As Ukrainian refugees arrive in the Greater Toronto Area, some hosts helping their relatives are questioning whether they can fully support the families’ emotional and financial needs.
As eager as mother and daughter Iryna Shyshkina and Liz Guber have been to provide their relatives with a safe place to stay in Toronto, hosting has also become more stressful than they thought.
On March 31, they welcomed a mother, Alina Huber, her two daughters, who are three and five years old, and Huber’s mother-in-law. One day after arriving, Huber’s mother-in-law needed emergency care, then heart surgery and now faces a long recovery.
Shyshkina and Guber say they have little information about their guests health coverage and worry about costs. While Huber can work, she’ll need daycare and they say she has no stipend.
“We find ourselves in this moment of trying to navigate the unknown, so many what ifs and questions. They are here, so what. What happens next? said Guber.
Shyshkina Guber say they’ve already paid for hotels and flights, and have budgeted for their relatives to stay about six months, while their visa lasts three years. They are now questioning if they offer them enough support.
“They need psychological help too because they are deeply, deeply traumatized by the time they make it. One lady has collapsed. Mom is terrified and scared and she does not know what is going to happen, ”said Shyshkina.
Huber left Ukraine over a month ago as the invasion began.
“We said ‘See you later, see you soon,’” she said speaking in Russian wiping away tears, recalling leaving her husband behind.
As difficult as the long journey to Canada has been, crossing four borders, she said traveling to safety was the right decision.
“Yes I think so, because every night they went to bed they would worry about not waking up.”
So far the girls are enjoying their bedroom and making pom poms for Ukrainian wreaths. Huber would like to work in Toronto and see her eldest in school. She said she is happy they are to be safe, but she hopes more than anything to go back to Ukraine.
“Home, return home,” she said.
Shyshkina and Guber hope they get the help they need to make Huber and her family’s stay a success.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada responds to concerns
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) the program is not a refugee program.
“Health care is a provincial/territorial responsibility and each province and territory sets the requirements for health insurance eligibility in their jurisdiction,” said a spokesperson.
“As temporary residents, Ukrainians benefiting from the CUAET would not be eligible for health care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program; however, insured health services through provinces/territories may be available to individuals with an open work permit and their families, subject to certain conditions.”
IRCC said people may want to contact provinces directly for more information on the scope of provisions, given the extraordinary circumstances.
“When consulting with the Ukrainian community, we heard that a number of Ukrainians may want to come to Canada temporarily, not as refugees, while the situation unfolds and then return home.”
IRCC said the program is the fastest way for Ukrainians and their families to come to Canada. They can stay as temporary residents for three years, leave and return to Canada any time while their visa is valid, obtain a free open work permit, and study in Canada.
“This new measure streamlines current visa and travel requirements, eliminates most application and processing fees, and offers accelerated, prioritized processing,” the spokesperson said.
More supports coming: IRCC
IRCC said it is working to provide additional supports for Ukrainians once they arrive.
“Settlement Program services, which are typically only available to permanent residents, will soon be extended until March 31, 2023, for temporary residents in Canada eligible under the CUAET.”
Some of the key services provided include, language training, information about and orientation to life in Canada, such as help with enrolling children in school, information and services to help access the labor market, including mentoring, networking, counselling, skills development and training , and assessments of other needs Ukrainians may have and referrals to appropriate agencies.