The number of displaced persons has reached one million just one week into the Ukraine conflict — an unprecedented number for such a short amount of time. For Ukrainian students in Canada, the horror unfolding in their homeland is a source of endless dread over the safety of loved ones, riddled with uncertainties of the future.
Their cries have not gone unheeded by the Canadian government. On Feb. 22, 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a list of support measures his government will undertake to assist those who are affected by the Ukraine conflict, including fast-track immigration for Ukrainian nationals who are fleeing their homeland for safety.
This unwarranted act of aggression by Vladimir Putin is an attack on democracy itself.
We've already put in place a number of supports for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada, and we're preparing additional immigration measures.
— Sean Fraser (@SeanFraserMP) March 1, 2022
“For over a month, we have been prioritising applications from Ukraine, bolstering our resources in the region, and preparing additional measures. We will continue to provide priority assistance to Canadians, permanent residents and their families, as well as Ukrainians who wish to come to Canada and Ukrainian temporary residents already in Canada who cannot return home,” Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, was reported saying.
Ukrainian students are included in the government’s initiative, with the renewal of work and study permits of Ukrainians in Canada will be prioritised.
The government also plans to issue open work permits to Ukrainian visitors, workers, and students who are already in Canada, but unable to return out of fear for their own safety. Application fees will be waived for travel and immigration documents, including study and work permits.
Witnessing the Ukraine conflict from afar
“Everyday I call my parents and wait to see if they will answer and to find out if they are fine and alright,” Sasha Moskalenko, a student in King’s University College, told CTV News. “And everyday is the same. I just wake up and we just hope that they are alive for now.”
The same anxiety is shared by Bohdan Titorenko, a 20-year-old Ukrainian student in the University of Saskatchewan. “I see [the] forest around my house burned … I hear how my mother cries, I hear how my little sister [is] scared,” he said in an interview with CBC News.
His family escaped the Ukraine conflict and found temporary safety in Poland, with the exception of his father who has enlisted in the army. Titorenko is working on bringing his family to Canada, and has implored the government to ease visa restrictions for their entry, knowing that they need to fulfil the financial requirement for immigration in order to remain in Canada. Titorenko has set up a GoFundMe page requesting financial assistance, which has garnered CA$3,080 at the time of writing.
Ukrainian student in Sask. calls on Ottawa to waive visa requirements for people from Ukraine, to allow visa-free travel to Canada. His dad, a farmer, joined Ukraine army & his mother fled to Poland with his sister and brother. Watch here: https://t.co/oq6bexuL0j
— Bonnie Allen (@bonnieallenCBC) March 3, 2022
Canada has a long history of welcoming Ukrainian refugees and immigrants dating back to over a century. Ukrainian organisations in the country, such as the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK) and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), have been vocal in offering their assistance to international students over academic support, immigration procedures, and mental health services as the Ukraine conflict intensifies.
Several groups in Canada have also started fundraisers to collect donations for Ukrainian international students in their communities. They include the Kingston Ukrainian Students’ Foundation based in Queen’s University, with the aim of providing direct donations to affected students who are in need of financial assistance.
The Council of Ontario Universities (@OntUniv)—of which #queensu is a member—has shared a message about the invasion of Ukraine. Follow the link in the retweet below to read in full. @QueensPrincipal Patrick Deane has also made a statement on the matter: https://t.co/k8qNQgSKxz https://t.co/UJu9zHnTV0
— Queen's University (@queensu) March 2, 2022
In London, Ontario, students and local residents have come out in droves to donate essential supplies such as canned food, baby formula, diapers and medical supplies that will be transported to Ukraine in a relief flight, CBC News reports.
“Big businesses, supermarkets, Canadians, they bring whatever they can. Everybody is working as one unit. They don’t want this country to disappear basically. They want to show their support as much as they can,” said Pavel Byk, a 19-year-old aviation student from Ukraine who has been coordinating the donations.