Canada is to offer permanent residency to asylum seekers who put themselves at risk to care for coronavirus patients, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday.
They will be able to apply for residency for themselves and their families if they had submitted their application by March 2020, even if their demand had already been rejected.
The measure will apply to asylum seekers who have helped directly care for the sick in a health clinic, a nursing home or a household, Mendicino told a news conference.
"As these individuals face an uncertain future in Canada, the current circumstances merit exceptional measures, in recognition of their exceptional service during the pandemic," Mendicino said.
"They put themselves at risk. And we are grateful for their service, for their sacrifice. And for their instinct to put the needs of community ahead of all else," he said.
In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to consider a regularization program for people doing "heroic work" in the midst of the pandemic.
The head of Quebec's provincial government Francois Legault called them "guardian angels".
The majority of the asylum seekers work in Quebec, the Canadian region worst hit by the pandemic, with close to 61,000 cases of Covid-19 and 5,715 deaths.
Those numbers are roughly half of all infections and deaths in Canada, which nationwide has recorded 121,000 cases with 9,050 fatalities.
Nursing homes accounted for more than 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths in Canada.
Nationwide, the new measure is expected to affect at most 1,000 people, lawyers for the asylum seekers told Radio-Canada on Friday.