“Ukrainian Refugees in Canada: The Struggle for Permanent Residency
The breakroom of a large corporate office in Markham, Ont., is usually filled with lunchtime chatter and laughter. But for Stella Vitiuk and Nataliia Vabiak, the conversation is often laden with anxiety as they discuss their uncertain future in Canada.
The Refugees’ Plight
After fleeing the war in Ukraine, Vitiuk and Vabiak found jobs as accountants in Canada. Their emergency visas are inching closer to expiry, leaving them in a state of limbo with no end in sight to the war that brought them here.
Vitiuk reflects on the difficult decision to leave her husband and parents behind in Ukraine to provide her daughters with a better future in Canada. Her desire to give her children a new and promising life keeps her going despite the uncertainty.
The current Situation
As of October 14, over 198,600 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Canada under a temporary visa program. While this program has provided immediate relief, it does not offer the same long-term prospects as a permanent immigration pathway.
Adding to the turmoil is the fact that many men of fighting age are unable to leave Ukraine under martial law. This leaves many women and children fearing an uncertain future in Canada.
Pathfinders for Ukraine, a Canadian organization assisting Ukrainian immigrants, revealed that 90% of the surveyed families in Canada aspire for permanent residency, but only a third feel confident about obtaining it under existing programs.
Barriers to Permanent Residency
The complexities of the current immigration pathways pose significant barriers for those seeking permanent residency in Canada. With emergency visas set to expire and limited economic mobility, many Ukrainians find themselves in a state of uncertainty and unease.
Vabiak shares her challenges in finding opportunities to improve her English and fears for her husband’s safety back in Ukraine. Amidst the tears and the stress, she remains focused on creating better prospects for her children in Canada – a challenging feat for a mother trying to stay strong for her family.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller acknowledges the exceptional volume of Ukrainian refugees and the protection the temporary visas offer. However, he emphasizes that these visas were always intended to be temporary in nature. This statement reiterates the current uncertainty surrounding the refugees’ future in Canada.
The stories of Vitiuk, Vabiak, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Canada highlight the arduous journey and uncertain future they face as they navigate a complex immigration system. These narratives call for a closer examination of existing immigration programs to provide targeted pathways for those fleeing war-torn countries. As we ponder over the fate of these refugees, it’s crucial to remember the resilience and determination that brought them to Canada, seeking peace and stability for their families.”