As the shelling continues, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski is working to help Ukrainians displaced by war into Canada. Powlowski, who is of Ukrainian heritage, is especially hoping to help some of his own relatives get to Thunder Bay.
It’s been reported that over 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine as Russia started bombing and moving into Ukraine.
“Certainly other countries like Poland, Romania, Moldova have stepped up to help people out,” Powlowski said. “But I think it needs to be a bit of a global effort, and I think a lot of Canadians want to help out.”
Powlowski says that the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding has one of the highest population densities of Canadians of Ukrainian descent across Canada and is uniquely positioned to accept refugees.
“I know I’ve had some calls from Fort Frances that people are eager to help.” Powlowski said. “I think a lot of people are shocked and dismayed by what they’re seeing and want to do what they can to help Ukrainian refugees.”
In an effort to help Powlowski has shared a survey from The League of Ukrainian Canadians’ which is looking to find potential lodgings for Ukrainian refugees.
“My grandfather was from east of the Nepa River,” Powlowski said. “And his family members are around Odesa. My second cousin and her son are going to be coming over, and her best friend, I think has two kids, we invited them to come as well.”
When the Times spoke with Powlowski, his cousin, her friend and their kids had gotten from the Odesa area into neighbouring Moldova.
“We’re looking for them, maybe, to stay with my brother in Switzerland for a week or two while the visas get sorted out for coming over here. Then they’ll come to Thunder Bay and we’ll find a place either in our house or my parents’ house.”
The Government of Canada has said they are hoping to make the visa application process simpler for Ukrainian refugees. Powlowski says the chaos of everything happening makes it hard for refugees to be able to apply and submit biometrics like fingerprints which are usually required with visa applications. Powlowski says simplifying the process is actually easier than getting rid of visas altogether given the complexity of travel systems around the world.
“We’ve been told that the government believes that it was easier to make the visa process simpler than it was to just get rid of visas,” Powlowski said. “Because the current process in requiring visas is something that’s kind of ingrained in every computer system from the government to the airlines, and is a matter of regulation, all of which would take time to formally change, whereas simplifying the visa process is apparently much easier.”
Powlowski says that people in Canada looking to help their Ukrainian relatives come to Canada can help by getting applications started with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). More information can be found here on the IRCC page about Ukraine at https://fftimes.com/imgmsrs. Those looking for more information about housing refugees or other ways to help the cause in Ukraine can check the League of Ukrainian Canadians’ page on Facebook.