In the News
Migrant Health Care Workers
Legault Government’s Disregard for Vulnerable Health Care Workers Recalled
A year and a half after the federal and Quebec governments’ announcement about a special regularization program for those working in the health care sector during the first wave of the pandemic, many refugee claimants who qualified for the program are still awaiting finalization of permanent residency for themselves and their families. The special regularization program was terminated on August 31 of last year.
The special program saw the light of day after numerous actions involving vulnerable essential workers themselves and the many organizations in Quebec working in their defence had pressed both the Quebec and federal governments to recognize the valuable contribution of these workers during the pandemic by granting them permanent residence status.
And so a special path to permanent residency was created for them. However, the conditions set by the Legault government for qualifying for the program differed from those required in the rest of Canada. In the former, health care workers had to have provided direct care to patients during the pandemic, while in the rest of Canada, this was not the case.
This resulted in some of these vulnerable workers quickly moving to Ontario in order to be able to qualify.
Interviewed by the press at the program’s end last August, Marjorie Villefranche, Director of the Maison d’Haïti, one of the organizations accompanying these workers and advocating in their defence, said sarcastically: “We’re happy to have launched a movement that benefited the people of Ontario more than those in Quebec.” “If workers didn’t have the proper job title, they could not be selected by Quebec,” she said. “Yet we saw that because of the lack of personnel in the long-term care facilities, everyone kicked in and did other chores, even if it wasn’t part of their job.”
In her opinion, had the program been the same as for the rest of Canada, 10,000 people in Quebec could have claimed permanent residency. “It’s a bit mean, when one looks at all these people did.”
Stephan Reichold of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrant (TCRI) said: “It’s very disappointing … Right from the start, the program should have been expanded, particularly within the context of the labour shortage … Our lives get complicated unnecessarily.”
Villefranche’s assessment that the program benefitted the people of Ontario more than in Quebec has been confirmed through statistics provided to Le Devoir recently by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. They reveal that in Quebec, out of a total of 2,275 files opened representing 4,535 persons (including applicants’ family members), a mere 28 per cent have been finalized to date, even though 70 per cent of all applications have been approved, and are now in the hands of the federal government at the final stage.
In Ontario, of the 3,385 applications submitted (representing a total of 8,110 people), 40 per cent have been finalized. Yet the majority are still pending a final determination.
Canada-wide thus far, out of a total of 5,903 applications submitted, 2,050 (35 per cent) have resulted in permanent residency. Taking into account all files which have approval in principle, that percentage increases to around 50 per cent.
(Workers’ Forum, posted February 1, 2022. With files from Le Devoir, Radio-Canada and personal interviews.)