Some people trying to flee Ukraine are facing hurdles.
Canada recently streamlined the immigration process for Ukrainian refugees. But the requirements that remain are making it hard for some Edmonton-area families to bring their loved ones here.
Ever since Dwayne Kisilevich’s relatives fled Ukraine, the Vegreville man has been trying to get them to Canada.
“I’m afraid for the lives of my children. I think they will be safe in Canada,” one of Kisilevich’s cousins, Kateryna Furyk, said while they spoke over Facebook Messenger.
“Three women and seven children left Ukraine on the 26th, they got to Poland. I happen to talk to my cousins, which are men. They aren’t allowed to leave, of course. He asked if we can get some help to get his family to Canada to get through the war,” Dwayne Kisilevich said.
Challenges in bringing Ukrainian refugees to Canada
Kisilevich said he was encouraged by recent changes to a federal government program. It was supposed to make it easier to get his family here.
But after starting the application process, they hit a big barrier.
“They say you’ve got to keep trying. Last night, kept trying, then you get kicked out of the system,” Kisilevich said.
His problem centres on fingerprint and photo requirements. They’re still necessary even in the streamlined process and booking an appointment is proving difficult.
“I tried since Saturday morning until Tuesday evening, I made 47 attempts (and) could not get in,” Kisilevich said.
In a statement, VFS Global, the company responsible for biometrics, wrote: “Due to the current situation in Ukraine, some of our Visa Application Centres (VACs) are experiencing higher volumes than usual. VFS Global has taken proactive measures in consultation with the Canadian government (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, IRCC) to address the surge in Canada visa applications from Ukraine at our VACs in Europe.”
The statement said customers can book appointments at any VAC on VFS Global’s website.
“Currently, there is no issue with the appointment management system and our IT teams are working 24/7 to ensure the website is running smoothly.”
The company said an influx in visa application volumes has led to longer call wait times.
“However, our call centres are closely monitoring the situation and apprising local operations to open additional appointment slots where required. Our global call centre is recruiting additional Ukrainian-speaking resources to manage higher calls/email volumes while our call centres in India and Mexico provide support to the VACs in Europe.”
Biometrics, the company said, are taken by following instructions from the Canadian government.
“Clients submit their applications online and are directed to the VAC network in Europe to support them with application, biometrics and passport submissions. Capacity at the VACs is being closely monitored and additional IRCC staff have been deployed to the region as surge support should VACs reach capacity.”
Its visa application centres have been told to prioritize citizens of Ukraine, the company said, “including booking emergency same-day appointments and taking biometrics without an official appointment.
“In addition to our pre-existing VAC network, we have been working to set up additional biometrics collection locations and increased capacity at existing ones as demand requires,” the statement continued.
Women, children escape horrors of Russia’s Ukraine invasion
An Edmonton immigration practitioner said getting a appointment for biometrics has been the case for many people trying to get to Canada.
“There is a small percentage of people who are benefiting of the fast processing but for the majority of people who applied for the first time, it’s very complicated it is very stressful,” Bohdana Stepanenko-Lypovyk said.
Stepanenko-lypovyk said many people in Ukraine are now facing increased costs of living and flights to Canada are also up, making it even more difficult to get out.
And it’s stressful for those hoping the need for fingerprints and pictures won’t make their loved ones’ ordeal even more chaotic.
Kisilevich said he hopes the hopes the government will make changes to the biometrics requirements and fast.
“I truly don’t think there are going to make it here,” Kisilevich said.
While many Albertans struggle to help their relatives, Stepanenko-Lypovyk is encouraging people to keep calling and applying until they connect, no matter how frustrating the wait may be.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Parliamentary committee to start report on expanding eligibility for assisted dying
OTTAWA — A special joint parliamentary committee will now consider its report on current legislation on assisted death and whether to expand who is eligible to opt for it.
The committee of MPs and senators is considering whether medically assisted dying should be expanded to people solely suffering from mental illness and mature minors.
It is also considering whether it should let people opt in to assisted dying in advance before they lose the mental capacity to do so.
The committee was also tasked with studying a host of associated issues, such as the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities.
It will begin drafting its report based on its findings.
The government already agreed in Bill C-7 passed last March to lift the current ban on assisted dying for those suffering solely from mental illness in 2023.
It set up a separate panel of experts to advise on the rules that should apply in those cases and the panel made 19 recommendations in a report tabled earlier this month.
The government’s work on the legislation is under scrutiny as critics say the law has unforeseen effects, amid reports of people opting for a medically assisted death because of inadequate care or resources.
The Liberals faced criticism last year for proceeding with amendments to the law — in response to a Quebec court ruling, which struck down the requirement that a person’s death be “reasonably foreseeable” — without having even launched the promised review.
Meanwhile, the Quebec government is removing a section of its end-of-life care bill that would have allowed quadriplegics and people with cerebral palsy to receive an assisted death.
Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters that opposition parties expressed concern with the bill, which was tabled Wednesday, because the question of extending medical aid in dying to people with neuromuscular disorders was never debated in the province.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press
Monkeypox: 26 cases now confirmed in Canada – CTV News
There are now 26 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, and the virus has been detected in a new province, according to an update from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
In Thursday’s update, PHAC stated that over the past week, it had confirmed 25 cases of monkeypox in Quebec.
Now, it has confirmed a case of monkeypox in Ontario as well, the first case in a province outside of Quebec.
“Our understanding of the virus is still evolving, but I want to emphasize this is a global response,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said in the update.
Toronto Public Health stated Thursday that they have confirmed one case in Toronto, and are also investigating several suspected and probable cases.
“It is likely that additional cases will be reported in the coming days as the [National Microbiology Laboratory] is continuing to receive samples for confirmatory testing from multiple jurisdictions,” PHAC said in a written statement Thursday evening.
Monkeypox is a rare virus from the same family as smallpox, with symptoms including fever, muscle aches, skin rashes, swollen lymph nodes and headache, among others.
Canadians should be aware of the symptoms, Njoo said, and limit contact with others and seek medical attention particularly if they have an unexplained rash, one of the more recognizable symptoms.
The incubation period — the span of time between initial infection and seeing symptoms — for monkeypox is generally 6-13 days, but can range to as many as 21 days, according to PHAC.
Spread occurs through close contact with an infected individual, usually through contact with an infected person’s fluids, open sores or large “respiratory droplets”, Njoo said, as well as through shared contaminated objects.
He emphasized that although the risk to Canadians is currently low, anyone is capable of contracting this virus.
Because smallpox was eradicated in 1980, many people do not already have the smallpox vaccine, which provides some protection, which means the “whole Canadian population is susceptible to [monkeypox].”
“Contrary to recent media reports, this virus does not discriminate and is not limited to spread from sexual activity,” he said.
Because the virus spreads through close contact, this obviously includes sexual activity, Njoo said, but it’s important to note that sexual contact is far from the only way the disease is spread, and it can infect anyone — it’s not limited to one specific demographic.
“Anyone who is engaged in close contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox is certainly susceptible to infection,” Njoo said.
“At the present time, it appears to be circulating in specific communities.”
Many of the current individuals who are infected with the virus are men who have sex with other men, who are believed to have contracted the virus through sexual contact with an infected individual.
Officials are working with community organizations to spread awareness to those who may be at an elevated risk currently, Njoo said.
He added that incorrectly viewing this virus as purely sexually transmitted, or a disease only affecting a certain group, can lead to stigmatization and “misunderstanding of risks, and negative health outcomes.”
PHAC stated that they are focusing on a “targeted approach to vaccination and treatment”, and do not believe a mass vaccination campaign is necessary.
They have already supplied Quebec with 1,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile. Due to the similarity between the viruses, the smallpox vaccine can provide around 85 per cent efficacy in protecting recipients from monkeypox as well, according to the World Health Organization.
They’re also looking at the use of the antiviral Tecovirimat (TPOXX), an oral capsule designed to treat smallpox, which was approved by Health Canada last fall.
Monkeypox is endemic in animals in regions in Western Africa, and can sometimes transmit from animals to humans, often through a bite from an infected animal, with the first human case recorded in 1970.
While monkeypox has popped up in countries where it is not endemic before, the cases typically involved people who recently travelled from a country in Africa where the virus is endemic.
What is unusual right now is that officials in numerous countries that don’t usually deal with monkeypox are seeing cases where the patient has no travel history, Njoo said.
Prior to this month, monkeypox had never been detected in Canada.
He added that clinicians on the ground are seeing variety between cases — some patients have not presented with a rash on their face, the common location for this symptom, and instead have just had rashes around their genitals.
“They’re not all similar in how they’re presenting,” he said.
Co-operating with international partners will help Canadian officials keep track of the virus and whether it is evolving, he said.
Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is continuing to do testing on samples to track the spread and keep Canadians updated on risk level if the virus continues to progress.
“We will provide updates to the public as new emerging information becomes available,” Njoo said.
More guidance on case identification and contact tracing, along with infection prevention, will be released shortly, PHAC stated.
Guilbeault ‘optimistic’ G7 climate ministers will agree to gradually phase out coal
MONTREAL — Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday he’s “very optimistic” this week’s meeting of G7 climate and energy ministers will produce a consensus to gradually phase out the use of coal.
Ministers and senior officials from the G7 countries are holding a three-day meeting in Berlin during which they will seek to agree on common targets for the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which scientists say is urgently needed to curb climate change.
Guilbeault told The Canadian Press from the German capital that he is insisting “on the importance of strong international action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensure that the 1.5°C warming target remains achievable.”
Guilbeault said he thinks his counterparts in the Group of Seven countries — the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan — agree with him that “we need to reduce, even eliminate the use of coal.”
But, he said, “it remains to be seen where we will land precisely.” The ministers need to publish a communiqué on Friday, at the conclusion of the meeting. And there have been reports that Japan and the United States are pushing back against having anything firm about reducing coal in the wording of the document.
Robert Habeck, German minister for economic affairs and climate action, said on Thursday that G7 countries “can perhaps take on a certain pioneering role to push forward ending the use of coal for electricity and in decarbonizing the transport system.”
G7 members Britain, France and Italy have set deadlines to stop burning coal for electricity in the next few years, while Germany and Canada are aiming for 2030. Japan wants more time, and the Biden administration has set a target of ending fossil fuel use for electricity generation in the United States by 2035.
Guilbeault, meanwhile, said the G7 doesn’t intend to sacrifice climate goals to fill the gap in fossil fuels entering Europe caused by sanctions levied on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. He said the the climate ministers recognize they “cannot sacrifice the fight against climate change in the name of energy security, and the members of the G7 are unanimous and unequivocal on this.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Stéphane Blais, The Canadian Press
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