These front-line health workers risked their lives during the pandemic. Why are they prohibited from obtaining permanent residence?

As a federal permanent resident program nears its end date and thousands of places remain unfilled, activists are fighting for these vacancies to go to refugee and undocumented frontline health workers.

the path from temporary resident to permanent resident grants permanent residence to certain temporary residents who have work experience in Canada in healthcare or other essential occupations, or who recently graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution. The road is due to expire on November 5, but still has 15,000 spots available for English and / or French-speaking healthcare workers.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced this avenue to grant essential workers in Canada permanent status to “fight the pandemic and accelerate our economic recovery,” it said in a April press release.

The caveat is that only those with valid status in Canada can apply, which means that refugee and undocumented healthcare workers are not eligible for the program.

The IRCC did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

On Wednesday, the advocacy group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change invited four refugee claimants to speak virtually about their experiences as frontline health workers and ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to extend the path to refugees and undocumented workers.

“Basically, permanent resident status is not a gift to so-called guardian angels who have gone the extra mile,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Permanent resident status is not just about who lives here permanently and who doesn’t. Permanent resident status is primarily the mechanism through which rights are accessed. To deny it is to deny rights ”.

Florence, a refugee claimant from Uganda, moved to Canada from the US in 2019 and now works in a residential home in Toronto for young adults with complex physical and developmental disabilities. For security reasons, Florence only used your first name during your talk.

While speaking, Florence detailed how the dangerous conditions she had to go through during COVID-19 and her prolonged separation from her family affected her physical and mental health. He also referred to the comments of Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford when he asked immigrants “workers” not to “come to collect the subsidy and just sit there” and wants him to know that there are already migrant workers who go further. .

“We have done it all. We have risked our lives, even when we had no hope, even when I knew we were going to die, ”Florence said.

Fasanya Kolade, a development support worker, called the Zoom meeting from his workplace in Newfoundland during a 10-minute break. You almost meet all the requirements for the itinerary: you have more than one year of work experience in the health sector, you are currently employed and authorized to work in Canada, and you are fluent in English. The only thing that excludes you from eligibility is the fact that you are a refugee.

“COVID-19 no not differentiating the temporary resident status of refugees and undocumented immigrants – it affects everyone, ”Kolade said. “Even when cases were dangerously high and no one was willing to go to work, I challenged this virus, putting my life at risk to ensure the well-being of our seniors and Canadians with disabilities.”

In addition to the four speakers at Wednesday’s event, other refugees the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change works with also advocate for better access to permanent residency opportunities.

Basil Omeje, a caregiver who also lives in Newfoundland, was happy to learn about the trail when it was first announced in April. But he said he was “devastated” once he learned that refugee claimants like him are unable to apply.

In May, Omeje presented a presentation to the parliamentary immigration committee recommending permanent residency pathways for essential workers and pre-removal risk assessment applicants like himself. Omeje has been in Canada for three years, but has had trouble obtaining refugee status in the country because he previously applied for asylum in the US This makes it even more difficult for him to apply.

The committee published Omeje’s presentation, but is still awaiting a response from government officials.

He says he has risked his life as a caregiver during the pandemic as much as anyone else who is eligible for the pathway.

“I have worked 84 hours a week for the last 12 months. I have not had a day off for the last 12 months. For me, I think it’s not fair, ”Omeje told the Star.“ I think we should spread our arms and then relax some of the requirements (of the road). ”

Omeje hopes to become a permanent resident soon so that he can sponsor his wife and daughter, who are currently in Nigeria.

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