Quebec can welcome 10,000 Ukrainian refugees
A demonstration aimed at denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine took place Sunday afternoon in downtown Montreal.
As Russia's assault on Ukraine intensifies and more than half a million Ukrainian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, Montreal could be a welcoming city for Ukrainian refugees as early as this month. next.
That’s what the Director General of Community Services for Refugees and Immigrants (SCRI), Miguel Arévalo, believes.
The Government of Canada has already said it is ready to welcome refugees, while Quebec has offered its “full cooperation” to Ottawa. Prime Minister François Legault has pledged to welcome Ukrainian refugees “in the weeks and months to come”.
However, Miguel Arévalo says he has still not received any directives, nor from provincial or federal departments or from the Round Table of Organizations Serving Refugees and Immigrants (TCRI).
Refugees mainly welcomed in Montreal?
According to Miguel Arévalo, Quebec has the capacity to welcome 5,000 to 10,000 Ukrainians.
Of course it's easier in Montreal, because there are all the government services and organizations. But with special programs, we could welcome them in the regions too.
Housing, furniture, clothing, francization, education, activities and administrative matters… many aspects will have to be taken into account for the successful integration of refugees, underlines Mr. Arévalo. “It’s a whole structure that already exists in the city system. We will have to set up a good work team to welcome them,” he adds.
A priority file, but no special program
No special program like the one deployed for the permanent reception of 25,000 Syrian refugees has been announced by the government for Ukrainians. Without such a program, refugee cases will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, says immigration lawyer Gjergji Hasa.
Ottawa, however, says it gives priority to immigration applications in from Ukraine in order to allow Ukrainians fleeing the country to be quickly in safety. According to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, around 4,000 files have been given priority since the start of the conflict with Russia.
End of compulsory visa requested
While it intends to eliminate administrative fees for Ukrainian applicants and extend the status of those already in Canada, the federal government has not, however, committed to putting an end to the visa requirement, as demanded by the Bloc Québécois, the Parti Conservative and the New Democratic Party.
This is also the request made by the president of the Association québécoise des avocats et avocats en droit de l'immigration, Me Stéphanie Valois, to allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Canada with an electronic travel authorization (ETA ). Currently, Canada requires a visa for all Ukrainian citizens who want to travel here. “This obligation requires the passport to be sent to a Canadian embassy so that the visa can be affixed to it,” she explained in a press release published on Tuesday.
The ETA can be obtained much faster and without the requirement of sending the passport to a Canadian embassy. “This measure would also allow all people awaiting permanent residence to come to Canada and finalize their application from our country,” it says.
Second largest Ukrainian diaspora  ;
When Miguel Arévalo is asked why Canadians seemed more open to welcoming Ukrainian refugees than Syrians, for example, he recalls that Canada is home to the second largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, after Ukraine and Russia.
Indeed, that's more than 1.3 million people, according to the 2016 Canadian census.
That's part of Canadian culture.
However, someone who worked for another organization when Syrian refugees were welcomed in 2019 remembers that significant efforts had also been made. “I would be happy if we gave the same treatment to Ukrainians as to Syrians, because for me, we welcomed them very well,” he said.