Ukraine crisis highlights inequities in refugee care in Canada: “No easy solution” – National

The current crisis in Ukraine has spilled over into Canada, highlighting inequities in refugee care.

“I’m struggling to find an easy solution,” said Adele Garnier, an associate professor in the geography department at Laval University in Quebec. She does empirical research on refugees.

“This is a multi-level governance issue,” Garnier said.

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According to a recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (JCAM), written by Abigail Cukier and Lauren Vogel.

For example, some refugees might face several months of waiting to access provincial health insurance after arriving in Canada, but a few provinces provided immediate access to Ukrainians entering the country.

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“More information about (refugee) crises should be available so people know that in their own community, in their own city, you may have populations of asylum seekers who are in health care situations very, very precarious,” Garnier said. .

More than 16,000 Afghan refugees now live in Canada, a communications officer with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told Global News.

However, the country promised in late August 2021 to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees.

This commitment has “not been canceled,” the IRCC communications officer said.

Between January 1 and June 5, 43,287 Ukrainian citizens and Canadian permanent residents of Ukrainian origin arrived in Canada by land or air through a temporary measure called the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET), according to the IRCC.

“The CUAET is for Ukrainians and their family members who wish to come to Canada temporarily, while the situation in Ukraine evolves, and then (to) return home. This is not a refugee program, compared to our refugee resettlement program in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson told Global News, noting that CUTAET leverages existing temporary resident visa processes, networks and infrastructure.

Between March 17 and June 8, 296,163 temporary resident visa applications were received under the CUAET program, according to the IRCC. A total of 131,793 applications were approved during this period.

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For travel to Canada, the government is also able to issue Single Trip Travel Documents (SJTDs) to certain individuals. These unique documents are mainly issued to foreign nationals, according to the IRCC spokesperson. However, in some cases, this travel time documentation may also be issued to permanent residents who do not have or cannot obtain a passport or other travel document.

“SJTDs are presented when boarding commercial air carriers in Canada and upon arrival at a Canadian port of entry. SJTDs are commonly used for resettled refugee clients who cannot obtain travel documents from their country of nationality,” the IRCC spokesperson said.


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The federal government attributed the differences in relocating people from different parts of the world to logistical problems.

“The most difficult hurdles to overcome in getting people out of Afghanistan remain the lack of safe, secure and reliable routes out of the country, the lack of stable conditions and the ever-changing circumstances regarding security requirements. exit documents at checkpoints and international crossings to third countries,” the IRCC spokesperson said, noting that single-trip travel documents are not granted to Afghans by Canada.

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“Other countries decide the entry and exit requirements for their country and determine when and if those requirements are changed. Having only one travel document to come to Canada does not satisfy the entry requirements or The Government of Canada continues to have discussions with partners in the region, as well as organizations on the ground, to ensure the safe passage of as many Afghans as possible.

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In provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario, Ukrainians have immediate access to provincial health insurance upon arrival in Canada.

In Alberta, health care providers have been instructed not to bill Ukrainians while the government determines coverage.

However, refugees from other countries must rely on the Interim Federal Health Program while they potentially wait months to access provincial health insurance. Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program had already been weakened under the previous Conservative government, but reinstated under the Liberals six months after they took office in 2016.

“Refugee healthcare providers see the attention and compassion our world is giving to the Ukraine crisis and we are very pleased, but frustrated that so many other crises have been ignored,” said Tim Holland, medical director of the Newcomer Health Clinic in Halifax, said in the CMAJ article.

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Holland hopes that the government’s efforts to eliminate some of the difficulties faced by Ukrainians arriving in Canada will set new precedents in immigration policy and the treatment of refugees.

“I want to remain optimistic that this will be the cultural shift that we needed,” he said.

Garnier argues that finding a solution to the refugee problem is not easy.


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“You can go there as a Canadian citizen who speaks French or English and you will end up in the emergency system, then you will be given priority and you will still spend 10 hours in the system when you have all the resources” , she says.

But to help fix the problem, more information needs to be available, Garnier added.

“There seems to be a certain lack of awareness of refugee issues beyond Ukraine,” she said.

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The Canadian government adapts its immigration response when people flee a country, according to the IRCC.

“When responding to international crises, there are often similarities in that people may be fleeing persecution of some sort, but the immigration response may differ,” the spokesperson said.

“While every situation is different, IRCC is always guided by the same values ​​and principles. We assess how Canada can best help by considering whether temporary or permanent solutions are needed.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Christi C. Elwood