FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Peace River North MLA Dan Davies has helped create a group to help displaced Ukrainians coming to northeast B.C. settle into the community they arrive in.
The NE Immigrant Services Society was created in collaboration with the city, Davies’ staff, the school board and local Ukrainians.
Davies said there have been many displaced Ukrainians coming to the region since the Russian and Ukraine war broke out last year, and a lot of them have been helped through the school district’s SWIS program, but some were still “slipping through the cracks.”
The MLA hosted a meeting at his office several months ago, where he said about 20 people from different organizations showed up, as well as a Ukrainian woman who shared her story.
“The takeaway from her story was that it’s very easy to get to Canada through Immigration Canada, but that’s where it ends,” Davies said.
“Once it ends, there’s a huge gap on this side, where we have people arriving at the Fort St. John airport late at night, not really knowing where they were going.”
Davies said there were many stories like this, where they would be told that Fort St. John has opportunities, but when they would land, they didn’t have any connections.
The meeting was the start of his office getting involved and the creation of the society.
The society is run by Ukrainians living in Fort St. John, with Davies and others assisting the group if needed.
“The goal is to fill those gaps for these displaced Ukrainians,” Davies said.
“There’s upwards of 50 families in the northeast, so it’s significant.”
Another issue he’s noticed is getting licenses and permits to work in Canada.
“Like getting the class five driver’s license, [they’re told] ‘well, we need a diver’s abstract from your country, we need proof of this from your country.’ Well, the country’s almost in shambles right now,” Davies said.
“It’s very difficult to get paperwork as required from the government there.”
The society’s long-term plan is also to help people from other countries as they come to the northeast by connecting them with organizations, such as the Fort St. John Literacy Society and S.U.C.C.E.S.S, to make settling into the region easier.
Some of the work they’ve already done is connecting people with employers, and they made a poster for the airport, in Ukrainian, with information on Work BC, hotels, banks, the literacy society and more.
The MLA said they are working with the Northern Development Initiative Trust as well for funding for the society and other organizations to help immigrants coming to the northeast.
Organizations or individuals that wish to help can reach out to Davies’ office at 250-263-0101 or the society through their Facebook page.