Exceptional Measures for an Exceptional Situation: Canadian Immigration Measures for Ukrainians

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2022

In response to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, Canada has implemented various measures to allow Ukrainians to come to Canada or to extend their temporary status in Canada. Of significance is the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). This program provides:

  • Travel documents for individuals without valid passports
  • Granting of work or study permits
  • Waiving application processing fees
  • Exemptions to the requirement to be vaccinated for COVID-19

In addition to the Canadian government's response, members of the Canadian Bar Association are offering free legal services to Ukrainians.  

I wholeheartedly endorse Canada's measures to assist Ukrainians. It is an extraordinary situation, and extraordinary measures were necessary.

But…

What of the 40,000 Afghans that Canada promised to bring to Canada after the Taliban took control of the country? Only about 7,000 have made it here so far. What of Yemenis suffering in their eighth year of civil war? What of the Rohingya expelled from Myanmar?   Or Venezuelans who have been driven from their country because of hunger and violence? There are over 26 million refugees in the world today; no shortage of individuals for the Canadian government to help.

Canada is home to the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora globally, second only to Russia. Ukrainians are Canada's eleventh largest ethnic group. Approximately 1.4 individuals of Ukrainian descent are living in Canada. That's a significant voting bloc. Without question, political pressure from the Ukrainian community in Canada has impacted the government's response. 

I am not alone in my concern that Canada's response to the situation in Ukraine shows just how poorly we reacted to other groups of individuals when they needed Canada's protection. 

Canada needs refugees just as much as refugees need us. Newfoundland and Labrador know this well; provincial representatives are recruiting Ukrainians in Warsaw to settle there. 

I hope the extraordinary measures Canada has brought in for Ukrainians will be replicated in the future for groups who do not have millions of their brethren in Canada to pressure their Members of Parliament to allow them entrance. 

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