It was quite a scene. A planeload of Ukrainian refugees landed in St. John’s Monday night, with a large group of well-wishers waiting at the airport, waving flags in vibrant blues and yellows.
Politicians were, of course, also there to make the timing of the event—it happened to coincide with the dinner news—all the more striking.
Newfoundland and Labrador thus became the first province to fly over Ukrainian refugees, who have fled their country in droves since Russia invaded their country in February.
In addition to meeting a critical humanitarian need, Newfoundland and Labrador has made no effort to seek out Ukrainian refugees to fill vacancies. Gerry Byrne, the minister for immigration, population growth and skills, said prior to the flight’s arrival that some of the 166 people fleeing Poland had jobs they could turn to right away (assuming they’d had a good night’s sleep) .
Prime Minister Andrew Furey said Monday’s charter would not be the last. He also emphasized that NL’s response was born of compassion and help.
“We knew we could rise on the world stage, which we have [done] before, whether it’s 9/11 or World War I,” said Furey, whose… government created an agency in Poland this winter to help refugees flooding the Ukrainian border.
It’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of that flow of humanity. On Thursday, an organization of the United Nations has updated its estimate of the mass migration to say more than six million people have now fled Ukraine in less than three months.
To put that number into perspective, it’s more than British Columbia’s population — and with both NL and Prince Edward Island there as well.
A safe harbor is paramount, says Furey
Furey told CBC Monday there were about 600 to 700 Ukrainians “now queuing” in Poland to get to Newfoundland and Labrador.
He also stressed that, in addition to a humanitarian response, Newfoundland and Labrador could use the boost from their labor pool.
“Of course we all know there is a workforce here. But more importantly, this has to be a place, a safe haven,” he said.
“So all those details about… [labour market] saturations and balance of immigration versus … employment, we’ll settle that with time,” he said. “First of all, we want to provide these people with a safe haven and a place of hope and optimism.”
At first glance, it may seem odd that the province with the highest unemployment in Canada is eager to bring in new job seekers.
But the job market here is much more complex than it seems, and there are key factors — where a person lives, and how old and capable they are — tied to the story.
The unemployment rate of NL in April was 10.8 percent, significantly higher than in other Canadian provinces† Those most at risk of being unemployed fall into two main groups: those under 25, who are trying to get a foot in the door and launch a career, and those over 54, who are trying to advance their careers. or at least pay. the accounts. Similar fears, at different ends of the age spectrum.
Despite that number, today it’s common to see asking for help signs in the St. John’s area, and to hear employers in multiple industries — from the booming technology sector to home health care to the service economy — say they’re having trouble recruiting. . At least, again, in the metro area.
Indeed, location is a big factor here.
The unemployment rate for St. John’s in April was 7.2 percent. Not the lowest of Canadian cities (bonjour, Quebec City at 2.6 percent), but comparable to Calgary (7.1 percent) and not that far from Toronto at 6.4 percent.
Once you leave St. John’s out of the equation, a grim picture emerges for the rest of the county. The rest of the province has an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent.
The county’s well-known demographic problems—there are now many more older adults than young children—are the sobering subtext behind all of these conversations. The recently released national census showed that NL was the only province to lose population during that five-year period.
The number of births has been below 4,000 per year for some time now, and that is expected to continue for years to come† In contrast, the number of annual deaths is already over 5,000 per year, and that number is expected to rise to a staggering 8,000 per year over the next two decades.
The Ukrainians are entering a labor market that may be recruiting, but which has some problems. New Canadians have pointed out that there are many problems to be solved, most notably a lack of consistent medical coverage†
‘This can really help our economy’
Yet employers are looking. Wanda Cuff-Young, who works for the agency Work Global Canada, told CBC News last month that she quickly learned about a wide range of occupations when she posted an email address to a Facebook group aimed at connecting refugees. with work and facilities.
“Nurses, IT, engineers, educators, marketing…they come from very diverse backgrounds,” said Cuff-Young. The St. John’s Morning Show†
Current18:52Helping Ukrainian refugees build a new life in Newfoundland
Right now, the first planeload of Ukrainian refugees is arriving, and groups like the Association of New Canadians are doing their best to create the comfort people need. Housing, childcare and other matters must be arranged, as must matching newcomers with work they can take.
Also, nobody knows how long the Ukrainians can stay. The Russian war is still raging, and it is not at all unlikely that some on the charter flights will seek their luck in other provinces.
But Cuff-Young is optimistic, pointing out that Newfoundland and Labrador have long benefited from people coming from other shores.
“This can really help our economy,” says Cuff-Young. “New people bring new business, new ideas.”
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador