War in Ukraine leaves more than 120 prospective newcomers to N.B. in limbo
Ukrainians, Russians set to work for forestry companies now stuck in home countries
More than 100 prospective newcomers to New Brunswick from Ukraine and Russia have been left in immigration limbo by the war in Ukraine.
Two forestry companies have already finalized job offers with 122 Ukrainians and seven Russians who would have been moving to New Brunswick in the coming months.
However, the war, which erupted with Russia's invasion of the neighbouring state last Wednesday, has thrown that plan into question.
"They've all received and signed offer letters," said Denis Desjardins, director of international recruitment and special projects for Groupe Savoie. "But now they're stuck there because the normal processes for paperwork are not operating in Ukraine."
The forestry company based in the northern New Brunswick community of Saint-Quentin has 12 new Ukrainian employees who are now in different stages of the immigration process, with some who already have their work permits but are awaiting their travel visa to enter Canada.
With Ukraine preventing men of conscription age from leaving the country, Desjardins said the question of whether they'll be able to get to New Brunswick is even more uncertain.
"We're holding out hope that we'll be able to, you know, at least bring in some of the family members — the spouses and children — to Canada as fast as we can.
"And all the candidates we've hired, we're hoping to get them here, you know, one way or another. It's a matter of time now. We don't know ... how it's all going to be processed and everything. The rule book's out the window."
J.D. Irving Ltd. was also planning to bring over 110 new Ukrainian employees to work at its operations, said company spokesperson Anne McInerney, in an email.
McInerney didn't say how exactly the conflict is making their arrival a challenge, but added the company is working with the federal government to expedite their arrival, as well as that of the families of employees who have already arrived.
"Our message to Ottawa is we are a willing partner in bringing Ukrainian families to Canada," she said, noting 75 Ukrainians are already working for the company.
The war in Ukraine raised fresh global alarm Friday after Russian forces attacked a key nuclear plant in the south. Officials say the fires that ensued have now been extinguished and that no radiation leaks have been detected. Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with world leaders just after the attack, including prime minister Justin Trudeau. Meanwhile, Russia continued other attacks on cities throughout Ukraine overnight.
Russian hires also affected
Desjardins said the future is also uncertain for its seven new Russian hires.
With Western countries, including Canada, imposing sanctions on Russia and suspending flights to and from there, those employees have become caught in the middle, he said.
"They're also struggling now to leave the country, to figure out a way to come to Canada," Desjardins said. "Some of their bank accounts are being affected in different ways.
"At least one of them I've heard back from that they're trying to leave the country by any means possible so they'll be able to come here."
Desjardins said Groupe Savoie already has 16 Ukrainians and five Russians on staff.
Growing Ukrainian diaspora
Ginette Gautreau is executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, which oversees the province's 14 newcomer settlement agencies.
She said a growing number of Ukrainians have moved to New Brunswick in recent years to work largely in more rural parts of the province, primarily in the forestry and trucking industries.
They're coming as companies in those smaller communities have faced a shrinking labour market caused by younger residents leaving and waves of new retirees.
Gautreau said Ukrainians have thrived in those two industries since the experience they bring from their home country aligns with the working conditions in New Brunswick.
"Weather conditions or road conditions in Ukraine are comparable to the ones here in New Brunswick," she said."Being able to drive in the snow and long distances.
"So there's a lot of kind of comparative conditions that allow them to work here in New Brunswick." She added that many of these Ukrainian workers have moved to Saint-Quentin, Chipman, Sussex and Woodstock.
Gautreau said the council has been working with settlement agencies in New Brunswick to offer support to Ukrainians already in the province and to promote and facilitate fundraisers to help people in Ukraine.
She said expediting the arrival of newcomers is out of the council's scope of abilities, adding that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is working on that front.
"IRCC we know is prioritizing … applications from Ukrainian immigrants, that they've processed thousands of applicants just over the last week alone.
"So we hope that at a minimum, the bureaucratic process has been facilitated, and those who are able to leave the country or are able to get out of Ukraine can make their way to Canada or other destinations."
CBC News asked Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada what it's doing to help resettle Ukrainians and Russians already approved to move to New Brunswick, but did not receive a response by publication time.