It was quite the scene. A plane full of Ukrainian refugees landed Monday night in St. John’s, with a large group of well-wishers waiting inside the airport, waving flags in vibrant blue and yellow hues.
The politicians were there too, of course, making the timing of the event – it happened to coincide with the suppertime news – all the more visible.
Newfoundland and Labrador has thus become the first province to receive by plane Ukrainian refugees, who have fled their country in droves since Russia invaded their country in February.
In addition to responding to a critical humanitarian need, Newfoundland and Labrador has not hesitated to turn to Ukrainian refugees to fill vacant positions. Gerry Byrne, the Minister for Immigration, Population Growth and Skills, said before the flight arrived that some of the 166 people on the flight from Poland had jobs they could access directly (assuming that after a good night’s sleep).
Prime Minister Andrew Furey said Monday’s charter would not be the last. He also pointed out that NL’s response was based on a place of compassion and help.
“We knew we could step onto the world stage, which we have [done] before, whether it was 9/11 or World War I,” said Furey, whose government set up an office in Poland this winter to help refugees crossing the Ukrainian border.
It is difficult to grasp the extent of this deluge of humanity. On Thursday, a United Nations organization updated its mass migration estimate to say more than six million people fled Ukraine in less than three months.
To put that number into perspective, that’s more than the population of British Columbia – and with Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island as well.
A safe haven comes first, says Furey
Furey told CBC Monday that there were about 600 to 700 Ukrainians “now in the queue” in Poland to come to Newfoundland and Labrador.
He also pointed out that in addition to a humanitarian response, Newfoundland and Labrador could benefit from increasing its labor pool.
“Certainly, we all know there are labor demands here. But more importantly, it needs to be a place, a safe haven,” he said.
“So all these details about [labour market] saturations and balance of immigration versus job opportunities, we will sort that out over time,” he said. “Above all, we want to provide a safe haven and a place of hope and optimism for these people.
At first glance, it may seem strange that the province with the highest unemployment rate in Canada is eager to attract new job seekers.
But the job market here is much more complex than it seems, and there are key factors – where someone lives, and how old and qualified they are – tied to the story.
NL’s unemployment rate in April was 10.8%, much higher than in other Canadian provinces. Those most likely to be unemployed fall into two main groups: those under 25, who are trying to step foot in a door and launch a career, and those over 54, who are trying to move forward. their careers, or at least pay the bills. Similar anxieties, at different ends of the age spectrum.
Despite that number, it’s very common these days to see signs of asking for help in the St. John’s area and to hear from employers across multiple sectors – from the booming tech sector to home care to the service economy – say they have problems recruiting workers. At least, again, in the metropolitan area.
Indeed, location is an important factor here.
The unemployment rate in St. John’s in April was 7.2%. Not the lowest among Canadian cities (hello, Quebec, which is at 2.6%), but comparable to Calgary (7.1%) and not so far from Toronto, at 6.4%.
Once you eliminate St. John’s from the equation, a darker picture emerges for the rest of the province. The rest of the province has an unemployment rate of 15.9%.
The province’s well-known demographic issues—there are now many more older adults than young children—provide the sobering subtext behind all of these conversations. The recently published national census showed that NL was the only province to lose population during this five-year period.
The number of births has been below 4,000 per year for some time, and that is should continue for years. In contrast, the number of annual deaths is already over 5,000 per year, and this number is expected to climb to 8,000 per year over the next two decades.
Ukrainians are entering a labor market that may be recruiting, but has some problems. New Canadians pointed out that there are many problems to be solved, especially a lack of consistent health insurance coverage.
“It could really help our economy”
Nevertheless, employers are looking. Wanda Cuff-Young, who works with the agency Work Global Canada, told CBC News last month that she quickly heard about a lot of professions when she posted an email address in a group Facebook aiming to connect refugees to work and amenities.
“Nurses, IT people, engineers, speakers, marketing…they come from a wide variety of backgrounds,” Cuff-Young said. The St. John’s Morning Show.
The flow18:52Helping Ukrainian refugees start a new life in Newfoundland
Right now, the first planeload of Ukrainian refugees is moving in, and groups like the Association for New Canadians are working to put in place the material comforts people need. Housing, child care and other issues need to be addressed, as does matching newcomers with work they can accept.
Moreover, no one knows how long the Ukrainians can stay. The Russian war is still raging, and it is not at all unlikely that some on charter flights want to make their fortunes in other provinces.
But Cuff-Young is optimistic and points out that Newfoundland and Labrador has long benefited from the arrival of people from other shores.
“It could really help our economy,” Cuff-Young said. “New people bring new business, new ideas.”
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