Canadians wanting to open doors to Ukraine refugees are learning: it’s not that simple

Seeing images of the destruction in Ukraine reminds Paul Doyle of the damage inflicted on civilians during the Second World War. Witnessing Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine has inspired him to give back by offering to open his own home to some of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Ukraine.

Doyle and his wife, Maureen, who are both retired and live in Maple Ridge, B.C., are willing to open their home to a family for as long as it’s needed, he said, offering a spare bedroom with two bunk beds big enough for three children and two adults.

“We’ve got a decent-sized house on property, we’ve got our own playground in the backyard for kids if there’s younger kids,” Doyle told in a phone interview on March 24. “We’re just going to do whatever we can to make them as comfortable as possible.”

Trying to connect with a family in need, Doyle has reached out to the Ridge Meadows Ukrainian Welcoming Committee. About a week after emailing the welcoming committee and having been assigned a co-ordinator, Doyle met with the organization virtually on March 27.

While Doyle anticipates he will be connected with a family soon, the Ridge Meadows Ukrainian Welcoming Committee is still waiting for direction on helping refugees locate a place to stay and get settled in.

“We’re looking to the federal government, in this case, for guidance,” the welcoming committee’s marketing and liaison leader Ahmed Yousef told in a phone interview on March 28. “They are the ones who are mandated to handle our immigration policies and they are the ones that will be bringing people in under their program.”

The federal government is aware that provinces, territories, and community-based organizations are working to provide settlement services to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict after they arrive in Canada, said the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

“We remain in discussions with partners, including provinces and territories, the business community, the Ukrainian-Canadian community, and settlement organizations, on how best to support those arriving from Ukraine,” Peter Liang, communications adviser for the IRCC, wrote in a statement to on March 24. “We will continue to monitor the needs of the Ukrainian community closely and will take action as required.”

However, the national executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Ihor Michalchyshyn, told The Canadian Press he is not aware of any registry that has been created to connect Ukrainian refugees with sponsors or community support after they land in Canada, raising concerns around a lack of plans to track these refugees.

Other Canadians moved by the events unfolding in Ukraine have been motivated to help too, by welcoming displaced Ukrainians into their own homes. But they are also finding it difficult. Dave Olivier, a 61-year-old based in Edmonton, said he and his family are also looking to support Ukrainian refugees by offering their home as a place to stay. Olivier said he emailed the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Alberta a couple of weeks ago in search of ways to help, but hadn’t yet heard back.

Part of the problem is a lack of transparency around the possibility of providing aid, Olivier said. Though he understands the process is likely to take some time, there should be a greater focus on increasing communication from the top down so that humanitarian aid efforts can be coordinated on a local level, he added.

“People don’t know how to do the right thing because the information isn’t there,” Olivier said. “If we’re going to take a refugee or if the possibility exists that we can, I’d like to start to get ready for it.”


The Canadian government announced the ‘Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel’ (CUAET) program on March 17. The program is designed to create a pathway for temporary residence within Canada and involves streamlining current visa and travel requirements, removing most fees, and providing expedited processing.

With the CUAET, Ukrainians and their family members can stay in Canada as temporary residents for three years. Those who arrive through this stream will also be eligible for an open work permit allowing employment with almost any employer in Canada for up to three years. The federal government is urging Canadian employers to register job offers with Job Bank’s Jobs for Ukraine webpage in order to hire displaced Ukrainians.

The federal government is also looking at providing economic support to Canadians who are willing to open their homes to displaced Ukrainians, according to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser. The incentive could look similar to one in the United Kingdom, where households hosting Ukrainian refugees can get monthly payments.

Fraser also tweeted that the federal government’s settlement program will provide other “key services,” such as language training. Assistance will also be available at some airports receiving Ukrainian refugees in the near future, including providing arrival information in their language.

According to the IRCC, the Canadian government had received nearly 60,000 applications as of March 26. The minister had previously stated there will be no limit on the number of applications that will be accepted.

The government of Canada has said that the best ways to support those affected by a disaster abroad are to donate money to humanitarian organizations and reach out to organizations arranging community or fundraising events to provide support. People can also look to their province of residence for additional guidance on how to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Canada.


According to British Columbia’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the department is collaborating with both the federal government and community partners to help Ukrainians get settled in Canada, including assisting them to secure housing. Those looking for more information on how to help are encouraged to reach out to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ British Columbia chapter, senior public affairs officer Alanah Connie said in a statement to on March 29.

In Alberta, organizations such as Catholic Social Services, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and Canada Ukraine Foundation are all working to arrange housing for Ukrainian refugees, said Roy Dallmann, press secretary to Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration Kaycee Madu, in a statement to on March 29. Residents interested in opening their homes to displaced Ukrainians are encouraged to reach out to these organizations, he said. The provincial government has also created a website to help Ukrainians arriving in Canada obtain access to health care, education and jobs.

The government of Ontario is also offering support to connect Ukrainians with settlement services in the province, including those assisting with accommodation, said Harry Godfrey, senior manager of communications and media relations for Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, in a statement to on March 29. Updates on these initiatives will be delivered in the near future and can also be found on the government’s website.

Additionally, the government of Saskatchewan is “working with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan (UCC) to provide a central point of contact and co-ordination to help anyone arriving to the province from Ukraine to connect with the information, services and supports they need,” its website reads. Residents are encouraged to check back soon for more information on how to help. In the meantime, the government has provided resources for Canadians looking to make donations or offer employment, as well as other supports and services for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

The government of Manitoba is working with its own chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, as well as other organizations and businesses, to support those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Residents are encouraged to sign up for digital updates in order to stay informed of opportunities to help. Newfoundland and Labrador has made a number of resources available for Ukrainian newcomers, and province-based non-profit organizations, including the Association for New Canadians, are actively looking for volunteers to assist with translation and community integration. Those in Quebec are encouraged to contact the province’s chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for opportunities to contribute to aid efforts.

The governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island are encouraging Canadians who wish to donate to visit the Canadian Red Cross’ website or do so through the National Bank of Ukraine. Providing donations and housing are just some of the many ways Canadians can effectively support those impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.


Soon after the current crisis in Ukraine began to unfold, the Ridge Meadows Ukrainian Welcoming Committee put out calls for help in building a reservoir of aid for Ukrainian refugees in need, said Yousef. This includes job offers, donations, financial assistance in the form of airfare coverage, and accommodation. In the past three weeks, the organization has enlisted 200 local volunteers, said Richard Robinson, co-chair of the committee.

The organization continues to try to understand the legalities around those fleeing the crisis and arriving to Canada, Yousef said. While they may be refugees, their status upon arriving to Canada under the federal government’s program considers them visitors, he said. This therefore does not entitle them to some of the protection, funding and support usually offered to refugees.

“That’s the gap, if you will, that we’re trying to figure out with the government, and posing those questions to them as to how we can not only expedite the process, but have a correct and stable process to bring those that are in need [to Canada],” said Yousef.

The welcoming committee is also hoping for more collaboration between different levels of government and grassroots organizations such as itself on these types of issues in the future, Yousef said. Even something as simple as a page on the federal government’s website linking to similar organizations as a resource would be a good starting point, he said.

The organization’s next step involves preparing volunteers for tasks once visitors start to arrive, said Robinson. According to the federal government, Canada could see thousands of Ukrainians touching Canadian soil over the next several weeks.


Below is a list of community groups offering assistance to Ukrainians relocating to Canada as a result of Russia’s invasion:


Ridge Meadows Ukrainian Welcoming Committee


Ukrainian Support Eastern Ontario


Atlantic Canada hosts for Ukrainians

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News’ Rachel Aiello.

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