Manitoba working to speed up process for Ukrainians already in immigration queue
Over 100 Ukrainians already working toward immigration through Manitoba's provincial nominee program
Before Russians invaded their country, more than 110 Ukrainians were already trying to make Manitoba their new home.
Premier Heather Stefanson said Tuesday her government is prioritizing their applications through the provincial nominee program.
Her government is also ready to embrace Ukrainians fleeing their home as Russian forces intensify their attacks, she said.
"We have reached out to the federal government. We're working closely with them to ensure that we can expedite the immigration process, and we have made it very clear to the federal government that we will help by taking refugees right here in Manitoba," Stefanson said during question period at the legislature.
The more than 100 Ukrainians already working toward immigration through Manitoba's provincial nominee program are at various stages of the process, a provincial spokesperson said.
Some of the applications are now waiting for final approval from the federal government, the spokesperson said.
Manitoba is trying to help as the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine worsens. More than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine in search of safety in neighbouring countries, a UN refugee agency spokesperson told CBC News Network on Wednesday, as Russian forces continued their assault for a seventh day.
Stefanson said the province is ready and willing to accept Ukrainian refugees. Manitoba counts more than 180,000 people of Ukrainian heritage among its 1.34 million people — the largest proportion of Ukrainian citizens in any Canadian province.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said his city can take in people fleeing the Russian onslaught as well.
"I know that all resettlement efforts involve a tremendous amount of planning and co-ordination," Bowman wrote.
"But given the scale and relentless pace of the humanitarian catastrophe being inflicted on Ukraine, Winnipeggers also know that time is of the essence. Please let us know how we can help, and when we can help, bring Ukrainian refugees to Winnipeg."
Province can 'dramatically increase' support: NDP
At a provincial level, the Progressive Conservative government has pledged $150,000 to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to aid in humanitarian efforts.
It also pulled Russian products off the shelves of provincial Liquor Marts and raised the Ukrainian flag at Memorial Park.
But opposition parties called on the government to do more.
The NDP and Liberals have asked the provincial government to implement a matching donation program for Manitobans making financial contributions to relief efforts.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government can "dramatically increase" its support. He applauded the Manitoba Métis Federation for pledging $100,000.
"The provincial government has so many times more revenue than the MMF. The province certainly should be able to contribute so many times more money to the humanitarian effort."
He also suggested the province waive its $500 fee for provincial nominees coming from Ukraine.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont asked the province to develop a publicly searchable database that would reveal if a corporation has hidden ownership that could be tied to Russia.
"The fact is, if people want to actually freeze Russian assets, we have to know where they are. We have to find them," he said. "We can't do that right now because Manitoba's business registry system is a black box."
Provincial legislation, introduced in 2019, requires companies to track individuals with at least a 25 per cent stake in their business, but, as Lamont said, the province cannot easily catalogue every business with beneficial ownership that could be financing the invasion of Ukraine.