Canadian troops being deployed to Poland on humanitarian mission
150 troops to join mission, but only about 100 will be deployed for now
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are going to be deployed to Poland on a humanitarian mission to support Ukrainian refugees who have fled the Russian invasion.
During an announcement at Canadian Forces Base Trenton on Thursday morning, Defence Minister Anita Anand said the mission will help "to ensure Ukrainians fleeing the war receive the best support possible."
"Our Canadian Armed Forces will continue to step up and offer a safe haven and to welcome with open arms the people of Ukraine," she said.
WATCH: Canadian Armed Forces to be deployed to Poland:
Anand has authorized up to 150 troops to join the mission, but only about 100 will be deployed for the time being. They will assist with the processing of refugees, as well as provide medical support services.
A majority of the troops will come from Edmonton and Kingston, Ont., and will be deployed from CFB Trenton in the coming days, Anand said.
The mission is in response to a request from the Polish government as it attempts to grapple with a large influx of Ukrainians fleeing the war, and is being carried out as part NATO's Operation Reassurance, a military deterrence mission in eastern Europe.
More than 4.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries since Russia's invasion began in February. Of those, more than half — nearly 2.7 million — have fled to Poland.
Krakow, the country's second-largest city at 800,000 residents, has transformed within weeks to a city of nearly a million after the arrival of some 150,000 displaced Ukrainians.
CAF members were in Poland last week examining the possibility of deploying troops there to assist with the refugee crisis.
Former Joint Task Force 2 Commander Steve Day told CBC News Network that while he's glad to see troops heading overseas to help with the humanitarian crisis, he believes the government should have acted sooner.
"If we're going over to help in that humanitarian space, I'm not sure why it's taken us six weeks to mobilize," Day told host Aarti Pole.
Jasraj Singh Hallan, the Conservative shadow minister for immigration, responded to news of the deployment by repeating his party's call to drop visa requirements for Ukrainians.
"Canada should not have waited until day 50 of the war in Ukraine to bring additional resources to eastern Europe to help our Ukrainian friends and family fleeing the conflict," Hallan said in a media statement.
The government launched a special immigration program last month that will allow Ukrainian refugees to live and work in Canada for up to three years, promising to take in an "unlimited" number of refugees fleeing Russia's war.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told the Canadian Press that 41,000 people have been approved through the program.
They have been arriving at the Toronto and Edmonton international airports since April 1, and in Vancouver since April 8.
Fraser said most of the applicants are now in Warsaw or Berlin and many may settle in Canada temporarily while they have access to services like language training, child care and help finding a job.
More military aid promised in budget
The federal budget tabled last week committed an additional $500 million in military aid to Ukraine.
Anand said Thursday that a portion of that aid will come from Canada's current inventory while another portion will need to be procured.
"We are actively engaged with a number of suppliers regarding additional procurements," Anand said, noting that she expects to have more details "soon."
With files from Janyce McGregor and The Canadian Press