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Asylum seekers working on frontlines while being told they can't stay in Canada

MONTREAL (CityNews) – The Quebec government is training 10,000 new orderlies to work in long term care homes where they’ll make $26 an hour with benefits.

But asylum seekers who worked the same jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic make, in most cases, half of that.

Without permanent residency, they’re not eligible to apply to Quebec’s new program.

“You have to see the anguish, stress, frustration, where they’ve been the ones taking risks, you’re being told this is what you may be able to get and suddenly you are not eligible,” explained Frank Andre of the Action Committee of the People Without Status.

“Many of these asylum seekers are being recruited through agencies and those agencies don’t treat the workers properly,” said Fabrice Vil.

“This is a system that needs to be looked at by the government to make sure those people are treated fairly.”

CityNews spoke to asylum seekers working in Montreal long term care homes who wish to remain anonymous fearing repercussions.

They say 75 to 80 per cent of employees at their workplace are refugee claimants.

“We are many people and it’s us who kept things going throughout COVID-19, even if we couldn’t work, we had no choice.”

One of the asylum seekers is a woman who came from Haiti with her son and worked as an orderly throughout the pandemic despite being told she can’t stay in Canada.

She’s appealing that decision.

“I did the work wholeheartedly despite the stress, I left my son at home at 5 a.m. to go to work and got back at midnight. My son cried saying mom you’re going to die.”

There have been protests across the country calling on the federal government to give asylum seekers on the front line’s full status.

“If they are contributing for the service of the nation, we should be in a position to keep them in place and not threaten them to be deported,” said Vil.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced refugee claimants working on the frontline of the pandemic would be given temporary status but still hasn’t released details.

“All I’m asking is for Mr. Trudeau to come forward very quickly. Let’s remember behind the guardian angel they’re human beings going through anguish,” said Andre.

When asked about a timeline on the program, Immigration Canada said: “it’s important that we do things properly and we’ll have more to say in due course.”

“My message is to keep us safe, to protect us because we are protecting our seniors.”