Speaking Notes for the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: Update on support for Ukrainians, including highlighting business, foundation and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) partnerships
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser provides an update on support for Ukrainians, including highlighting business, foundation and NGO partnerships.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
April 20, 2022
My name is Sean Fraser, good afternoon everyone. I’m the Member of Parliament for Central Nova which happens to include the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and I’m also here in my capacity as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Before I get too far I want to give a special thanks to our guests from Air Canada and the Shapiro Foundation for being here today and for their role in an integral partnership that we’ll share news of shortly.
I also want to give a huge thank you to our hosts here at the airport. It’s nice to have the occasion to come by again after a previous important announcement for the airport but this is as much about the importance the airport can give back to us as a community. I’m grateful not just for hosting us here today but for the work you do in Nova Scotia and for Canada. It’s greatly appreciated.
My colleagues Darren Fisher, Jaime Baptiste and Lena Metlege Diab, great to see all of you here today, thank you for joining for an announcement that I know is important to all of you given our conversations about the need to continue to do m ore to support Ukrainians who are fleeing this unjust and unnecessary war of aggression.
I’m pleased to be here with all of you. I want to give a special thank you to Sarah Wiseman who I knew growing up as Sarah MacIntosh who is the Canada director of the Shapiro Foundation and David Rheault, Vice President of Government and Community Relations with Air Canada. Thank you for being here today.
It’s been now more than a month and a half that we’ve been witnessing the horrific acts of violence conducted by Putin’s regime. With this latest invasion into Ukraine I can’t help but think the values that have helped deliver peace and prosperity to Canada for my entire life and going back 80 years now since the end of the Second World War –
Those values that underpin the international legal order that we know today include the respect of territorial integrity, respect of sovereignty of independent nations, the need to uphold the right of peoples to self- determination, the very notion that a person should have a say in who makes decisions that impact the quality of life they get to enjoy.
Those values are all under attack with this war of aggression that’s been launched by Vladimir Putin. It’s important to me that Canada does its part to uphold these values when they’re under attack not just at home but on the territory of one of our sovereign allies, in this case Ukraine. Dozens of communities and cities of all sizes have been destroyed.
Ukrainians have mounted an incredibly brave defence of their homeland. That incredible defiance and fight for sovereignty continues. I want to communicate to Ukrainian Canadians who may be paying attention that Canada will be there with you every step of the way. Canada continues to stand with the people of Ukraine as they defend their country against this attack.
Canada reacted quickly, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada took several steps to support Ukrainians. Working with our partners, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure Ukrainians are supported over the course of their stay in Canada once they arrive.
There has been a number of measures we’ve put in place to date. We started planning for the potential influx of Ukrainians who would be seeking safe haven in Canada on January 19th when we established an internal task force to IRCC. We began by deploying certain elements of an operational readiness effort, whether it was putting biometric kits or human resources in key locations to the west of Ukraine for those who may be fleeing to have expedited access to Immigration officials.
We extended measures that allowed Ukrainians who were already in Canada on a temporary basis to extend their stay and made them eligible for work or study permits as the case may be. For people who already had an application in the inventory of cases in our department, we started prioritizing them on an expedited bass. But we also knew we had to do more to get people here more quickly who would be fleeing this horrifying war.
That’s why we launched in mid-March the Canada Ukraine authorization for emergency travel. This is an expedited pathway for Ukrainians who are fleeing this war to come to Canada. We built a new and innovative system around the existing visitor regime because we knew it had the capacity to process large numbers of people that would allow us to respond in real time to the conflict.
There was a unique and distinguishing feature in that after it’s safe to return home, those seeking temporary protection would want to do so. With the advent of this new emergency program we’ve now see that the process is holding up well. I’m pleased to share that although it launched March 17th it had a two week processing period to get people approved to come to Canada which means we’ve only been processing people for approvals over the last three weeks or so.
Already there are now more than 54,000 Ukrainians approved to come to Canada under this program. This expedited pathway to Canada for Ukrainians will provide three year stays for those who need it and newcomers will benefit from access to a work permit and on arrival should they wish to apply for one.
Their children are going to be able to go to school and immediately have opportunities. Even though most Ukrainians are arriving as temporary residents, we announced recently we would be expanding settlement support typically reserved for permanent residents to Ukrainians fleeing this war in recognition of the circumstances that make them particularly vulnerable.
This means Ukrainians who are coming to Canada are going to have access to key services to help them settle into their communities. This will include things like language training, information about life in their new community, about how to search for a job or sign up for a bank account or in some instances simple things about knowing how to enroll your child in soccer or to ride the bus if you have public transit in your community.
For this, we rely on more than 550 settlement services agencies across Canada who are mobilizing to play a key role in supporting Ukrainians after their arrival. Additionally a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister co-hosted a Stand Up for Ukraine event alongside the President of the European Union.
He announced additional supports for Ukrainians who were fleeing this illegal war launched by Vladimir Putin. Those arriving under the Canada Ukraine authorization for emergency travel will benefit from new supports including six weeks of income support, two weeks of hotel accommodation and to make sure -- these benefits are in place to make sure they can get off on the right foot when they arrive.
We’ve also established a partnership with the Red Cross to provide reception services to Ukrainians as they arrive. This includes on site first aid at the airport where individuals and families first arrive. It includes people who have particular mental health expertise, people who have information about the local job market, information on how to apply for a social insurance number.
We put these measures in place to make sure we don’t just make it easier for Ukrainians to get here but make it easier for them to succeed once they arrive. Over the past few months I’ve heard time and time again from Canadians that they want to help Ukrainians in any way they can because they believe the circumstances they’re facing are unjust.
Communities have already done so much to welcome those fleeing Putin’s war. People are offering their homes, their food, their time, their energy. This is who we are as Canadians and it’s part of a long and proud tradition of helping those in need. While we as a government continue to do everything we can to support Ukrainians before and after they arrive in Canada, there’s been an immense showing of goodwill from Canadians across the country who want to do their part to contribute to something they believe is the right thing.
By tapping into this goodwill we can establish partnerships that build on the supports I’ve shared details of for Ukrainians who arrive in Canada. I want to say we have made a decision the Prime Minister announced a few weeks ago to launch certain charter flights for Ukrainians seeking to come to Canada. But there’s a unique factor with respect to this crisis that communicated to us that charter flights would not be the only solution.
We realize in a typical refugee resettlement initiative we have large populations of people who are concentrated in certain areas, in some instances it’s literally people in a refugee camp. I can think of the Syrian effort with those who have come to Canada through Jordan or Lebanon where people were being managed through a centrally run refugee resettlement initiative by the UNHCR.
People had access to an airstrip and were waiting for a plane to arrive to cart them back to their country of destination, in our case Canada. There’s something unique with the Ukrainian crisis. Those who fled westerly have not been in refugee camps for several years. They’re moving through Europe fairly freely and stopping wherever they can first find a safe place to rest their head.
While this may be a positive thing from a human protection point of view, it makes the logistics of having people come to Canada that much more challenging when you talk about charter flights. The solution will involve a mix of charter and commercial flights. Today our guests are going to be sharing details about a new Ukraine to Canada travel fund initiative with Miles for Migrants, the Shapiro Foundation and Air Canada that’s going to help many Ukrainians find safe haven here.
Today we are announcing the Ukraine Canada Travel Fund, an initiative with Miles for Migrants, the Shapiro Foundation and Air Canada that will help thousands of Ukrainians come to Canada. Before I pass it over to David and Sarah to share details who will speak more about this extraordinary initiative, I want to take the opportunity to launch a call for action.
With the Canadian business community who I’ve been hearing so much generosity from, from NGOs who are seeking to do more to support Ukrainians, to provinces and territories who continue to step up in the spirit of the Team Canada approach that I’ve seen regardless of partisan affiliation, regardless of which level of government.
I want to call on everyday Canadians to continue to find innovative ways to support Ukrainians in their own community. We need to keep bringing people together by encouraging partnerships across all parts of our society and to find ways to continue to do what Canada does better than any country in the world, helping the most vulnerable in any way we can. With that I’m happy to pass it over to David to share important details about this exciting initiative.
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