Grassroots Response discovered a large group of Ukrainian newcomers staying at hotel nearby with limited assistance

By Justine Fraser

The Ukrainian’s flying into Ontario have been put up in hotels and other places, mainly in Toronto, by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as part of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program that just ended on Mar. 31.

Last week, Grassroots Response to the Ukrainian Crisis got a call for help from a mom and her three kids that recently arrived in Canada, just before the deadline.

The Ukrainian family called from inside the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, where they had been redirected after learning there was a shortage of space in Toronto.  

Grassroots then learned that about 30 rooms in the hotel were being used by Ukrainian newcomers.

Typically, they only get 14 days of free accommodation but the organizer for Grassroots, Stephanie Goertz, said the people at the hotel were also given “very limited assistance.”

“So, our government right now is currently leaving a lot of people in limbo stage with not very much clear information which puts a lot of stress on families, people, and organizations that try to help Ukrainian newcomers,” said Goertz.

The war in Ukraine is in its third year, but as programs like CUAET end, Goertz said more people are still waiting for help in Europe.

The federal government launched the CUAET program in February 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine. Data from the immigration ministry suggests that 960,000 emergency visas have been approved under the program but not all of them actually came to Canada before the Mar. 31 deadline.

Ukrainian newcomers in the country under the program had until the end of March to apply to extend or change their temporary resident status.

After speaking with representatives from CUAET, Goertz was told there was too many coming to the Hamilton airport and they didn’t have enough places to put them. The organization that finds hotel rooms decided to expand into the Cambridge area.

Goertz said the people staying at the hotel now are the last people to make it as no more hotels are going to be provided to newcomers.

Grassroots Response can get anywhere from six to eight applications daily from Ukrainian families, some of which have been in Canada for over a year.

“There is no other supports that they have been able to find because they have entered Canada through the fast track process which has allowed them not to go through the normal immigration process,” said Goertz. “The fast-tracking process has created some severe challenges for families arriving with no money, no housing and no English or really any social support.”

Goertz added that it is often hard for newcomers to find a landlord with no references, no credit history and no employment. Some landlords will increase prices or ask for six months rent up front from Ukrainian families fleeing the war.

“It’s not the best solution but it’s mostly really the only solution they have because there are really not many other programs available and everything else has pretty much shut down.”

“People across Ontario, across Canada, are struggling to help people who are in need, who have arrived who can’t afford the 6 months up front or the increased amount of rent the landlord is charging – some people decided that after that time that it’s too difficult, there is no hope in Ontario. There is no other option, they have to go back,” said Goertz.

One of the issues Grassroots is seeing is the culture difference, as many Ukrainian newcomers think they can start a life in Canada on their own. Goertz mentioned in most European cultures its easier to find somewhere to live, to get aid from governments and it is easier to find a job within a couple weeks.

Goertz said many of them don’t understand how Canada’s culture works and get lost in the process.

Grassroots Response is now reaching out to the community for help. They need more hosts for Ukrainian families as well as more monetary donations so they can keep providing aid to those that ask.  

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