Unless Ottawa acts immediately to change the current policy, Ukrainian refugees will not be able to access federally funded programs such as language classes, daycare and employment assistance programs.
More than 500 settlement agencies, in partnership with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, are calling on the federal government to allow war-displaced Ukrainians heading to Canada to access federally funded assistance programs.
Under current Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) policies, only permanent residents are eligible for federally funded settlement programs, such as English classes, employment assistance programs and child care services.
Due to their legal status as temporary residents, displaced Ukrainians arriving in Canada will not be eligible to access these federal settlement supports, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA) said in a media statement to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Minister of Immigration. Sean Fraser.
“Immigrant-serving agencies across Canada stand ready to support displaced Ukrainians, but we don’t want to enforce eligibility criteria for federal government programs that will impact the Ukrainians we can help,” said said Chris Friesen, President of CISSA.
“Many Ukrainians fleeing the war will arrive traumatised, in need of much-needed support to help them make the transition to this country. Ukrainians should be able to access settlement programs regardless of their legal status,” added Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Alexandra Chyczij.
Immediate response needed
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created one of the greatest refugee crises of modern times. A month into the war, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – the sixth largest refugee flow in the past 60-plus years, according to an analysis of United Nations data by the Pew Research Center.
As part of Canada’s response, Ottawa announced the creation of a Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization available to people fleeing that country. There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can apply.
All Ukrainians who come to Canada under these measures will be able to apply for an open work permit, which will make it easier for employers to hire Ukrainian nationals. As previously announced, IRCC will also issue open work permits to Ukrainian visitors, workers and students who are currently in Canada and cannot safely return home.
NCM is awaiting a response from IRCC on whether it will change eligibility for the federally funded Settlement Program Support Program to include temporary residents fleeing conflict zones and asylum seekers seeking asylum .
“While we strongly believe that immigrant settlement and integration is a shared federal/provincial responsibility, the urgency of this situation requires an immediate federal response to ensure that displaced Ukrainians and other asylum seekers Extremely vulnerable and at-risk asylum seekers who are likely to remain in Canada will have the opportunity to access the wide range of settlement support programs available, when they need it most, upon arrival in this country. country, no matter where they settle,” CISSA said in its statement.
In the case of the federal government’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot and the Atlantic Immigration Program, IRCC allows temporary residents and foreign nationals to access certain settlement services upon arrival.
“This precedent should be extended to displaced Ukrainians with temporary resident status and asylum seekers,” CISSA said.
“While some, but not all, provinces and territories provide limited funding to support more than 800,000 temporary residents each year in Canada (international students, temporary foreign workers, seasonal agricultural workers and asylum seekers), we cannot expect provinces and territories to quickly replicate federally funded settlement programs… “where they do not currently exist”.
NCM reported that while many applaud Canada’s outpouring of humanitarian support for the nearly two million refugees who have fled Ukraine since the February 24 Russian attack, Canadians continue to strongly criticize the unequal treatment given to displaced people from other war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and Iraq.
“It’s racism to the core,” said Professor Nour El Kadri of the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management.
He pointed out that while Canada promised to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees during the Syrian crisis in 2015 and 40,000 Afghans after Kabul fell to the Taliban, it set no limits for Ukrainian refugees.
A new study from the Angus Reid Institute has also shown that when it comes to welcoming refugees, more Canadians are willing to open their hearts and homes to those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine than to those fleeing the Syrian civil war.
“Canada’s inequitable refugee policy reflects more than laziness on the government’s part — it bears the brunt of racist, and unfortunately commonplace, rhetoric circulating in the mainstream media: that Ukrainian refugees , mostly white Christian Europeans, will integrate better into Canadian society. wrote Dima Kiwan, a second-year undergraduate student at McGill University, in a recent op-ed for the McGill Tribune.
“To truly provide a level playing field, the government must recognize the racist implications of its policy in the current social climate, instead of dismissing criticism with the logistical and bureaucratic excuses that refugees too often hear.