Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine

(Image by Dima Al Katbi)

As of March 25th, 2022, more than 3.5 million Ukrainians have left their homes to seek refuge in another country. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, that number will climb, adding to what the United Nations High commission for Refugees says is the fastest-moving refugee crisis since World War II.  

Most Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries, with Poland alone now hosting more than 2 million displaced Ukrainians. Many Canadians are asking how they can help, offering cash donations, their homes and their volunteer time. 

The team at Refugee 613 has put together a general bulletin to bring you up to date on new measures announced for Ukrainian arrivals, and help you decide how you are best placed to help. Details change quickly as new policies and initiatives are announced, and while this is the most current situation to the best of our knowledge as of March 25th, we recommend checking the federal government’s page on Ukraine for the latest information.

Also, we note that there are more than 26 million refugees from other countries who have fled similar crises and violence all over the world. They, too, need our support and generosity, so we have included some links to how to help them as well.    

Here’s what we know so far.

Close to home

Historically, most people forced to flee war prefer not to leave their region, and especially not right away. They stay close to home in the hopes they can return quickly once things are safe again. It is expected that the vast majority of Ukrainians who have left the country will choose to stay in the European Union, which has introduced new measures allowing Ukrainians to live and work in member countries. 

For this reason, it usually takes years for refugees to arrive. Most people who are resettled to Canada through the traditional pathways have been displaced from home for several years, and come via the Government-Assisted Refugee Program, or the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program (including the BVOR program), both of which provide the newcomer with one year of financial support. There is currently a backlog of more than 70,000 people in the PSR applications pipeline. 

A new approach

The federal government has announced it will not be using the traditional refugee programs to resettle Ukrainians displaced by the war. As a result, they prefer not to use the word “refugee” to describe displaced Ukrainians who come to Canada.

Instead, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) is using two special pathways not typically applied to refugee resettlement, with some arrivals expected in cities like Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver as soon as early April: 

For now, there is no resettlement funding offered by the federal government for people arriving through these programs, and the Ukrainians will have very limited access to the valuable services and support offered by Canada’s large settlement sector. 

Update: on March 28th, Minister of IRCC Sean Fraser announced an expansion to settlement program offerings for Ukrainins, granting them access to language training, orientation, employment assistance and more.

What can you do now?

We know you are eager to be part of Canada’s ongoing commitment to be a haven for those seeking safety, no matter where they come from. Some Canadians are making their own arrangements to welcome Ukrainians they don’t know into their homes, using social media to connect, rather than waiting for formal matching to happen. It’s important to recognize that there are many unknowns and potential risks involved in making your own arrangements, for the hosts but, importantly, also for the new arrivals.

For that reason, we recommend connecting to one of the many organized response efforts that have been created. Here are some things you can do now: 

Volunteer, offer housing or donate via the web site of the national Ukrainian Canadian Congress or their Ottawa branch.

Donate to humanitarian efforts abroad via the Red Cross, UNHCR or the Humanitarian Coalition.

Donate to the Global Black Coalition, an international effort led by two Ottawa organizations (Equal Chance and the African-Canadian Association of Ottawa) to assist Black international students stranded in Ukraine or bordering countries to get home

Sponsor refugees from other countries, many of whom fled conflict or persecution and have been in limbo for years in a host country. The BVOR program offers a chance to welcome a refugee family to your community within a few months, in a cost-sharing program with the federal government and supported by settlement services. Sign up for the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program BVOR newsletter to receive information and updates as the program opens in the next few weeks. 

Advocate for a new approach to refugee welcome in times of global crisis, by reading and sharing the position of the Canadian Council for Refugees on the need for a new, more objective framework for responding to other similar crises with fairness and equity.

Stay informed by subscribing to the Refugee 613 newsletter for information, opportunities and events. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where we share resources and news from our partners, including new ways to help.