Ukrainian community prepared to welcome refugees arriving soon in Montreal

The local Ukrainian community is preparing to roll out the welcome mat to Ukrainian refugees who are set to arrive here at the end of the month as the war in their country rages on.

Montreal’s Trudeau airport will soon be the destination of a federal chartered flight of hundreds of Ukrainian refugees, part of a massive government program to relocate almost 100,000 people displaced by the war.

Some will have already made connections with people in Montreal. For those who haven’t, there’s still a room waiting, said Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“Nobody’s going to sleep in the street. Upon their arrival, if they don’t have any arrangements for lodging, the federal government puts them up for two weeks,” said Shwec.

After that, the province steps in. About 90,000 Ukrainians have been approved to come to Canada, many of whom will be on chartered flights to Montreal, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Those flights are leaving from Poland, and passengers are on a first-come-first-served basis, the federal government announced.

“It seems we’ve got a pretty strong logistical capacity, so we have to see what kinds of volumes choose to come to Canada,” federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Wednesday.

On Monday, a group of Ukrainians got off a similar charter flight in Newfoundland and Labrador — a welcome change of scenery from war-torn Ukraine.

But not everyone is getting out.

“For the most part, all the males 18 to 60 years old stayed back in Ukraine to defend the country,” Shwec noted. “There’s going to be a large proportion of people who come here who are going to be a mom with her children.”

Montreal’s Ukrainian institutions have been working overtime in relief efforts for Ukrainians, offering support both locally and abroad. They’re also glad to have help from many levels of government, too.

“It’s going to be an interesting thing from a logistical perspective, but from my perspective, anything that helps vulnerable people get to Canada is something worth doing,” the immigration minister said.

The first Montreal flight is scheduled to arrive on May 29.

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