Getting to Canada for many Ukrainian immigrants is no easy feat. Their journey has been met with uncertainty and stress. Many of them were ripped from the lives that they knew and faced imminent danger, a consequence of Russia’s unprovoked war with Ukraine.
Now over eight thousand kilometres from Ukraine, some have travelled west to the prairies, and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) is hopeful that some of Saskatchewan’s newest residents will consider calling rural Saskatchewan home.
We are proud that Canada was quick to act and allowed Ukrainian nationals into the country under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program. Even with the assistance of this program newcomers still face many challenges around securing employment upon arrival. For example, there are medical caveats around vaccination status, the potential of up to fourteen days in quarantine, and additional medical exams. To navigate these conditions Ukrainians who have not had medical exams prior to arrival may be asked to undergo additional tests by a physician approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). According to the federal government’s website, there are only nine federally approved Panel Physicians (cic.gc.ca) in Saskatchewan who are able to provide this service. Six in Saskatoon and one in Regina, Prince Albert, and North Battleford, respectively. Once Ukrainians receive their medical exam results, they can apply to IRCC to remove the restrictions from their work permit. To do this, they must re-apply for an open work permit in Canada. Then, IRCC will then issue a new work permit without job restrictions.
The federal government process is intended to expedite, but in reality, it can cause delays at a time when every day, or week, is a crucial one. Every additional step creates a barrier to entering the workforce during a time when Saskatchewan could benefit from the expertise and knowledge of these workers, particularly in the agriculture sector.
“Our government has welcomed more than 1,000 Ukrainian citizens to Saskatchewan since the conflict began, providing a supportive environment with access to community supports and job opportunities,” Minister of Immigration and Career Training Jeremy Harrison said. “We are calling on the federal government to remove these onerous medical restrictions to allow an expedited transition for displaced Ukrainians into the growing Saskatchewan workforce so they can support their families and secure their financial future right here in Canada.”
“Help wanted signs are everywhere right now, so it is a shame to think that we have newcomers seeking employment, unable to enter the workforce because of bureaucratic red tape that may be unnecessary,” said SARM President, Ray Orb. “This has dire financial consequences for those seeking refuge, and it’s not good for employers either. I routinely hear from Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers looking for skilled labour to join their operations. Ukraine is known to have strong agricultural ties, and Saskatchewan is poised to welcome those workers that can bring that knowledge and experience here.”
SARM calls on the federal government to evaluate its process and the requirements for newcomers to get proper permits to enter the Canadian workforce. Focus on efficiency and reduce barriers so employers can access readily available employees. The time is now to build a more resilient workforce and strengthen the economy. SARM remains committed to standing united with Ukraine. We welcome all newcomers and are supportive in their journey to thrive and make Saskatchewan their new home.
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Background: SARM is the independent association that represents its membership of rural municipal government in Saskatchewan and is the principal advocate in representing them before senior governments.