New Brunswick

Multicultural council looks to landlords, employers to help with Ukrainian response

As 170 Ukrainians arrived on a flight Tuesday, Moncef Lakouas thought of his own arrival to Canada 19 years ago at the exact same airport. Also on his mind was the big task of helping them settle.

Ukrainian newcomers are not technically refugees, meaning they don't get ongoing financial assistance

The scene at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport on Tuesday as 170 Ukrainians arrived in the city. (CBC)

The president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council said it was "magical" and exciting to see people reunited with family and welcomed by local hosts on Tuesday.

The scene at the Moncton airport reminded Moncef Lakouas of his own arrival in Canada 19 years ago at the same airport.

Also on his mind was the big task of helping them settle.

"They're starting from scratch," he told Information Morning Fredericton

"But they're not alone. Just like I was not alone when Monctonians back then stepped up and made me feel that New Brunswick is home."

Lakouas said a lot of people have already stepped up to help, donating their furniture, homes and their time. What he'd like to see is landlords and employers stepping up, as well.

Moncef Lakouas, president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, says housing, jobs and child care will be a challenge for Ukrainian newcomers, just as they're a challenge for New Brunswickers. (Submitted by Moncef Lakouas)

This is especially important because the Ukrainians coming in through a special immigration program aren't considered refugees," he said. "And don't get any financial support from the government after a one-time check for $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child."

"My message is to every landlord, if you have a space, reach out. If you have an apartment that is empty, please reach out."

He said landlords can help in many ways. They could waive the initial deposit, open their units to people with children and consider lowering the rent.

He also asks people with businesses to be open to hiring the newcomers.

"My message is also to employers. Open your hearts, and open the doors and your businesses to people from Ukraine so they can have access to jobs right away."

He said if people also have furniture in decent shape to donate or if they want to volunteer, they can contact the multicultural association or their local settlement agency.

"Daycare spaces, summer camps, there is a lot of things that Ukranians will need, just like any other New Brunswicker as of now," he said.

Preparing for arrival

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council has been preparing for the arrival of the Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion in their country. Lakouas said there has been an overflow of information about immigration strategies on the national level and settlement services in smaller communities in New Brunswick like Woodstock. 

The association is working to make sense of that and to find volunteers to host people arriving in New Brunswick.

He said the main priority right now is to make sure the community is equipped to help the newcomers through school registration, signing up for healthcare and other tasks people take for granted.

"The first days are definitely hard, because you're disconnecting from your roots, from everything that you've had, some of the things that you know, your language your culture, and you're connecting to a new culture, to a new reality," Lakouas said.

"We have to make sure that that new reality is is as good and as smooth for many of them as possible."

A happy landing: Ukrainian newcomers on the ground in Moncton, with final destinations across the province. (Radio-Canada)

Ensuring access to transportation and finding accessible and affordable housing is essential, according to Lakouas. Daycare spaces and understanding the school system is also important as the parents must work.

The important thing now, he said,  is to listen to newcomers about their needs and provide whatever support is required.

"As early as today, we're going to have to roll up our sleeves to make sure that these families are not feeling the pain of the transition and making sure that they make the best of the circumstances in New Brunswick and they are ready and set for success."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton