Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online
MARTINSVILLE – Things are moving fast in Saskatchewan when it comes to grassroots efforts providing support for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
One of the people who has been working extensively on this front is Steve Halabura, a regular columnist with Pipeline Online (See his recent column on this issue here). For the past two weeks, he’s been working on putting together what is known as a “Group of Five” people who commit to supporting a refugee family for a year. However, that program can be very bureaucratic in nature, and things are happening fast in Eastern Europe. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by March 11, “Over 2.5 million refugees (are) estimated to have fled to neighbouring countries since 24 February and rising.”
Additionally, the UNHCR says there are 854,000 internally displaced people within Ukraine. (To be considered a refugee, you must cross an international border.)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Ukrainian refugees in Poland on March 10.
As a result, with provincial and federal governments on board, it may be possible to see action a lot sooner than what has typically been the case.
Halabura and a number of business people and family members in the Saskatoon area, Estevan, and most recently, Moosomin, have been coming together to support refugees right away.
“One of the first people to contact me was Brian Crossman of Independent Well Servicing”, said Halabura. “Then from the southeast Cory Casemore, Josh Biggs, and of course Brian Zinchuk. Like I figured, when there is need, the oilpatch is often the first to step up!”
On March 11, he reported they are hearing positive things from the provincial government. But a key factor is going to be once they get here, these refugees are going to need jobs, in addition to housing and other supports. And that coincides with two words that have become very common in Saskatchewan’s oilpatch: labour shortage.
“What are we going to do for employment? What actual oilfield companies hiring, and what would be required?” Halabura said.
Specifically, they are looking for an organization, group, individual or company who would be willing to step forward and do coordination in this regard. If a comprehensive list of available jobs for refugees could be presented to the provincial and federal governments, that would go a long way in supporting these efforts.
“Anything from a hotel needing cleaners to office support to slinging tongs. If we can put that list together, that is gold to our cause,” Halabura said.
He’s thinking big, too. Not just a handful of people, but maybe 100, or 300 refugees who need work.
“My cousin and fellow group member, Wayne Halabura, said that if we are making this effort, lets streamline it so we can accept and settle hundreds, not just tens,” Halabura said.
A key consideration is that most of the refugees will be women and children. Ukraine is not permitting men from the ages of 18 to 60 to leave, requiring them to take part in the war effort against the Russian invaders.
“A little piece here in Saskatoon, a little piece in Estevan. Momentum is starting to grow,” he said.
If you are interested in joining the effort, please contact Steve Halabura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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