SARM calls on federal government to cut red tape for Ukrainian newcomers

Getting to Canada has been a stressful and uncertain process for many Ukrainian immigrants, and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) hopes helping them find work will be a little easier.

SARM president Ray Orb said they’re hopeful many of the Ukrainian newcomers arriving in Saskatchewan will choose to live and work in rural areas. To do that, he said the federal government needs to remove red tape that’s keeping people from finding jobs and settling down.

“Help wanted signs are everywhere right now,” Orb said in a news release. “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.”

Orb said Ukraine is known to have strong agricultural ties, and Saskatchewan is poised to welcome those workers that can bring that knowledge and experience here. However, there are a few roadblocks to getting a job, the biggest being medical caveats around vaccination status.

Newcomers face the potential of up to 14 days in quarantine, plus additional medical exams, and Ukrainians who have not had medical exams prior to their arrival may have to undergo additional tests. However, according to the federal government’s website, there are only nine federally approved panel physicians in Saskatchewan who can provide this service, one of which is in Prince Albert.

Orb said they’re happy to see the federal government move quickly and allow Ukrainian nationals into the country under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program. However, he said the process needs to be smoothed out.

“This has dire financial consequences for those seeking refuge, and it’s not good for employers either,” he said. “I routinely hear from Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers looking for skilled labour to join their operations.”

Once Ukrainian newcomers 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 SARM said it is causing delays at a time when every day, or week, is crucial.

“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,” the SARM press release reads.

Saskatchewan has welcomed more than 1,000 Ukrainian citizens since Russia invaded. Saskatchewan’s Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison echoed Orb’s concerns about red tape, saying it prevented newcomers from finding jobs and supporting their families.

“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,” Harrison said in a media release.

michael.oleksyn@paherald.sk.ca

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