Ontario is pulling out the stops to help those fleeing Russia's war in Ukraine by offering newcomers jobs, expanded OHIP coverage, access to emergency housing, and even trauma counselling.
Premier Doug Ford announced the steps at a school in Etobicoke Wednesday morning alongside a representative of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, and Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma.
"While we admire the spirit of Ukrainians, and the incredible defence they're mounting, we also know that a humanitarian disaster is underway," said Ford. "That's why our government and our federal partners are moving with no delay to get Ukrainian families out of danger zones and into Ontario through an Emergency Travel Authorization."
Ukrainian applications to the province's immigration nominee program are receiving priority processing.
Ford pointed out Ontario is facing a labour shortage. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said thousands of jobs await those who come to Ontario.
"We now have over 30,000 job opportunities for Ukrainians," said McNaughton. "Companies and labour leaders have truly stepped up."
The number to connect Ukrainian newcomers with jobs is 1-888-562-4729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who move into a second career will also receive up to $28,000 in financial support through the Second Career Program.
Both Ford and McNaughton acknowledged that at least to start, most of the people coming to Ontario will be women with children and seniors.
For those families, Ford announced income support, healthcare and drug coverage, access to emergency housing through settlement service agencies and Ukrainian community organizations, and counselling for those who need it after experiencing the trauma of the war in Ukraine.
"These brave people will often be coming as families, some with young kids who have just been through something that nobody should ever have to experience," he said.
Those admitted to Canada on an emergency basis studying at an Ontario publicly-funded college or university will be able to apply for financial assistance through a new $1.9-million Ontario-Ukrainian Solidarity Scholarship.
Another $900,000 over three years will go to the Ukrainian Immigrant Aid Society, and the government will invest $450,000 in Ukrainian community groups.
"Having access to drug benefits for those who are ill, for traumatized mothers, children, and seniors -- it is extremely important for us to hear this announcement," said Irene Schumylo-Newton, the vice-president of the Ontario council of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress. "Access to emergency housing also makes us feel better."
Ford promised the supports would kick in "without delay."
Ontario has over 375,000 residents of Ukrainian origin.