Canadian government should waive temporary visa requirements for Ukrainians, says Winnipegger

A Winnipeg man of Ukrainian descent calls on Ottawa to provide a lifeline for Ukrainians as Russian armed forces continue their devastating attack on the country.

Nick Krawetz is calling on the federal government to waive temporary visa requirements for Ukrainians as the destruction and terror of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the six-day mark.

“There are videos that are just heartbreaking right now. There are maternities in basements and bomb shelters. Babies are being born with missiles exploding around them,” he said. told CBC News on Tuesday.

“It’s absolutely horrible, and these people can come to Canada if the bureaucracy is reduced, thanks to this cumbersome visa process that is there.”

Krawetz is a third-generation Ukrainian Canadian whose great-grandparents came to Canada about 100 years ago.

His wife, Natalia, grew up in Ukraine. Her family is still there and was forced to flee their home southeast of Kyiv. Her parents and most of her sister’s family members have since moved to western Ukraine. One of Natalia’s nieces is here in Winnipeg, living with her and Krawetz while studying at the University of Manitoba.

Nick Krawetz, left, with his sister-in-law Maryana and her husband, Valeriy, in a family photo in Kiev. Maryana and Valeriy lived close to Ukraine’s biggest airport, near Kiev, before leaving for western Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European nation last week. (Submitted by Nick Krawetz)

It’s been a trying situation for family and friends, says Krawetz.

“The country itself is facing an existential threat right now. And we wake up every morning to see if our friends are alive, if Ukraine is, as we know, still on the map, basically.” , did he declare.

“It’s just a range of emotions… We’re sad, we’re angry, we’re frustrated. We’re also determined to help in any way we can.”

“No fuss”

Krawetz acknowledges the varying levels of assistance that the Canadian government has announced for Ukraine.

But he believes more can and should be done as hundreds of thousands of citizens flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

“It only takes political will and literally the stroke of a pen to add Ukraine to the approved list of countries for visa-free travel,” Krawetz said.

On Tuesday, the House of Commons immigration committee voted to ask the government to introduce visa-free travel from Ukraine to Canada, The Canadian Press reported.

The vote passed without the support of Liberal members of the Commons committee, who expressed concerns about homeland security if bad actors wanted to enter the country.

On Monday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee learned that the government was not reviewing visa requirements for Ukrainians.

Nick Krawetz’s friends Oksana, left, and Saak wave a Ukrainian flag in the basement shelter of their Kiev apartment on Tuesday morning. (Submitted by Nick Krawetz)

Krawetz said he has been petitioning the federal government and sending letters to politicians since 2015, asking them to make it easier for Ukrainians to come to Canada.

A Canada-Ukraine mobility task force was established with the Ukrainian government last year, he said, adding that it’s a positive step, but it’s not enough.

“The temporary visa requirement is the last big hurdle in our bilateral relations with Ukraine,” Krawetz said.

Over the past seven years, he has received letters of support “probably from a majority of MPs” from all parties, as well as the Senate, he said.

“There’s consensus and political will, I guess, among MPs, and there’s widespread support across all parties, so I don’t know why it hasn’t already been done,” Krawetz said.

“To me, that’s a no-brainer given our deep historical relationships and ties.”

Strong additions to the immigrant community

Randy Boldt, an immigration consultant with Winnipeg-based firm VisaMax, says waiving visa requirements for Ukrainians entering Canada is an appropriate idea to consider.

He believed that the intention of many Ukrainians who might come to Canada would be to return to their homeland and noted that the Irish government waived visa requirement for Ukrainians, allowing them to stay for 90 days before determining where they can go next.

“The vast, vast majority of them intend to return. But something could happen that would force them to want to stay and apply for refugee status,” Boldt said. “It’s not their intention, but it can happen.”

However, he adds that the current circumstances are unique and believes that supports need to be put in place to help a potentially large number of Ukrainians coming to Canada, including Manitoba.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian refugees entered Poland at the Medyka crossing point. Russia’s military assault on Ukraine is now in its sixth day. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Boldt thinks the Provincial Nominee Program, which seeks skilled workers, business people and their families, could be an avenue for Ukrainians to come to Manitoba.

“We’re looking to bring in more immigrants and we’re looking at diversification, and Ukraine is a great place to do that, so…they would get a lot of support,” he said.

“They would stay and they would be very, very good additions to our immigrant community here.”

In a press release on Tuesday, the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada – which represents unionized progressive employers in the construction industry – said member companies had pledged jobs to help Ukrainian refugees build their lives.

The association is also in favor of the accelerated routing of Ukrainian refugees to Canada. It calls on the provinces to take all available measures to facilitate their entry, settlement and employment as soon as possible.