Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $100-million in new humanitarian aid for Ukrainians on Saturday, while also pledging new supports for war refugees who end up in Canada.
The Canadian government made the commitment at a rally in Warsaw, Poland, held by advocacy group Global Citizen. Mr. Trudeau attended virtually. Physically in attendance were European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Including this latest pledge, Canada’s humanitarian assistance commitments to Ukrainians now amount to $245-million.
The Saturday event raised a total of $12.4-billion to support Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country. The federal government said in a news release that the money will help provide emergency health services, food, water and shelter in Ukraine, and in neighbouring countries to which refugees are flocking.
“Whether it’s food, water, shelter, or medical aid – we will continue to have your backs and provide the assistance you need at this time,” Mr. Trudeau said in the release. “We are also making it easier for Ukrainians fleeing the war to come to Canada. We are standing up for Ukraine.”
In a tweet on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke with Mr. Trudeau and thanked him for Canada’s latest humanitarian pledge and the financial and military aid committed to in the government’s budget.
Had a phone conversation with @JustinTrudeau. Thanked for supporting the #StandUpForUkraine initiative, for CAD 1 billion of financial assistance and USD 500 million of additional defensive support. Stronger together!— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 9, 2022
Ms. von der Leyen said Europe’s support will continue past the conflict.
“We will continue providing support. And once the bombs have stopped falling, we will help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country,” she said.
Ottawa announced a number of new supports on Saturday for Ukrainian refugees coming to Canada, including targeted charter flights from Ukraine to Canada, short-term income support and hotel accommodations for up to two weeks.
Ihor Michalchyshyn, chief executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said he was pleased to see the new measures, since many refugees don’t have the money to get to Canada on their own and need temporary assistance before they’re able to support themselves.
“We’re glad to see they’re listening to the concerns we’re raising,” he said.
“Today’s announcement speaks to the nature of the refugee population that we’re talking about ... The assumptions of the original program were that people would self-finance to get here,” which he added is an unrealistic expectation of women and children who have spent weeks being battered by war.
He said he’d like to see improvements to Canada’s requirement that refugees submit to biometric assessments to enter the country. That, he noted, is one of the biggest hurdles for refugees, some of whom have waited nearly two months to go through the process.
Earlier this month, Canada announced it would exempt some Ukrainian asylum seekers under age 18 and over age 60 from the biometrics requirement. But Mr. Michalchyshyn said it is still an issue for people who are not exempt.
He said Canada hasn’t seen an influx of Ukrainian refugees yet because of processing delays, but that he hopes to see larger numbers reach the country in May and June.
In addition to humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people, Ottawa has pledged financial support for Ukraine’s war-ravaged government.
Earlier this week, as part of this year’s federal budget, Canada proposed a $1-billion loan to prop up the Ukrainian government. It also announced $1.2-billion in direct support for the Ukrainian government and people. The budget added that Canada is taking every opportunity to isolate Russia at multilateral institutions.
With a report from Reuters
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