Oksana Tesla, president of the Ukrainian Association Volya of Fredericton, said she was waiting with bated breath Wednesday for news of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program.
“It was quite pressing because it was unknown if they were going to extend it or not,” she said in an interview.
The CAUET program expedites visas and temporary residency permits for Ukrainians and their families. It was set to expire on March 31st.
Then, in a livestream press conference on Wednesday, federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced the program will be extended into July.
“So yes, I was live listening, and I notified my community,” Tesla said.
“That was the right move by the Government of Canada.”
Tesla said she knows many Ukrainians who will be relieved.
They will now have until July 15 to apply, and they will be eligible for the supports that come with the program until March 31, 2024.
According to the most recent federal government data, almost 135,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada through CUAET over the past year.
The government received more than 940,000 applications for the program in the same time span.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Fraser said many of these immigrants are settling in Atlantic Canada.
“What we’ve seen over the past few years is explosive growth, including through immigration, in Atlantic Canada, for example, through the adoption of the Atlantic immigration program,” he said.
“It’s not just (Halifax and Moncton) in Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick, but small towns and rural communities that are seeing people come, as well.”
Nova Scotia Ukrainian Canadian Congress president Lyubov Zhyznomirska says roughly 3,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Nova Scotia under the program.
She urges Canadians to have empathy for newer refugees who have experienced the war for longer and may have witnessed troubling events.
“We might be seeing the arrival of people who are more impacted by the war,” she said.
“So I just want Canadians to continue welcoming people coming here from the war … and be sensitive to the issue of trauma.”
Tesla estimates roughly 300 Ukrainians settled in Fredericton through the program over the past year.
“I am happy and sad because of the tragic circumstances. But (the Ukrainian community) is growing like crazy,” she said.