Registration opens Friday for first subsidized flights bringing Ukrainians to Canada

OTTAWA — Ukrainians looking for a free commercial flight to Canada subsidized by donations of Aeroplan points will be able to register online starting Friday, but they may have to hurry as only 500 plane tickets will be available.

OTTAWA — Ukrainians looking for a free commercial flight to Canada subsidized by donations of Aeroplan points will be able to register online starting Friday, but they may have to hurry as only 500 plane tickets will be available.

Details of this first round of registration appeared on the website of Miles4Migrants, the US non-profit organization providing the logistics for a partnership announced by the Trudeau government in April.

The program, which also involves Air Canada and Canadian charities such as the Shapiro Foundation, aims to provide free air travel to 10,000 people who fled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, only a small fraction of the target will be eligible when registration opens on Friday.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said he was not worried about the slow rollout of the program when asked about it in the House of Commons on Thursday to attend Question Period.

“I think it will be a very successful outcome,” Fraser said, adding that the plan was to start with 500 to ensure the program works as planned.

Fraser said the nonprofit had never operated on such a large scale, but the organization noted in a previous interview that it had worked with US authorities on a 20,000 airlift plan. Afghan nationals.

Miles4Migrants says only Ukrainian nationals who have a residence permit for Canada, such as those under an emergency program set up by the federal government, are eligible.

According to the most recent data released by the government, 127,153 applications have been approved. The program provides three-year temporary residency in Canada to Ukrainians and their immediate family members.

Miles4Migrants said another organisation, its “coordinating charity partner” Mosaic, will check the validity of each registration and contact those looking for a flight by June 17.

The program was originally scheduled to start with the first flights in May, but the nonprofit said it was confirming the logistics and the launch was pushed back to early June.

Last April, Canadians were asked to donate Aeroplan points and cash to help fund free flights.

Air Canada donated 100 million points itself, and according to the airline’s webpage, 147 million points were collected.

In addition to its partnership with Miles4Migrants, the federal government has also transported about 900 Ukrainians on three charter flights to Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax in recent weeks.

The Bloc Québécois has asked the Liberals to organize more charter flights.

“Given the time, I think the government has failed in its desire to help Ukrainians set foot on Canadian soil,” said Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, the party’s immigration spokesperson.

The federal government has not said whether other charter flights are planned. Fraser did not close the door to more federal charter flights, but said the flexibility of commercial flights is better because Ukrainians are spread across Europe, such as Poland and Germany.

“What we’re seeing right now from a federal perspective is that it’s been helpful to arrange charters,” Fraser said. “It’s actually more effective if we can push for business opportunities, especially through the Miles4Migrants initiative.”

For its part, Miles4Migrants writes on its website that “additional tickets will be made available later”.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 9, 2022.

Emilie Bergeron, The Canadian Press

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