Nova Scotia

More than 300 Ukrainian refugees land in Halifax

It's the third of three federally chartered flights flights to bring those fleeing war in Ukraine to Canada. The two other flights brought more than 600 of Ukrainian refugees to Winnipeg and Montreal in May.

3rd federally chartered flight to bring families fleeing war in Ukraine to Canada

More than 300 Ukrainians arrived in Halifax on Thursday evening. They were greeted by a big crowd at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

More than 300 Ukrainian refugees landed in Nova Scotia on Thursday evening.

After going through customs and immigration, the 319 people were met by a welcoming crowd with sunflowers and tiny Canadian flags, Ukrainian flags, Nova Scotia flags, tartan and chocolate bars. Leanne Arnott from Liverpool, N.S., is hosting a family. She wore a sunflower hat and a green dress so the people arriving would be able to spot her quickly.

"I think the enormity of the day hit me on the drive up here. I've been talking to [other hosts] since 4:30 this morning making sure all my groups made it to the airport," she said. 

"I have to say the town of Liverpool, Queens County, has come together as a community to support Ukrainian families."

The plane, which departed from Warsaw, Poland, earlier in the day, was a bit delayed. It was the third federally chartered flight to bring those fleeing the war to Canada.

The two other flights brought more than 600 Ukrainian refugees to Winnipeg and Montreal in May.

WATCH | Support for Ukrainian refugees at Halifax airport

People gather at the Halifax airport to greet Ukrainian refugees

6 months ago
Duration 4:42
A crowd of people gathered at Halifax Stanfield International Airport Thursday evening to greet 300 Ukrainian refugees. Colleen Jones spoke with some of the people who are going to help them get settled.

Lyubov Zhyznomirska, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, was at the airport early to meet people. 

"We have to remember that it's over 14 million people that are displaced and we are welcoming 300 here and we will provide safe haven to them as Nova Scotians," she said.

"I am excited because we get to meet people that we've been preparing to to meet.... We will finally know their needs. We will finally know how we can help and how we can create a connection with community."

Nova Scotia tartan and chocolate bars for the newcomers. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Zhyznomirska said about 200 people on the plane are planning to stay in Nova Scotia and the rest will go to New Brunswick or Newfoundland.

Jennifer L'Esperance, senior executive director of immigration and population growth with Nova Scotia's Department of Labour Skills and Immigration, told Maritime Noon people of all ages will be on the plane.

"There'll be infants as well as people who are a bit older and need some physical assistance," said L'Esperance said. "And of course they're bringing their pets, too. So we're expecting some dogs, cats and even maybe a fish on the flight."

Lyubov Zhyznomirska, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Thursday. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Carol Ailles of Saint John, N.B., will be meeting the plane.

"I'm actually going to be on the bus coming to Halifax and picking up my guests. I have one guest coming in," Ailles, one of the administrators of the Facebook group, Atlantic Canada hosts for Ukrainians, told CBC's Maritime Noon on Wednesday.

 She said she has room for two more guests, if needed.

"I haven't got the numbers fixed for sure yet. A lot of the stuff is last minute," Ailles said.

'It is a big day'

L'Esperance said a lot of people have offered to help. She said some refugees already have arrangements for accommodation, but others will figure it out once they arrive. Some will be staying at a hotel for 14 nights, she said, and added COVID-19 protocols will be followed.

L'Esperance said employers have come forward with job opportunities for the new arrivals and some schools are ready to take on Ukrainian students in September. There will also be mental health services available for those coping with the trauma of war.

"It is a big day. It's exciting.... [Nova Scotians] have a long history of welcoming people to our province and really rising to the occasion and making sure that newcomers in our communities can succeed," she said.

Only Ukrainians who have obtained a visa through the new Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET) were able to reserve a place.

According to federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, 115,000 Ukrainian refugees have been approved to come to Canada and 32,000 are already in Canada.

In an interview last week, he said the group landing in Halifax will have access to housing supports. He said people wanting to help can do so through Operation Ukrainian Safe Haven, a team that helps newcomers with housing, employment and basic necessities.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Thursday. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Fraser said he doesn't expect all the Ukrainian refugees landing in Nova Scotia will stay in the province.

"But we have to be prepared for an influx of people who may have landed elsewhere and decide to come here after the fact," he said.

A view of the crowd at the airport. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from Michael Gorman, Maritime Noon and Colleen Jones

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