A local man is looking for support to start an immigration initiative for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the current Russian invasion and is asking Northern B.C. residents to open their homes and hearts.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about 500,000 people in Ukraine have already fled to neighbouring countries. The Canadian government has already approved 4,000 immigrant applications from Ukraine.

“People should really think about what it is to be a refugee, to have nothing but the shirt on your back and to be with your family and you’re not sure where your next meal is going to come from, you don’t know what the future holds,” said Steve Tory, who lives in Dawson Creek. “We have an opportunity to put an olive branch out there and give folks a future.”

Tory has put the call out for a Peace Region initiative on social media, and has suggested that being ready to lend a hand is the right thing to do — despite being thousands of miles away from the conflict.

“I believe getting prepared early is the best thing we can do to help Ukrainians who are losing their homes, livelihood, loved ones, and land,” said Tory. “Refugees have seen great success in Northern B.C. before and they will again – we should be ready.”

Tory said he’s not fundraising for the cause at this point in time, but is looking for residents willing to sponsor Ukrainian families looking for shelter, noting a non-profit could be created to that end.

It’s not the first time the Northern B.C. has sheltered international refugees, says Tory, noting a Syrian family who escaped civil war in 2016 from Damascus.

“We’re blessed with a bit of time, I think Putin has underestimated the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people and I’m optimistic that the war could wrap up quickly,” he said. “But if it doesn’t, we’re going to be looking for people who are interested in sponsoring.”

Canada has also installed extra resources in offices in Poland, Austria and Romania to handle a potential influx of immigration applications.

Anyone looking to get involved can send Tory a message on Facebook or send him an email at PeaceRefugees@gmail.com.

By: Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative
Source: Alaska Highway News