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Making more English classes available for Ukrainian and other newcomers a priority, Alberta Premier says

Nov 23, 2023 | Canada, Featured

Some of the participants of the roundtable. (Office of the Premier of Alberta)

NP-UN Western Bureau.

Responding to a question from New Pathway – Ukrainian News representative and Director of the Ukrainian Program on World FM Yulianna Voloshyna during her roundtable meeting with the multicultural media, November 16, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said the long waiting times to get into English language classes not only impacts Ukrainians, but all newcomers.

Solutions may involve making more online learning and applications available.

“It’s a very big priority for me to see whether we can bridge that gap,” she said.

A similar question was raised by Ukrainian Echo correspondent Lidia Wasylyn who specifically asked about the SWIS (Settlement Worker in School) program for displaced Ukrainians.

Funding is provided by the federal government but is based upon the numbers in the province where newcomers first land, rather than where they eventually settle. This means the bulk of the money goes to Ontario.

Wasylyn asked Smith whether she would let the federal government know this is an unfair and step in to fill the void with provincial funds?

Smith replied: “We have stepped in to fill the void. I think we announced $12 billion for English language learners, as well as other substantial amount to fill in the gaps.”

However, the provincial government is prepared to do more.

Smith added that she can understand the approach of the federal government because many of the initial costs of resettlement happen in the first few weeks, but she will see whether there’s a way to get more funds.

Responding to a question from Anthony Chim of Calgary Vietnamese Television who asked how Alberta can help newcomers, Smith said Alberta’s response to the Ukrainian refugees is a model for other similar situations.

“I would say that we had a very successful program with our settlement of Ukrainian evacuees and that’s really to the credit of the non-profit groups that worked so well together. I think there were some 200 groups that were providing support, so we have been able to bring 41,000 Ukrainian evacuees into Alberta alone and that is truly remarkable,” she said.

Referring to her scheduled January meeting with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carson, whom he described as the “most destructive purveyor of Russian propaganda on the North American continent”, NP-UN Western Bureau Chief Marco Levytsky asked the Premier whether she will use the opportunity to challenge his pro-Kremlin disinformation.

Smith replied that it will be Carlson who will be interviewing her not the other way around and should Ukraine come up, she will talk about “all the work that we’ve done to support the Ukrainian evacuees.”

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