To date, 26,572 Ukrainians have been welcomed into Alberta since the Russian invasion in February of 2022. With no end to the conflict in sight, it is anticipated that more evacuees will resettle in Alberta.
Ricardo Morales, Director of Community Development and Integration Services in Southern Alberta Rural Settlement Projects recognizes that communities like Cochrane and Airdrie have stepped up to help, “There have been excellent initiatives by individuals within those two communities to accommodate and support Ukrainian arrivals. I am very impressed with the work that has been done to date, by the community stakeholders in the Rocky View area.”
Morales says there is an opportunity for communities in RVC to continue to show support for Ukrainian newcomers and to become an even more sought-after destination point aside from the urban areas. Having just returned from a national conference on settlement in Ottawa Morales says, “The Federal government is looking at re-envisioning immigration to Canada. What does that look like? Right now, there is going to be a greater emphasis on rural municipalities, and I think that bodes well for rural areas.”
“Housing availability is a big priority right now; says Morales, I know the provincial government is looking at ways to address that particular issue. So, that is a top priority facing all the settlement organizations.” The second greatest challenge, Morales believes, is finding jobs for arrivals.
“When I look at the Rocky View region, Cochrane and Airdrie has about 70 families or individuals at one time. It fluctuates because these are not pre-determined destinations people in this concept, the way arrivals are happening with Ukrainian arrivals is people may just show up one day.” The Ukrainian arrivals are different from government-assisted refugees where it is very much determined by the government allocations to specific areas."
Morales says, “We have been able to work with Ukrainians prior to them arriving in Calgary and we have contacted numerous municipalities to try to procure housing and employment in the municipalities that do have housing availability which is a big issue province-wide and nationwide at this time. But if we find communities that do have housing and do have jobs, we try to relocate arrivals to those destinations.”
According to Morales, a strategic plan is being rolled out, “To make communities more welcoming, more inclusive and to look at ways in which we could speak with the municipal representatives to see if we could have that level of municipal involvement and I think that's one of the critical pieces is that it's going to take three different levels of support, it is not just up to the federal funders or the provincial funders, but also the municipal.” In other words, three levels of government working collectively could have a greater impact.
The latest provincial initiative of providing additional funding to the tune of $4.32 million to help Ukrainian evacuees find temporary living spaces will be music to the ears of people working in the settlement organizations that assist newcomers. It will allow Ukrainian newcomers to have a safe, comfortable place to stay while organizations work to find them permanent homes. That is on top of $28 million to date in support and services to help evacuees resettle in Alberta.
The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s rural Alberta Services include Rocky View Immigrant Services which encompasses Cochrane Immigrant Services, Airdrie, and Chestermere.