OTTAWA—As Russia continues its offensive in the east, those hoping to help Ukrainians find a safe haven in Canada now have a new way to lend a hand: by donating their Aeroplan points.
Under a new program announced by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on Wednesday, Ukrainian citizens and their families who want to travel to Canada will be able to use donated points to fly here.
The Ukraine2Canada Travel Fund is open to all Ukrainians and their family members, as long as they hold valid Canadian travel documents and are approved to travel to Canada.
“While we as a government continue to do everything we can to support Ukrainians before and after they arrive in Canada, there has been an outpouring of goodwill from Canadians across the country who simply want to do their part to contribute. to something that they think is the right thing to do,” Fraser told reporters. Details on how Ukrainians can access the program will be available in a few weeks.
The program is a partnership between the non-profit charity Miles4Migrants, The Shapiro Foundation and Air Canada, and its goal is to bring at least 10,000 Ukrainians to Canada on commercial flights.
Points can be donated online through Air Canada or Miles4Migrants. Cash donations can be made to the fund through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto.
Fraser said a corporate partnership was necessary because the federal government is “not in the business of giving cash grants to people who are thinking about coming to Canada but haven’t made that decision.”
In most cases, providing that kind of support usually comes from “centrally organized humanitarian efforts,” the minister said.
The announcement comes on top of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge this month to launch Canadian-bound charter flights for Ukrainians, provide short-term income support to new arrivals and offer temporary hotel accommodation for up to two weeks.
The United Nations refugee agency reported this week that just over 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion began nearly two months ago.
Ottawa has said it is prepared to accept an “unlimited” number of Ukrainians, and in March announced the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization program, the government’s main avenue for bringing people displaced by the invasion to Canada.
The emergency program, which is not a traditional refugee immigration stream, grants Ukrainians free visitor visas that allow them to stay in Canada for up to three years. A valid travel document is not required to apply and family members of Ukrainian citizens can also participate.
Fraser said Wednesday that more than 54,000 people have now been approved through the pathway.
The federal government has faced criticism for speeding up application processes for Ukrainians but not for others fleeing their home countries, particularly as Canada has been slow to bring in the 40,000 Afghan refugees the country promised to resettle last year.
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