Ottawa prepares to charter 3 flights for Ukrainian refugees

Faced with growing pressure to evacuate Ukrainian refugees, Ottawa will soon organize three charter flights to bring those fleeing the war to Canada.

According to a government official, speaking on the condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, the planes will take off from Warsaw in Poland and head to Winnipeg (May 23), Montreal (May 29) and Halifax (June 2).

About 900 Ukrainians, or 300 people per flight, will be able to fly to Canada, according to estimates provided to Radio-Canada.

The federal government is to make the announcement Wednesday morning.

Ottawa has agreed with a private carrier to perform the operation and will foot the bill. Seats will be distributed free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis, the source said.

Only Ukrainians who have obtained a visa through the new Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (AVUCU) will be able to attempt to reserve a place. Eligible persons will receive an email with information on how to register.

Once in Canada, free accommodation will be offered to Ukrainians who do not have a suitable place to stay for up to 14 days, the official said.

The Liberal government in the face of criticism

In Ottawa, the opposition has been calling for the organization of evacuation flights for weeks and accuses the Trudeau government of dragging its feet.

Last week, Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe criticized Transport Minister Omar Alghabra for appearing “distraught over the situation”.

Alghabra said the government faced “logistical challenges”.

Students at St. Paul’s Junior High created these posters to welcome Ukrainian refugees to Newfoundland and Labrador. About 900 Ukrainians, or 300 people per flight, will be able to fly to Canada in the coming weeks. (Patrick Butler/Radio Canada)

He pointed out that many Ukrainians are no longer where they were when they applied for their Canadian visa, making it more difficult to arrange air travel.

It is difficult to know for the moment whether these flights will be accessible for Ukrainians who are in European countries other than Poland, and whether Ottawa will facilitate, if necessary, their transport to Warsaw to board planes chartered by the Canada.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador preempted the federal government by organizing its own evacuation flight from Poland. More than 160 Ukrainian refugees landed in St. John’s Monday night.

Between March 17 and May 4, Canada approved applications for 91,500 Ukrainians and their relatives under the UVA. A total of 204,000 applications were submitted to the Canadian government during the same period.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly six million Ukrainians have fled their country since the February 24 Russian invasion. Poland received the largest share: 3.2 million people.