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Canada will eliminate many but not all visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees

The federal government is looking to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to seek safety in Canada.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser unveiled two new programs Thursday to help people fleeing the violence and devastation following Russia’s invasion: one for Ukrainians looking to stay permanently and another for those who want to stay temporarily.

“I’ve heard from the Ukrainian Canadian community that many fleeing the violence will want to return to their homeland and to their families when the war comes to an end,” Fraser said Thursday. “I’ve heard others, particularly those with family in Canada, may wish to stay.”

More than one million people have already left Ukraine.

Ottawa said there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can come to Canada on a temporary basis.

The federal government said it is eliminating many of the normal visa requirements, but not all of them. Fraser said that would require regulatory and technological changes both internally and externally that would take too long.

“It was going to take 12 to 14 weeks,” he said. “We don’t have 12 to 14 weeks. We’re going to be able to stand up the new program I’ve announced today much quicker.”

In Manitoba, Premier Heather Stefanson said the province is also working on ways to support an influx of Ukrainian refugees.

“We will take as many as we possibly can and more, and that’s why we’re developing a strategy moving forward to see how we can increase that capacity,” Stefanson said.

Winnipeger Nick Krawetz, a third-generation Ukrainian Canadian with family and friends in Ukraine, sees the new measures as a step in the right direction. But he said the reality is some families want to stay together during the crisis.

“At the moment it’s very difficult because all males 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave the country so families do not want to be split up, naturally, given this nightmare that they’re going through,” Krawetz said.

Still he thinks Ottawa should do more to remove temporary resident visa requirements to help Ukrainians who want to seek refuge in Canada do so faster, safer and easier.

“I would say give people hope so they don’t have to worry about red tape, they know it’s being worked on,” Krawetz said. “They’ll know it’s being implemented in the coming days and weeks.”

The government said it’ll take two weeks before the changes it did unveil become operational.

Ottawa said it’s still developing the full details of its family reunification sponsorship program that would allow extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to stay in the country permanently.

Those details are expected in the coming weeks.

More than 6,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since Jan. 1. Top Stories

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