“I feel helpless”: Ukrainian journalists are denied subsidized daycare in Quebec because of their status
When Oleksandra Zhovtiuk chose to settle in Quebec after fleeing her war-torn city of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, she said she chose the French province for one reason: its low-cost government daycare centers. renowned.
“Here, I was told they have these daycares at $8 a day, so it’s like the best option for Canada,” said Zhovtiuk, a single mother who lives in the Côte-des-Côtes borough. Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce of Montreal.
With three children, ages two, four and seven, she thought, “OK, I could [be able to] afford,” she said.
After arriving in Quebec in July, Zhovtiuk quickly applied for places for her two youngest children at two local subsidized child care centers and was accepted into both. She even went so far as to sign an enrollment contract.
So it came as a shock to Zhovtiuk when both daycares abruptly withdrew the spots, telling him it was because of his newcomer status.
“They were ready to take my children, but then I got the call from [administration] … that the government is not [allowing] Ukrainians to put their children in day care centres,” she said.
Parents pay $8.70 per child per day in subsidized Quebec daycares. The cost of a place in an unsubsidized daycare varies from $35 to $60 per child.
“I’m just very sad about this situation because it puts me in a corner, it’s so expensive…I feel helpless,” Zhovtiuk said.
Refugees, but “not refugees here”
In order to qualify for subsidized child care in Quebec, parents must be recognized as a refugee or protected person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They must also hold a certificate issued under the Quebec Immigration Act.
But despite traveling to find safety, newcomers from Ukraine who entered Canada under an emergency federal immigration program – created to streamline the immigration process – are not eligible, because they are not considered refugees.
The program – called the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET) – is a three-year temporary visa program, under which newcomers are classified as temporary residents.
“CUAET is not a program for refugees, as Ukrainians have indicated that they need temporary refuge, and many of them intend to return to their home countries when will be sure to do so,” read a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Canada.
This means that these people can work and study in Canada for three years. However, unlike refugees, they do not have a permanent residence and therefore do not have access to the standard range of services generally offered to people fleeing conflict.
“We’re kind of in the middle, you know, like we’re refugees, but we’re not refugees here because we have work permit visas and we’re not normal citizens,” Zhovtiuk said.
According to Quebec’s immigration ministry, the province welcomed more than 1,500 Ukrainian households between April 1 and August 3, representing just under 3,000 people, the majority of whom arrived through the CUAET program.
No exceptions, says Quebec
According to a press release from the Quebec Ministry of Family, there will be no exception for newcomers from Ukraine seeking subsidized daycare if they are not eligible for the service due to their status.
“We are very sensitive to the situation Ukrainians are currently experiencing. However, for all parents residing in Quebec, the same criteria apply to determine eligibility for the reduced contribution, including Ukrainian nationals,” the statement said.
According to the department, these people have access to daycare services offered by unsubsidized daycare centres, to services offered by stop-over daycare centers and to a new tax credit for enhanced daycare expenses.
Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, says these options are not enough for newcomers, who often arrive with nothing.
“These are people who need a helping hand and if we don’t help them with proper care for their children while they’re trying to get established, it’s going to be a void for them,” he said. -he declares.
Shwec says while he acknowledges the new visa program was put in place quickly, he wants the federal and provincial governments to discuss adding $8.70 subsidized daycare to the CUAET program for newcomers arriving in Quebec.
“We want to enable them to succeed and ensure success and if we don’t help them with daycare it is put in jeopardy,” he said.
“We really, really need it”
Maryna Lunhu knows firsthand how crucial subsidized child care is for her and other Ukrainians in her position.
Her job search is on hold and her six-week intensive English course at McGill University is more difficult to continue now that she has to take care of her youngest. He was kicked out of his subsidized daycare a month and a half into his contract.
“I have a little shock… it’s very, very, very, very difficult,” said this mother of two, living in the Saint-Laurent borough in Montreal.
With her husband back in Ukraine, her 10-year-old son in summer camp and her 4-year-old son in need of full-time care, Lunhu worries about her financial situation. She plans to enroll her youngest son in kindergarten early so that she can find a job to support her family once the school year begins.
“We want to stay here, [I] want the best future [for] my children… But I have to go to work,” she said.
Zhovtiuk said she hopes the government will recognize the unique situation of thousands of Ukrainians, most of whom have come to the country with empty pockets and depend on these low-cost child care centers to gently introduce their children to a new culture.
“Actually, I’m willing to learn French just to stay here…but I just need that time with daycare because we all want to fit in,” she said.
“And this possibility [was] swept away…we really, really need it.”