As Ukrainian refugees arrive in the Greater Toronto Area, some hosts are helping their relatives, questioning whether they can fully support the families’ emotional and financial needs.
As eager as mother and daughter Irina Syashkina and Liz Guber are to provide their relatives with a safe place to live in Toronto, hosting has also become more stressful than they thought.
On March 31, they welcomed a mother, Alina Huber, their two daughters, who are three and five years old, and Huber’s mother-in-law. The day after arriving, Huber’s mother-in-law needed emergency care, then heart surgery and is now facing a lengthy recovery.
Shayshkina and Guber say they know little about their guests’ health coverage and worry about costs. While Huber can work, he will need daycare and they say he has no stipend.
“We find ourselves in this moment of trying to navigate the unknown, with so many what-ifs and questions. They’re here, so what. What happens next?” Guber said.
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Shashkina Guber says she has already paid for hotels and flights, and has budgeted for her relatives to stay for about six months, while her visa lasts three years. They are now questioning whether they provide them enough support.
“They also need psychological help because when they make it through they are deeply, deeply traumatized. A woman has collapsed. Mom panics and panics and doesn’t know what is going to happen,” said Shishkina said.
Huber had left Ukraine a month earlier as the invasion began.
“We said ‘see you later, see you soon,'” she said, wiping away tears in Russian, remembering her husband left behind.
As difficult as the long journey to Canada has been, crossing four borders, she said traveling for safety was the right decision.
“Yeah, I guess so, because every night they went to sleep, they worried that they wouldn’t wake up.”
So far the girls are enjoying their bedroom and making pom poms for Ukrainian wreaths. Huber wants to work in Toronto and see him as the eldest in the school. She said she was glad they were safe, but expected more than anything to go back to Ukraine.
“Home, come back home,” she said.
Shishkina and Guber hope to get the help they need to make Huber and his 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 Emergency Travel Authority (CUAET) program is not a refugee programme.
“Health care is a provincial/territorial responsibility and each province and territory sets the requirements for health insurance eligibility in its jurisdiction,” a spokesperson said.
“As temporary residents, Ukrainians benefiting from CUAET will not be eligible for health care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program; However, health services insured through provinces/territories may be available to individuals with open work permits and their families, subject to certain conditions.”
The IRCC said that in view of the extraordinary circumstances, people may wish to contact the provinces directly for more information on the scope of the provisions.
“While consulting with the Ukrainian community, we have heard that many Ukrainians want to come to Canada temporarily, not as refugees, while the situation unfolds and then return home.”
The 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 at any time while their visa is valid, obtain a free open work permit and study in Canada.
“This new measure streamlines existing visa and travel requirements, eliminates most application and processing fees, and offers accelerated, priority processing,” the spokesperson said.
More support coming: IRCC
The IRCC said it was working to provide additional support to the Ukrainians after their arrival.
“Settlement program services, which are normally only available to permanent residents, will soon be extended to temporary residents in Canada to be eligible under CUAET until March 31, 2023.”
Some of the key services provided include language training, information and orientation about life in Canada, such as helping children enroll in school, information and services to help them access the labor market, including mentoring , networking, mentoring, skill development and training. , and other needs may be assessed by Ukrainians and referral to appropriate agencies.