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An open letter to the governments of Canada, BC, and Victoria

Dear Honorable Members of the Canadian Government, British Columbia Government, and Victoria Mayor and Council:

I am writing on behalf of the Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society to bring to your attention our organization’s activities and express our urgent need for funding.

Our organization was established in April 2022 by a group of volunteers, to support newly arrived Ukrainian families settling on Vancouver Island. Since then, we have provided assistance to 960 Ukrainians, many of whom are single mothers.

Our programs include temporary housing, emergency financial assistance, free groceries, welcome baskets, ESL classes, job assistance, translation services, and informational support. Additionally, we host social events to promote cultural and social integration, and provide access to free household items, furniture, clothing, children’s items, and more through our donation program.

Despite having existed for less than one year, we have won awards for the exceptional services we provide, largely through the work of over 600 volunteers. We work closely with local community groups, service clubs and churches, including The Salvation Army, CRD Foodshare Network, WorkBC, Inter-cultural Associations, Ukrainian Cultural Societies, and local businesses to identify needs and meet them through the provision of services and programs.

The Vancouver Island community has been very generous with their donations to date, but this is beginning to wane.We are writing to communicate our concern regarding the March 31 deadline for Ukrainian nationals to apply for the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) temporary visa and the Canada-Ukraine Transitional Assistance Initiative (CUTAI). We have observed a six-fold increase in new arrivals from Ukraine since January 2023, and we believe this is due to the impending expiry of CUAET. If this continues, the voluntary support network in our community will be overwhelmed.

According to the Canadian Government website, 862,386 Ukrainians have applied for a CUAET visa, of which 559,868 have been approved. However, only 167,585 applicants have subsequently arrived in Canada. This data raises the following questions: Where are the remaining 392,283 approved applicants, and when will they arrive in Canada? How are the governments of Canada and British Columbia going to ensure adequate transitional and settlement support for these 694,801 Ukrainians that have applied and are expecting to come to Canada?

Anticipating that there will be a significant number of these approved applicants choosing to come to Vancouver Island, our community will be forced beyond its present capacity to provide timely and needed support to new arrivals.

Our immediate priority is finding housing for these new arrivals: recruiting host families, vetting them, and then matching them with Ukrainian newcomers. It has been a challenge to recruit a new set of host families. This will help us to ensure that the newly arrived Ukrainians can achieve self-sufficiency and thrive in their new home in Canada.

We believe that Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society is uniquely positioned to provide the necessary support to Ukrainian newcomers. Our Society has a deep understanding of the challenges that these newcomers face, and we have a proven track record of providing effective support to them. We are also well-connected with local community groups, service clubs, and businesses, which allows us to mobilize a wide range of resources to support our programs and initiatives.

Additionally, a large number of volunteers are themselves Ukrainians, and their lived experience is invaluable in determining our service priorities. It’s also worth noting that Ukrainians, once settled, are contributing in positive ways to our communities, and filling many gaps in the labour market. As one example, BC Ferries has hired approximately 50 CUAET holders.

Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society is requesting immediate funding to meet both short-term and long-term needs of displaced Ukrainians who choose to make Vancouver Island their home. With the continued influx of Ukrainians, we anticipate needing to hire 2 additional full-time Coordinators. Additional staff means being able to increase our capacity to recruit and support host families; assist arrivals with immediate settlement needs; identify and address food insecurity concerns; develop programs such as English language classes, and create social opportunities.

Beyond staffing, the Society anticipates needing funding to provide financial assistance for the delivery of these programs and services, as well as direct financial support to newcomers and host families. We cannot continue to rely solely on the financial and in-kind generosity of the community for the next year

Our budget estimate is based on the fact that 960 people have settled here over the past year. We are estimating that number to be roughly the same next year.

Funding Required for Ongoing Integration Services Over the Next Year:

Two full time staff: 35 hrs/week x $25/hr x 52 weeks = $91,000

Emergency accommodation for up to 200 families @ 2 nights per family @ $200/night = $80,000

Groceries for 1000 people for 1 year ($10 per person per week) = $520,000

Total to provide this minimum amount of services: $691,000, or less than $700 per person.

We understand that the Canadian government has many demands on its resources, but we urge you to consider the urgency of our situation. The impending expiry of the CUAET, combined with the continued influx of Ukrainian newcomers, means that we are facing an unprecedented situation that requires immediate attention and action.

We respectfully request that the Canadian government provide funding to Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society to help us continue our important work in supporting Ukrainian newcomers. We believe that this funding will be a sound investment in the future of these newcomers and will help them to become fully integrated members of Canadian society.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.


Karmen McNamara / Кармен Макнамара
General Manager / Генеральна директорка
Help Ukraine Vancouver Island
Допоможіть Україні Острів Ванкувер

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