Canada launches unprecedented support for Ukrainian refugees using local providers


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine heads into its 50th day, Canada is inventing an entirely new way to get Ukrainian refugees here and support them when they arrive.

“Settlement agencies and communities know how to settle people into those communities best,” said Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister of immigration.

Under a special exemption, Ukrainians will be arriving as temporary residents, meaning many of the typical supports available to immigrants or refugees were unavailable, until today.

“This is a brand new thing for us,” said Jean McRae, CEO of Victoria’s Inter-Cultural Association.

“We think we’ll probably be looking primarily at moms and primarily single moms with children. They’re going to have to organize themselves to go to school and work.”

The federal government is opening up key services offered through the immigration and refugee system to Ukrainian refugees in a way that’s never been done in Canada before to help them settle into their communities.

“Sometimes it’s the formal things like language training. Sometimes it’s about teaching people how to ride the bus in their new neighbourhood. Figuring out how to sign up their kid for the local soccer team. Providing child care opportunities while their parents are taking language training,” said Fraser.

Ottawa is hoping the 30,000 Ukrainian applicants already seeking refuge in Canada under the expedited temporary resident program called Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), actually stay here.

“As the humanitarian crisis deepens and needs to continue to grow, our collective response must keep pace,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Saturday, speaking at the Global Citizen-organized social media rally Stand Up for Ukraine.

In the appearance, the Prime Minister announced more help for fleeing Ukrainians including chartered flights for Ukrainians coming to Canada, short-term income support to ensure their basic needs are met for six weeks, and temporary hotel accommodation for two weeks.

Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, support services are gearing up.

“We don’t have Ukrainian or Russian on staff at the moment, so we will be looking and those postings will go up really soon, so we’re really encouraging people to keep an eye on the website,” said McRea.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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