OCASI welcomes Canada’s unprecedented and positive new special measures for Ukrainian refugees annouced by Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship on March 3, 2022, and calls for them to be made a permanent and consistent response to humanitarian crises in other countries that haven’t received as much attention globally.
OCASI wrote to Minister Fraser to call for equitable measures for all refugees, and appropriately resource and support settlement and resettlement efforts in Canada.
The Honourable Sean Fraser
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
365 Laurier Ave W
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1
March 8, 2022
Dear Minister Fraser,
OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants applauds your announcement of March 3, 2022, to welcome an unlimited number of Ukrainians to Canada on a temporary basis, as well as new measures to allow them to stay permanently.
New Measures for Ukraine
The new measures will:
- Authorize emergency travel to Canada and eliminate many of the usual visa requirements
- Allow stay in Canada to be extended by a minimum of 2 years pending background check and security screening
- Prioritize applications from Ukrainians in all other pathways
- Introduce a special family reunification sponsorship pathway for permanent residence
- Allow everyone arriving through these pathways to apply for an open work permit
- Issue open work permits to Ukrainian visitors, workers and students who are currently in Canada and cannot safely go home
The announcement marks an unprecedented, positive new approach to the way Canada responds to major crises in other countries – and one that we hope will become permanent and applied consistently.
Doing so will demonstrate your Department’s commitment to eliminating racial inequities in the refugee and immigration system and move Canada forward in your government’s commitment to building a country that welcomes everyone.
New Refugee and Immigration Measures
In particular, we urge you to:
- Apply these new measures to Afghan refugees in Ukraine airlifted to safety there following the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan – including many who were meant to be resettled in Canada but are now mired in bureaucratic delays in the Canadian immigration system;
- Remove the numbers cap and other limitations in the Special Humanitarian Program for Afghanistan;
- Extend the new measures for Ukraine to refugees from other countries who are in urgent need of protection – such as the over 1.2 million people in Myanmar who are either internally displaced or stateless, Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region in Ethiopia and other humanitarian crises highlighted by the UNHCR and other refugee protection groups;
- Extend the special measures for Ukrainians to all those who are currently in Canada and also cannot safely go home;
- Remove the caps on the Privately Sponsored refugees program and increase processing resources;
- Expand the limits for family reunification sponsorship pathway for permanent residence for humanitarian populations for all other parts of the world;
- And increase resources at IRCC to reduce the current processing backlog and ensure that current applicants are not disadvantaged by the introduction of the new measures.
We also encourage you to introduce an expanded immigration status regularization program without restrictions of language, skill level or sector, consistent with the relaxed criteria in the special measures for Ukraine.
Settlement and Resettlement
OCASI also urges you to support the effective resettlement of Ukrainian refugees and refugee claimants, as well as all other refugees and claimants who arrive in Canada, by implementing the following measures:
- Open up eligibility for settlement services funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to all those arriving in Canada or allowed to stay here under the special measures for Ukraine;
- Appropriately resource the immigrant and refugee serving sector to respond to settlement and resettlement needs; and
- Work with provincial and territorial governments to ensure:
- All these individuals have full access to health, mental health and trauma services without delay, interruption or restrictions;
- Housing needs of these new arrivals are prioritized, so that they are not left to become homeless amidst the widespread housing crisis in communities across Canada; and
- Credentials recognition is accelerated through the removal of all systemic barriers, and the new arrivals are supported to get corresponding employment.
As the umbrella organization for Ontario’s immigrant and refugee serving sector, OCASI is committed to working with you as a civil society partner in supporting Canada’s response to this newest humanitarian crisis.