facilities.

“When I look at the people who support me, it gives me great hope,” he said.

The Quebec government promised to fast track asylum for those working on the front lines during the pandemic, but only nurses and orderlies qualified; Konaté was a janitor.

“Mamadou worked during the peak of the pandemic, contracted COVID. He survived it and went back to work at a CHSLD during the pandemic,” said community organizer Stefan Christoff. “Within that context, we think it's very important that his case is not forgotten.”

Politicians from the NDP and Quebec Solidaire took part in Tuesday’s protest, as part of the "Status for All" movement.

“I demand the Quebec government to push the federal government to allow status for Mamadou,” said QS MNA for Laurier-Dorion, Andrés Fontecilla.

An estimated 3,000 people in Montreal are still at risk of deportation, even though they worked in CHSLDs at the height of the health crisis.

“He should not be inadmissible,” said Stewart Istvanffy, the human rights lawyer representing Konaté. “He was there when we needed him last year and there's a lot of people like him who deserve to be treated much better.”

Konaté was still working at a long-term care home in September 2020 when he was detained at the Immigration Holding Centre in Laval.

He was eventually released by a federal court, but remains under threat of deportation.

“I think we look really bad as a society and as a country if we take his work and work of hundreds like him, and after that, when we don't need them anymore, we send them back to their country where their lives will be in danger,” said Alexandre Boulerice, deputy leader of the NDP and MP for Montreal’s Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough.

“We're supposed to be a democracy, we're supposed to be humanitarian. We're supposed to be compassionate. This is the message we send around the world, but now we show our hypocrisy.”

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