Aeroplan points can now be donated to help Ukrainians, Ottawa says

OTTAWA—As Russia continues its eastern offensive, those hoping to help Ukrainians find a safe haven in Canada now have a new way to lend a hand — donating their Aeroplan points.

Under a new program announced by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on Wednesday, Ukrainian nationals and their families wanting to travel to Canada will be able to use the donated points to fly here.

The Ukraine2Canada travel fund is open to all Ukrainians and their family members, as long as they possess valid Canadian travel documents and are approved for travel to Canada.

“While we as a government continue to do everything we can to support Ukrainians before and after they arrive in Canada, there’s been an immense showing of goodwill from Canadians across the country who simply want to do their part to contribute to something they believe is the right thing,” Fraser told reporters. Details on how Ukrainians can access the program will be made available in a few weeks.

The program is a partnership between non-profit charity Miles4Migrants, The Shapiro Foundation and Air Canada, and its aim is to bring at least 10,000 Ukrainians to Canada on commercial flights.

Points can be donated online through Air Canada or Miles4Migrants. Cash donations can be made to the fund through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto.

Fraser said a corporate partnership was necessary because the federal government isn’t “in the business of extending cash grants to people who are thinking about coming to Canada, but haven’t made that decision.”

In most cases, providing that type of support usually comes from “centrally organized humanitarian efforts,” the minister said.

The announcement comes on top of a pledge from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this month to launch targeted charter flights to Canada for Ukrainians, provide short-term income support to new arrivals and offer temporary hotel accommodations for up to two weeks.

The United Nations’ refugee agency reported this week that just over five million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion began nearly two months ago.

Ottawa has said it is prepared to accept an “unlimited” number of Ukrainians, announcing in March the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, the government’s primary pathway to bring people displaced by the invasion into Canada.

The emergency program, which is not a traditional refugee immigration stream, gives Ukrainians free visitor visas allowing them to stay in Canada for up to three years. A valid travel document is not required to apply and family members of Ukrainian nationals can also take part.

Fraser said Wednesday that more than 54,000 people have now been approved through the pathway.

The federal government has faced criticism for expediting application processes for Ukrainians but not others fleeing their home countries, particularly as Canada has been slow to bring in the 40,000 Afghan refugees the country promised last year to resettle.

RP

Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel

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