Ukrainians fleeing to Canada may not have access to essential settlement services

Ukrainians arriving in Canada under a new emergency immigration program may not be eligible for some essential services typically offered to people fleeing conflict.

People arriving from Ukraine under the auspices of the government Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET) will be considered temporary residents. This means that they will not have access to the full range of services available to refugees or people applying to become permanent residents.

This support is provided through federal settlement services and a special health care program that provides coverage for people during their first days in Canada.

“It’s a whole soft landing infrastructure that is available for people going through a refugee resettlement stream that will not be available, to our knowledge, in the current situation,” said Christina Clark-Kazak, associate professor of public and international sciences. business at the University of Ottawa, told CBC News.

The government confirmed last week that Ukrainians coming to Canada temporarily would not have access to these services. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser introduced changes to that approach on Monday afternoon.

Fraser wrote on Twitter that his government was expanding access to certain services for arriving Ukrainians, including “language training, orientation, employment assistance and other supports.”

Fraser did not list health care coverage as one of the expanded services. His office said work was underway to make changes to the programs offered when Ukrainians start arriving in large numbers.

Canada has pledged to welcome an “unlimited number” of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. People arriving through CUAET will be allowed to live and work in Canada for up to three years.

the UNHCR estimates that nearly 3.9 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.

Settlement groups are expecting a large number of women and children

Experts in the fields of immigration and resettlement say the government’s approach has enabled it to quickly open a pathway to Canada for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

The downside of this strategy, at least initially, was that Ukrainians coming to Canada would not have access to key programs that could ease their transition to a new country.

“Our biggest challenge as we prepare to welcome displaced Ukrainians is to ensure that there are supports in every region of the country that are available for temporary residents, as they will not be eligible for key programs that are currently available to permanent residents,” said Chris Friesen, President of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance.

CISSA recently won a federal contract to establish a secretariat for the temporary resettlement of Ukrainians – a project that Friesen’s group calls “Ukraine Safe Haven”.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said his government was working “to develop other ways to support [Ukrainians] in Canada.” (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Friesen said many people coming to Canada through CUAET will arrive with “significant trauma.” He also said services will have to prepare for a large influx of women and children.

“We anticipate a large number of single women, mothers with children, who just a few weeks ago were displaced from their homes, their families, their sons, their husbands,” he said. .

Clark-Kazak also raised concerns about Ukrainian women coming to Canada. Unlike refugees, Ukrainians will not arrive with the help of government-approved private sponsorship groups.

“People will have to rely on the informal networks they have,” she said, warning of the risks of abuse or human trafficking faced by people coming here without the support and adequate government oversight.

Access to public school for Ukrainian children coming to Canada has also not yet been guaranteed, Clark-Kazak said.

It is unclear how Ukrainians will access health care in Canada

While Fraser said changes are being made to the strategy, questions remain about what kind of health care services will be offered to Ukrainians on the run.

Temporary residents in Canada typically have to wait three to four months before being eligible for provincial or territorial health care coverage, Clark-Kazak said.

Refugees and permanent residents can have this period covered by the Interim Federal Health Programbut there is currently no indication that similar health coverage will be extended to Ukrainians.

“These are very basic health services,” Clark-Kazak said, adding that prescription drug coverage isn’t usually included. “That’s another gap or issue that I think the government needs to address as soon as possible.”

Supporters say it is not yet clear whether arriving Ukrainians will have access to mental health services.

“We don’t know exactly what needs people will come in with, but we have to be prepared,” said Frank Cohn, who works in trauma recovery with the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture.

“We don’t know exactly who will be here to provide that support and under what specific federal, state or local programs.”