“Recalibrate plan,” group says

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress wants the federal government to rethink its program to bring displaced Ukrainians to Canada, stating the current plan “falls far short.”

The Canadian government announced on March 3 it would welcome an “unlimited number” of Ukrainians through a special program called the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET).

It also promised to implement a special sponsorship program for Ukrainian family reunification in the coming weeks. This program will offer permanent residence to Ukrainians.

The emergency travel program provides Ukrainian asylum seekers with a temporary visa to stay, work or study in Canada for up to three years. It’s supposed to be a “fast track” to safety. But the CUAET program does not provide financial support or settlement services to Ukrainians once they are here. They are considered visitors, not refugees.

That’s a major concern for the Ukrainian Congress of Canada. It wants the government to “recalibrate” its approach. In a March 22 news release, the UCC said: “There are virtually no federal supports in place for Ukrainians who will be coming to Canada through the CUAET program. It is naive to assume that a population of women and children, traumatized by war, will be able to find immediate shelter, secure employment and access services,” without any support from government settlement agencies.

The UCC proposes a number of changes to the federal program.

The UCC urges the federal government to implement a plan such as “a refugee stream for Ukrainians.” It says the plan must include income support, provincial access to health care, access to schools and settlement services.

It also says the Department of Immigration Refugees and Canadian Citizenship (IRCC) must implement a departure and arrival plan, stating the department’s involvement is critical.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), about 90 per cent of Ukrainian asylum seekers are women and children.

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