December 8, 2020
Standing on Guard for Guardian Angels: Canada’s Deportation Strategy During COVID-19
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been a variety of efforts to recognize the invaluable contribution of essential workers to our collective safety and security. In cities across Canada (and the world) residents have found a designated time to clap, bang pots, and even shout from their balconies as a gesture of gratitude for those on the front line. Donations have been set up by a variety of companies, with proceeds going directly to supporting essential workers and their families. Even celebrity personnel have made it their mission to celebrate and reward front line workers, offering them space to tell their stories live and rewarding them with gifts and plenty of thanks.
Front line workers are, after all, the true heroes of this pandemic. But what happens when, at the end of our quarantine (or even during), those workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents are forced to leave our country? These people who have sacrificed themselves in order to protect us, the residents of Canada, including and in particular the most vulnerable among us in long term care facilities. How can we in good conscience support measures that seek to deport these individuals who we also cheer for each night?
It was these concerns that lead to efforts by immigration lawyers in Quebec that resulted in a deal between the province and the Canadian government offering permanent residence to so called “guardian angels” in Quebec. While awaiting the implementation of this program, the CBSA announced a general moratorium on deportations. This moratorium was lifted as of 30 November 2020, however, and the CBSA can begin deportations before determinations on eligibility under the new Quebec program are made. While the CBSA has stated that deportation numbers will be significantly reduced and that they will not be removing those individuals who may qualify as “guardian angels”, concerns continue to abound amongst the migrant community and its supporters. This includes because not all migrant workers on the front line qualify as “guardian angels”, as the program is limited to those working in the health care system. This means that even those migrants cleaning the rooms of Covid patients in hospitals will not be eligible for permanent residency, let alone those individuals working in other essential positions.
Of course, the above limitations on the “guardian angel” program are concerning. As a resident of Ontario, I would further ask why a similar program has not been implemented here, or nationally? Are we as a country really willing to say, “thank you, now leave?”