Settlement agencies across the country have joined forces to support Ukrainians arriving through a federal emergency program at three airports, Canada’s immigration minister said.
Sean Fraser said 41,000 people have been approved through an emergency travel initiative launched last month to help people resettle after many fled to Europe to escape Russia’s war on Ukraine. They have been arriving at the Toronto and Edmonton international airports since April 1, and in Vancouver since April 8, 2022.
Fraser said most of the applicants are now in Warsaw or Berlin and many may settle in Canada temporarily while they have access to services like language training, child care, and help finding a job. Many of the new arrivals could end up in Western Canada because of their connections to that part of the country, he said.
Chris Friesen of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance said “Displaced Ukrainians arriving under the Canada-Ukrainian authorization for emergency travel program poses unique challenges for the post-arrival phase,” adding those arriving from Ukraine are a hybrid between temporary visitors and those needing refugee-like support.
Friesen said that could include income support and access to a health card without a three-month waiting period.
Further complicating matters is that the urgent federal measures put in place to expedite the arrival of Ukrainians came with no target or limits and no time frame for when they would get to Canada or even a destination plan, as is the case with resettled refugees, he said.
“This is why the Ukrainians arriving with temporary residence status is truly a unique humanitarian operation in Canadian history.”
B.C. Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen said the province is working with the United Way to provide Ukrainian refugees with a 24-hour hotline and provide support like education from kindergarten to Grade 12, domestic tuition rates for post-secondary students as well as mental health services.
The federal government has already announced that new arrivals will be given six weeks of income support and two weeks of hotel accommodation for those without a place to go.
Fraser said that, unlike Ukrainians, those who fled Afghanistan for another country, like Pakistan, are facing some tough challenges trying to get to Canada because they may need travel documents like a valid Afghan passport, which they can get only if they cooperate with the Taliban.
“There are thousands of people who have been approved to come to Canada that are still in Afghanistan today. If this was a matter of political will, there would have been 40,000 Afghan refugees here months ago.”
Canada’s goal is to have that number of Afghans arrive next year as part of its “moral obligation” to the country, Fraser said. About 80,000 refugees have already been resettled in Canada, he said.