Manitoba community opens heart and hotel to Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion
Nestled near Manitoba’s Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, the cabin community of Onanole is a world away from war-torn Ukraine, but people here hope it will become a haven for Ukrainians fleeing for their lives.
“Watching the news is rarely inspirational and of course but the war in Ukraine is something that I checked every morning to keep up to date and try to understand how these people are, deal with it on a daily basis said Craig Atkinson, one of Harrison Park’s seven councilors.
“Until someone shoots you or drops bombs on your house, I don’t know how you could put yourself in their shoes.”
The municipality is so committed to helping Ukrainian refugees that it committed $20,000 in its year-end budget to help resettle them, though Atkinson says they don’t yet know how that money can be used at the better.
They just knew they had to do something.
“We just want to help you and help you get to a place where you can be peaceful and a place where you know you’re safe,” said Atkinson, who also manages Clear Lake Golf Course.
The municipality’s efforts are part of a community effort that includes one of the area’s largest employers, Elkhorn Resort.
It provides accommodation for up to 10 families in its staff quarters and, with other employers in the area, jobs for those in need.
“We have opportunities on the service side. We have opportunities in the kitchen” and housekeeping, said Chris Phillips, general manager of Elkhorn Resort. “We have opportunities in the spa and at our front desk. Probably the only department that’s full right now is our maintenance department.”
The community organizes a marketing campaign and contacts the neighboring Ukrainian community of Dauphin, Manitoba, to see if anyone would like to bring their family and friends.
They hope to attract people who will stay here instead of moving to a bigger city if they cannot return to Ukraine.
“If someone wants to connect us in some way with our friends and family, that’s the kind of connection we’d like to see,” Phillips said. “It would be nice to know that people are coming here and they have support. It might just make the toughest time of their lives a little easier.”
Community offer is fair one of more than 800 the Ukrainian Canadian-Manitoba Congress received two days after making the call to Manitobans, said volunteer Joanne Lewandosky.
“It’s totally overwhelming,” she said. “I’m just thrilled to see that we as Canadians, as Manitobans, have opened our hearts or our wallets and our homes.”
On Thursday, the federal government announced more details about the new visa flows for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
The Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization provides expedited temporary residency for up to three years. It eliminates many of the normal visa requirements with no limit on the number of eligible Ukrainians.
The online application process opened on March 17.
Overseas applicants must apply online for a Canadian visitor visa and provide biometrics – fingerprints and photo. They are encouraged to apply for the open work permit at the same time.
Elementary and secondary students can start attending school as soon as they arrive in Canada, and anyone wishing to study at the post-secondary level can apply for a study permit once in Canada.
Ukrainian workers, students, visitors and family members already in Canada can apply for a three-year extension of their visitor status or work permit, apply for a new work or study permit, or extend their existing permit.
IRCC waives all application fees for these programs.
Jobs for Ukraine
Canada also invites companies wishing to hire Ukrainians to register their job openings on the federal government’s Job Bank, under the Jobs for Ukraine webpage.
“We are also in discussions with partners, including provinces and territories, the business community, the Ukrainian Canadian community and settlement agencies, on how best to support those arriving from Ukraine, and more more information will be available soon,” said Minister Sean Fraser. of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said in a press release.
IRCC is also creating a special family reunification sponsorship pathway for anyone wishing to settle in Canada permanently. It allows a wider circle of family members to sponsor newcomers.
Ottawa has committed $117 million to speed up application processes.
Lewandowsky says there are still answers to questions about how Ukrainians will get here. Will Canada provide military aircraft? Once here, will they receive provincial and federal support? Most will be single women with children because men aged 18 to 60 had to stay in Ukraine to fight the Russians.
“I would like to see them helped in some way, if possible financially, because many of them come with the bare minimum. They just took their travel bag and ran away,” he said. she declared.
“Anyone…should be welcome here”
In western Manitoba, Atkinson is asking many of the same questions.
“I don’t know how a person actually gets from there to here,” Atkinson said.
“For me, the most important thing is to bring people to this country and make it easier for them. I understand that they have to check certain things and make sure that I guess the wrong people are not coming. But damn , anyone trying to get out of there should definitely be welcome here.”
There is already a backlog of appointments for security clearances at Canadian consulates in Europe.
However, during a visit to Manitoba last week, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendecino said everyone was “focused like a laser” on addressing the concern.
“We’re removing all bureaucracy from the system without compromising security,” he told CBC News.