District could be destination for refugees fleeing Ukraine

As I listen to television newscasts trying to understand the war in Ukraine, I am amazed at the exodus of over 1.5 million women, children and the elderly fleeing to Poland and other neighbouring friendly countries who have opened their borders. I am humbled by citizens who are taking those refugees into their homes without hesitation. And I wonder what we can do in Fort Frances to come to the assistance of Ukrainian refugees.

Recognizing the hard work that Ukrainian immigrants have made in helping to build Canada, the Canadian government announced last Thursday that they are opening two immigration streams for Ukrainians who wish to come to Canada for either a short period of time or permanently. The remaining piece to the puzzle is where will those immigrants choose to live. Church groups in Guelph and Waterloo have already begun the process of finding families who are prepared to welcome those refugees into their homes.

It speaks to who we are as Canadians. Following the 1956 Hungary revolution, residents of the Rainy River district welcomed Hungarian refugees into their homes.

Today another crisis provides opportunities to welcome new immigrants to the district. The district has been trying to grow its population by attracting immigrants to our area. Immigrants wish to feel welcomed into communities in which they will live. They look for people who speak their language. They look for a community that shares their religious following. They seek out commonalities of food, and customs. In this district, with a large Ukrainian and Polish heritage, the district would be an attractive location to begin lives anew. Just as households in Poland, Slovakia, Maldova are welcoming these refugees into their homes, we can too.

Cabbage rolls, perogies, ham garlic sausage, borscht, have been adopted district wide by residents. The golden domes of the Ukrainian Church are a welcome reminder of the history of our community and the families that have contributed to the wellness of Fort Frances and the district.

As a community we can do more for these refugees. Many will come to Canada with skills that we can use in the Rainy River district. Employers in the district should be reaching out to organizations who are assisting Ukrainian refugees who wish to come to Canada and have already registered their skills.

But to make this happen, district residents must organize to assist in the relocation of Ukrainian refugees. Many in the district continue to have cousins, aunts, and uncles living in Ukraine. They can become the lifeline to bring family to the district. And by working with district organizations, we can be successful in helping Ukrainian refugees begin new lives here.

Former Publisher

Fort Frances Times

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