Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
From day to day the tension rises. Will Vladimir Putin launch a new invasion of Ukraine, or will he not? Nobody really knows what goes on in his head. Currently there are an estimated 190,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders. All the necessary equipment for as full-scale invasion is in place. U.S. intelligence says that that the Kremlin has given the order for Russian military units to proceed with an invasion. Whatever will actually happen, we have to be prepared for the worst and get ready to face the greatest refugee crisis to hit Europe since the Second World War. And to face this crisis, we in Canada have to have an effective plan in place not only to provide humanitarian aid, but to be able to resettle as many of the millions that may be displaced by this widened war as possible.
As an immediate step, the Conservative Opposition has called upon the Government of Canada to temporarily implement visa-free travel from Ukraine to Canada and to expedite other current immigration applications from Ukraine nationals. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) must also offer a streamlined process for Ukrainian visa holders to extend their stay if they are already in Canada. Canada has granted citizens of more than 60 countries and jurisdictions visa-free access to this country, and while Canadians can visit Ukraine for up to 90 days without a visa, Ukrainians require one to travel to Canada.
The New Democrats have echoed that call. “There is a looming humanitarian disaster in Ukraine and thousands are urgently seeking refuge in Canada,” NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson told The Globe and Mail. “I have spoken with many Ukrainian Canadians who want this prioritized. New Democrats continue to call on the Liberal government to do everything possible to help people fleeing the threat of violence in Ukraine,” she added.
Earlier this month, Conservatives sent a letter calling on Sean Fraser, Minister of IRCC, to take the necessary steps to make it easier for Ukrainian people to come to Canada. They have yet to receive a response. New Pathway – Ukrainian News sent an email to Fraser’s office asking for a comment on the Conservative proposal. We too have yet to receive a response. The Globe and Mail also asked the minister’s office why the government has not granted visa-free access for Ukraine. It did not offer an explanation. However, spokesperson Aidan Strickland said Canada has two visa application centres, one in Kyiv and one in Lviv, which are “operating at full capacity” to process requests for study and work permits, applications for temporary residence, permanent residence and proof of citizenship documents. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has spoken with Minister Fraser and have asked for a public presentation from the minister and his officials regarding the current process and the current status of applications. They will be announcing the results shortly. “I think the Minister heard our concerns and understands the seriousness of the situation,” says UCC’s CEO and Executive Director Ihor Michalchyshyn.
We are sure the government understands the seriousness of the situation, but the question remains – are they ready? Canada’s dismal reaction to the refugee crisis in Afghanistan does not leave us with much confidence. In fact, it was Ukraine that had to come to the rescue in at least one operation.
We certainly must stress the urgency of this matter to government officials, but in the meantime, we must utilize our own community resources to their fullest and support them to their fullest. The UCC and the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) have established a Humanitarian Relief Committee to formalize a coordinated approach in providing humanitarian assistance quickly and efficiently to those in need in Ukraine to address any further aggression by Russia. The committee will work with the Ukrainian Canadian community across Canada to reduce duplication of effort, increase efficiency and ensure aid efforts have the most effective impact for Ukrainian citizens affected by crisis. The main efforts of cooperation will be to provide humanitarian assistance/relief in the areas of assistance to displaced persons, medical care, emergency shelter and food security. The CUF has set itself a target of $1.5 million. To date they have received just under $140,000. If you want more information, and/or to donate please visit the CUF’s website (https://www.cufoundation.ca/).
Another agency that is heavily involved in providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association which operates in conjunction with Caritas Ukraine. They have already been helping people displaced by the conflict in the Donbas. The threat of escalated potential military action only highlights the need for an emergency response towards the purchase of food, water, basic hygiene, medicine, psychological support, shelter, evacuation, protection and so on. For more information and to donate please visit (https://cnewa.org/campaigns/ukraine/).
Much as we can hope and pray for peace, it all depends upon the whims of a psychopathic tyrant. But if an escalated war indeed breaks out, we have to do our best to help alleviate the suffering. Therefore, we urge members of our community and all Canadians to step up to the plate and donate.