Access to medical exams a barrier for Ukrainians wanting to work in Canada

Ukrainians fleeing war face unexpected obstacles when seeking work in Canada.

One is a requirement for a medical exam which is expensive and can be difficult to access. Another is the time it takes to update their work permits once the medical examination is completed.

This is important because they are not allowed to work with children, in health care or in agriculture until their papers have been reissued.

“I was very happy to get this work permit, then I read that there were several restrictions,” said Halyna Malyk, who now lives with her son in Winnipeg.

That’s a concern for Malyk, who holds a doctorate in education with a specialty in teaching ESL and translating from English and French. She is an associate professor at the Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas in Ukraine.

A monument to poet Ivan Franko is covered with sandbags for protection, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Malyk’s hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. (Yuriy Rylchuk/Reuters)

Although she fled Ukraine at the start of the invasion, Malyk continues to conduct her university classes online every day, teaching students who are now scattered around the world due to the Russian invasion.

Her university cannot pay her at the moment, but she is committed to helping her students complete their courses.

“I have to teach and then I have to develop material and I have to assess and just calm them down sometimes, you know, because they feel bad,” she said.

Normally, people applying for an open work permit or who live in countries with a higher incidence of serious communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, for six months in the year prior to their arrival, must submit the results. a medical diagnostic test abroad before you can come. in Canada.

Halyna Malyk, top left, teaches university classes online from Winnipeg, teaching students who were forced out of Ukraine by the Russian invasion. (Halyna Malyk)

As part of Ottawa’s expedited visa process, the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET), Canada’s Immigration Department waives this requirement.

Instead, Ukrainians have 90 days after arrival to take the exam and submit it.

Not enough licensed doctors

For many, however, just getting their physical exam is a challenge.

It can cost up to $350 per adult and a little less per child, which is a big bill for large families.

Some provinces say they need more doctors accredited by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to do the exams.

In Manitoba, there are only 20 licensed physicians and the majority are in Winnipeg, which can mean long trips.

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In neighboring Saskatchewan, there are only nine. A spokesperson for the province’s health ministry said it had heard concerns about access for newly arrived Ukrainians and had raised the issue with the federal government.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is also pressing Ottawa to approve more doctors to take the health exam. At the moment, there are only four. The province’s immigration minister said at least seven were needed.

“I don’t understand why, if one doctor is qualified, why one doctor is able to do the exam over another,” Newfoundland’s Minister of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills said. , Gerry Byrne, to CBC News during an interview.

Meanwhile, Ontario has over 100 licensed physicians. Ludmila Kolesnichenko of the Canada Ukraine Immigrant Aid Society, a group that provides settlement assistance, said she hadn’t heard of any problems accessing medical exams there.

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Once the medical exam is complete, the doctor or health professional submits the results to IRCC. The person can then ask to modify the conditions of his work permit.

The IRCC website indicates that it currently takes 142 days to process this change.

“People could wait 4.5 months to have a document reprinted and be allowed to work in those fields,” said Nick Krawetz of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Winnipeg.

He submitted a handful of applications on behalf of newcomers and none received updated work permits.

“These people have to start working and supporting themselves. And there are a lot of employers who want to hire them. So that’s another burden, an obstacle [that] should be dealt with as soon as possible.”

Nick Krawetz of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Winnipeg submitted a handful of applications on behalf of newcomers and none received updated work permits. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Krawetz said there’s actually a simple solution — when someone submits their application for an updated work permit, they receive an online confirmation.

He thinks that should be enough for someone to start working while the paperwork catches up.

“That’s what normally happens when a work permit is renewed. Someone doesn’t just stop working, they get the request in the system and then they’re allowed to continue working and the work permit is running its course,” says Krawetz.

“Thus, nothing should be done differently. We are not asking for any sort of exemption. We are asking that existing processes be extended to incoming Ukrainians displaced by war.”

Malyk passed his medical shortly after arriving in Winnipeg in mid-March. She reapplied for a work permit, but it was canceled with a note that she would get a written reason. She still has no explanation.

She’s applied for jobs, but without an up-to-date work permit, she’s not sure she can accept the offer she receives.

“I would like to be independent. I have been independent all my life. I have supported myself financially all my life. And so, of course, I would like to have a job,” she said.

“There is eagerness on both sides”

With the first government-chartered flight of Ukrainians scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg on Monday and two more scheduled for Montreal and Halifax, Malyk’s son, Dmytro, fears wait times will only increase.

He also volunteers with the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians and heard from farmers who planned to hire some of the newcomers for spring planting.

Zoriana, nine, greets her sister, Sofia, moments after she and their mother, Natalia, arrived in St. John’s from Poland on a flight chartered by the provincial government on May 9. The first federally chartered flight of Ukrainians is scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg on Monday, May 23. (Greg Locke/The Canadian Press)

Many newcomers from Ukraine under the CUAET program are looking for work in the agricultural sector because they often do not need a good command of English.

“Some farmers in Manitoba have contacted us just to ask for help. If there is a way to expedite this new application or remove these restrictions from the license,” he said.

It’s a big problem in western Manitoba, where a community effort has raised $150,000 and found jobs for families who want to move there. So far, three families have arrived with more coming next week, said Rodney Juba, leader of Parkland’s Ukrainian Family Support Team.

“The families went through a rigorous interview process,” he said. “We have a lot of vacancies in our community and surrounding areas and these families have been matched with available jobs and they are checking out those job opportunities.”

Dauphin, Man., however, does not have doctors accredited to do IRCC medical exams. The trip to Winnipeg takes over 3.5 hours one way. Getting the physical is one problem, waiting for the updated work visa is another.

“There’s a rush from both sides. There’s a rush from the employer’s side to employ skilled workers. And there’s a rush from the family to get a job so they can start working. settle down, perhaps with the goal of putting down deep roots in our community,” Juba said. mentioned.

He too is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make the process faster and more efficient.

In an email, a spokesman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said Ukrainian work permit applications were being expedited.

“Work permit processing for Ukrainian nationals is currently 14 days, for non-complex standard cases,” Aidan Strickland wrote. “Individuals are encouraged to use the keyword ‘Ukraine 2022’ on all applications to ensure they are prioritized in our system,” she said, adding that the $155 processing fee was also removed.

She referred questions about the medical examination to provincial and territorial governments.

A spokesperson for the Manitoba government said it was working with the federal government to “streamline this process” for medical exams. The government has added additional resources to ensure medical tests are carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible, the provincial spokesperson said.

“Discussions about cost sharing are ongoing, but Manitoba will definitely be there as a partner,” the spokesperson said.

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