Quebec won't expand 'guardian angel' residency path for workers outside health care

Carole Ze Benedicte, who is originally from Cameroon, poses at her apartment in Montreal, Saturday, May 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Though the Quebec government decided earlier this year to allow certain refugee claimants who served on the COVID-19 front lines to get a special path to residency, it's now set the limits of that program.

A spokesperson for Nadine Girault, the provincial minister for international relations, confirmed Tuesday that the province will limit the so-called "guardian angels" program to certain categories of health-care workers -- shutting the door to other essential workers after briefly considering including some of them.

Françoise David, the former Quebec Solidaire spokesperson, was a leading advocate for expanding the program to other kinds of support staff, such as cleaners or people working at pharmacies.

She attended a meeting earlier this fall with government officials, but they rejected the proposal.

David said she doesn't know exactly how many people might have be eligible under expanded rules, but she said governmental officials told her they could not allow "thousands" more to stay.

Those who will be able to benefit from the program, which is a joint federal-provincial undertaking, include orderlies, nurses, nurse's aides and home health aides.

The "guardian angels" are largely Haitian nationals who walked over the border from upstate New York in 2018 and 2019, hoping to get refugee status in Canada after the U.S. government ended an emergency residency program for them.

In the spring and summer, advocates, including David, called for the government to broaden its definition of essential work under the one-time program and let more of them stay as a thank-you for their risky work.

David said on Tuesday that she was extremely disappointed by the decision and that cleaning staff and other types of workers also risked their health during the first wave. 

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