This month, the government of New Brunswick chartered a plane to bring 170 Ukrainians fleeing the war.
At the airport, the tearful meet and greet hugs looked the same, but despite the fact that they were traveling for safety, these new arrivals in Canada are not considered refugees.
In March, the federal government created a special program that speeds up immigration for Ukrainians. The resulting program, dubbed the Canadian-Ukrainian Emergency Travel Permit, is unlike any other program to date.
People arriving under this program are considered temporary residents. This means that they can work and study in Canada for three years. However, unlike refugees, they do not have a permanent residence permit when they arrive in the country, they do not receive provincial social assistance, they will have to pay tuition fees for foreign students if they want to go to university, and at first they did not have support for settling. .
Moncef Laquois, president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, said the government’s decision to do it this way embarrasses him. He said temporary residence barriers could make settling in difficult.
“I ask this question every single day… What is the difference between what is happening in Ukraine and Syria and Afghanistan? Well, they’re not being pursued by their own government, but the bomb will fall anyway.”
According to the office of the federal minister of immigration, the answer lies with the Ukrainian community.
Aidan Strickland, spokesman for Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said refugee status is permanent and the Ukrainian community wants a temporary solution.
According to her, if a refugee returns to his country after settling in Canada, his status will be cancelled.
Ukrainians arriving in Canada under this program can travel freely, and after three years they can apply for permanent residence.
“In conversations with the Ukrainian community, in particular with the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, they really made it clear that many Ukrainians who come to Canada will want to return home when it is safe,” she said.
“Because they really feel like this is going to be an option for them, they feel like they can win this war, and they feel like they can come back in a couple of years.”
According to her, the process of granting refugee status also takes longer.
“Initiatives in Afghanistan and Syria could take years to implement,” she said.
“I am for this program”
Ivan Zakharenkov, president of the Ukrainian St. John’s Association, came to Canada from Ukraine 20 years ago and is hosting three families this month under the new program.
He said it is wrong to say that all Ukrainians in New Brunswick have the same opinion on this issue, but he personally believes that the interim agreement is working.
“I don’t think Ukrainians, at least the ones I spoke to who are thinking about moving to Canada, want this ‘never come back’ situation,” he said. “But they also want to have an opportunity in this country.
“I am for this program.”
He said that people who cannot work right away, do not speak English, have many children and do not have savings, may need support provided by the refugee program. This new program makes it easier and faster for people who do not need this support to come to Canada, he said.
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Strickland said Ukrainians applying for the accelerated program do not have to meet any specific work experience, language or education requirements to be approved.
“People are still going through security checks,” she said.
Since the program was introduced, several changes have been made to address temporary residence issues, Strickland said. The federal government has created an exemption to allow Ukrainian newcomers to access resettlement services such as language courses.
They also did not receive any financial assistance at first, but the program was later changed to provide a one-time check for $3,000 for adults and $1,500 for a child. People arriving on charter flights can also receive housing for 14 days until they find a new home.
Regarding the province, Immigration Department spokesman David Kelly said the province is contributing funds to resettlement agencies.
“If people need additional services, the government is ready to consider assistance options,” he said.
Opportunities New Brunswick also connects newcomers to employers, he said.
Zakharenkov said that 7.7 million Ukrainians have left the country and are dispersed throughout Europe. Approximately 200,000 of them have completed an application to enter Canada under this program.
He said that if he could offer any advice to Ukrainians considering coming to Canada, then don’t underestimate the magnitude of this move, despite being temporary.
“A rocket went down today two blocks from my aunt and uncle. And they still think it will be over in a couple of days or a couple of weeks,” he said.
“The decision to move to Canada is a permanent one, with the option in the future to return to your country any time you want once everything is sorted out. I think that immigration in this particular program allows you to do this, but you need to make a firm decision to settle in this new country.