Ukrainian refugees in Canada: Feds eyeing incentives

The federal government is considering offering economic support to Canadians who are willing to take in Ukrainians who are fleeing the war, according to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Fraser was asked whether Canada is considering implementing a program similar to what the UK is doing—offering households monthly payments for opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees—and he said that “everything is on the table right now .”

“We’re looking at different options right now to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill of Canadians,” Fraser said.

The immigration minister said he wouldn’t rule out a tax credit as an example of a way the government could incentivize Canadians to help in what could become a massive resettlement effort, even on a temporary basis.

Citing the response he’s seen from Canadians offering their homes and other supports, Fraser said the government is working with non-profit organizations on how to best co-ordinate and “maximize” the offers coming in.

“We just want to make sure that we tailor the solutions for the needs of the people who are coming. A lot of the people who are coming have connections to family and friends from the Ukrainian community already, and they may require different kinds of support to people who are coming here with nothing and no connections,” said Fraser.

“So we’re working right now to develop different kinds of solutions for those tailored situations, to make sure that the people who arrive have kinds of supports that they need in their individual cases.”

Earlier this week, Fraser announced that Ukrainians looking to come to Canada temporarily will be able to stay for three years, instead of the previously announced two years.

Through the ‘Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel’ program, which is now accepting applications, Ukrainians and their immediate family members of any nationality are being offered temporary residency and the ability to work or study while in Canada.

It’s expected to take an average of two weeks for people who apply through this temporary residence pathway to be approved through the online portal.

For those coming, the government is also setting up a job bank so that Canadian employers can post available jobs and hire Ukrainians, something for which there has already been considerable interest.

For those looking to stay permanently in Canada, the government is setting up a separate family reunification pathway with help from Ukrainian-Canadian community groups.

As millions have fled to neighboring countries, prompting a refugee crisis, the government has been prioritizing processing immigration applications from Ukrainians. As of Friday, Fraser said more than 9,000 Ukrainians have come to Canada since late January, with approximately the same number of applications still in processing.

“The early signs are that the system is working, large numbers of people are applying and more importantly, large numbers of people are actually arriving in Canada,” Fraser said, adding that he’s been working with his provincial counterparts about ensuring supports like housing and health care are there for Ukrainians when they land.

The minister also said that the government is still looking into whether airlifting Ukrainian refugees in larger numbers is feasible.

“This is something that we’re working on with different partners right now. to understand what the best path forward may be. The prime minister obviously was discussing this potential idea the other day,” he said, adding that the current crisis is unlike other UN-managed refugee resettlement programs because many Ukrainians have access to travel through Europe.

“Many of them are going to the first place that they can find safety. They’re not in a refugee camp next to an airstrip that we have access to, and it creates unique challenges that will require unique solutions,” Fraser said.

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