B.C. ready to ‘absorb as many Ukrainian refugees as we can,’ premier says

Click to play video: 'Over a million refugees flee Ukraine'
Over a million refugees flee Ukraine
WATCH: As the invasion in Ukraine closes in on one week, people here are trying to figure out how they can help those who have been forced to flee. Thousands of refugee applications to come to Canada have already been approved, but as Kamil Karamali reports, it's the support Ukrainians need once they land in Canada that people are now turning their focus to – Mar 3, 2022

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Thursday the province stands ready to accommodate a potential surge in Ukrainian refugees, as fighting intensifies in the eastern European country.

“British Columbia stands ready, and it’s not just the government, it’s people. People right across the spectrum are opening their hearts and their homes to those that are having their lives turned upside down,” Horgan told reporters at his weekly media availability.

More than one million people — more than two per cent of Ukraine’s population — have fled the country in the week since Russia launched its invasion, the United Nations said Thursday.

Fighting around several major cities has grown more intense in recent days.

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Horgan said he had been in contact with the Prime Minister’s Office, and that it was still unclear how many refugees the province could be asked to take.

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau announces programs to welcome Ukrainian refugees'
Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau announces programs to welcome Ukrainian refugees

He said Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen has been contacting non-profits and religious groups that have traditionally led previous refugee resettlement efforts.

“It’s largely driven by non-governmental organizations who are in the business of taking care of new arrivals to B.C.,” Horgan said.

“We’re going to be continuing to fund those organizations as we have in the past, and offering whatever guidance we can to the federal government about whatever numbers we can absorb here in B.C.”

Horgan added that the province has seen its largest growth in population last year in decades, which he said was contributing to pressures on housing, but that B.C. was “ready willing and able to absorb as many Ukrainian refugees as we can.”

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Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a program to make it easier for Ukrainians to come to Canada temporarily amid the invasion.

Trudeau said the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel will temporarily eliminate “many of the normal visa requirements” for fleeing Ukrainians.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is aiming to have the pathway open within two weeks.

— with files from Eric Stober and the Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Locals seek help to resettle Ukrainians'
Locals seek help to resettle Ukrainians

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