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B.C. premier urges patience as Ukraine refugees head for Canada

B.C.’s volunteer groups overwhelmed by response, Horgan says
British Columbia Premier John Horgan attends swearing-in ceremony for cabinet changes at Government House in Victoria, Feb. 25, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The B.C. government is looking at its temporary housing options and trauma counselling for thousands of refugees of the Ukraine war, Premier John Horgan said Friday.

Numbers are not yet known as the federal government works with European countries to deal with an estimated 2.5 million people who have fled Ukraine as Russian armed forces continue to bombard and invade its cities. Horgan met with Ukrainian community representatives and settlement organizations this week, and spoke with other premiers to discuss the needs.

They report a huge outpouring of public support, more than they can keep up with, and the province is establishing a toll-free phone number to help match up help with need, Horgan said. Women and children are likely most of the refugees who will make their way to Canada, and they need housing as well as medical help.

“If you don’t get a call back, if you don’t get a response to your email, it’s not because the need isn’t there,” Horgan told reporters in Victoria March 11. “It’s because quite frankly the volunteers are overwhelmed.”

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For housing, options to use student residences and off-season space at ski resorts are being considered. The premiers and federal officials agreed that translation services are key, so social workers and doctors can assist. Horgan said Canada’s immigration authorities are still dealing with refugees who fled Syria’s civil war, with its dictator also backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“We ask for patience from the broader public as we put together an infrastructure to accept the benevolence and generosity of British Columbians towards the courageous and gracious people of Ukraine who are enduring the most unimaginable horrors at a time when we thought that type of activity was behind us,” Horgan said. “I reinforce what I believe is the view of all British Columbians, that Vladimir Putin should step down, step back and get the heck out of Ukraine.”


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