FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A meeting of community members on Tuesday led to discussions on the creation of a centralized group to support displaced Ukrainian families in the region.
The meeting, hosted by North Peace MLA Dan Davies at his constituency office, discussed many of the significant issues faced by displaced Ukrainian families who have come to settle in Fort St. John and also looked at what steps could be taken to assist.
Several community groups were present at the meeting, including members of city council, Northern Health and School District 60’s Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program.
Also present was Charles Scott, a representative of the Prince George 4 Ukrainians Society— a volunteer-run group focusing on centralizing and providing aid for Ukrainian refugees.
While conversations highlighted housing and language barriers as the major issues facing uprooted Ukrainian families, the bottom line came down to two factors.
Firstly, while getting to Canada was easy, settling was much harder.
Second, Fort St. John was unprepared for the number of displaced families coming into it.
Jane Drew from SWIS said the situation was one in which no one had any experience. She also noted that this would not be the last we see of situations like this.
“This is not in anyone’s scope,” Drew said. “But it needs to be.”
Taking notes from Scott and his work with the Prince George 4 Ukrainians Society, the conversation turned to finding some way to similarly centralize efforts. Not only for ease of access for Ukrainian refugees but also for community members and groups wanting to help.
Dan Davies said that was why he had called the meeting in the first place.
“That is the reason we’re all sitting here today. To find out what we have,” Davies said.
He also noted that a centralized group might allow large corporations and employers in the region a spot at the table — possibly opening up more opportunities for funding and employment.
Discussions then turned to creating a society and getting informed consent forms out so that contact information for displaced families could be internally shared. While no name for the group or facts are set in stone, attendees of the meeting seemed hopeful and had a sense of urgency to make a change.
According to the Salvation Army and SWIS, there are somewhere between 20 and 30 displaced Ukrainian families in Fort St. John, and they know of an additional 30 arriving in the next few months. However, the exact numbers are not known.
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed that they do have the numbers of displaced families but have chosen not to release them.
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