MONTREAL -- Many of those who will benefit from a very rare one-time change in Canada’s immigration rules live in Montreal, and that’s no coincidence.

They mostly came over the Quebec border around the same time, many of them Haitians who had been living in the U.S. and who walked into Canada in an attempt to get refugee status.

But it was Montreal’s need as the hardest-hit Canadian city during COVID-19 that ended up convincing the government to give them permanent residency, and the fact that so many of these refugee claimants worked through the pandemic, at risk to their own lives.

“They demonstrated a uniquely Canadian quality, which is that they were prepared to give back,” said federal immigration minister Marco Mendicino in a visit to Montreal on Friday to make the formal announcement about a group of workers who will get permanent residency.

He said they "were looking out for others."

Overall, residency will be offered to about 1,000 people who fit the new criteria: they must have claimed asylum before March 13 and have since worked at least 120 hours as an orderly, a nurse or in another designated job.

Quebec Premier François Legault had praised the workers, though he had also resisted the idea of making immigration exceptions.

“Those angels,” he said, “I appreciate very much the work they did and the risk they took working in our CHSLDs during the pandemic.”

In the end, Ottawa negotiated the deal with the CAQ government.

Advocates say that while they’re happy, there are about 3,000 more people in Montreal alone who won’t qualify, though they were working on other kinds of high-risk front lines.

“It’s very easy to think of security guards who were letting people in and out of buildings, the people who were doing the cooking in CHSLDs, the people who were doing the cleaning of the buildings,” said Paul Clarke of the group Action Réfugiés Montréal.

“These people were going to work day after day, putting their health and their families’ health at risk.”

Watch the video above for the full report out of Montreal.