The priest of a Ukrainian church in Red Deer says the formation of a provincial task force to support evacuees coming to Alberta is a good first step.
Last week, the provincial government announced the Premier’s Advisory Task Force on Ukraine will engage with Alberta’s Ukrainian community, not-for-profits and organizations currently assisting Ukrainian newcomers.
Father Jim Nakonechny, of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Church, said he’s glad the government is focusing on supporting Ukrainians coming to Alberta.
“It’s great that they’re talking about it, but I want to see some action too,” Nakonechny told The Advocate on Monday.
Premier Danielle Smith said since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Albertans have provided support through donations and humanitarian aid.
“This new task force is yet another way Albertans stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Smith said in a press release.
Since the spring, thousands of Ukrainians have fled the war in their homeland to come to safety in Alberta. The provincial government has committed $23 million toward supporting Ukrainians choosing to stay in their home country as well as those making a new home in Alberta.
On Monday, the provincial government also announced school authorities will receive more than $12 million in additional funding to support newly enrolled students from Ukraine.
Nakonechny said about 500 displaced Ukrainians are currently living in the Red Deer area. The Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee, which has been running in Red Deer since March, has brought 98 of those individuals to Red Deer and has also raised $180,000, Nakonechny added.
“Right now, our problem is finding enough host families to help these families coming to Canada,” said Nakonechny.
“I’m dealing currently with a family that arrived in Saskatoon where they’re staying with friends, but there’s no employment they can find. Everyone wants to come to Red Deer because we’re quite organized here. We’ve been working hard as a community – we have a furniture warehouse, a housing community and we’re working hard to find apartments.
“But Red Deer is becoming saturated and we’re trying to find families that can host for a month or two while they get settled. It’s a bit of a challenge for us right now.”
Anyone interested in supporting the local committee, is asked to contact email@example.com or visit the committee’s Facebook group: Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee of Central Alberta.
The premier’s task force is chaired by Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, parliamentary secretary for Ukrainian Refugee Settlement. The task force will hold roundtables across the province. The task force will provide both immediate and long-term recommendations in its final report.
“I look forward to working with the task force on how we can best support Ukrainian evacuees coming to Alberta,” said Armstrong-Homeniuk.
“The ideas and information gathered by this group will help identify gaps in existing supports and ensure Ukrainian evacuees face a smooth and welcoming resettlement process.”