By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s finance minister is hinting that tomorrow’s budget will include additional support for immigration and settlement services as the province prepares to welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
Cameron Friesen has skipped the tradition of buying new shoes before tabling the budget.
Friesen instead presented the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Manitoba with shoeboxes filled with personal hygiene items for people forced to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Friesen says Manitoba has been working to ensure provincial support services will be in place for the refugees, including housing, health and mental health care and language services.
Manitoba previously provided $800,000 for humanitarian aid and it developed a group to co-ordinate the planning and preparations to welcome Ukrainians.
Friesen was tight-lipped about what further investments would look like.
“Budget 2022 has fully contemplated the arrival of Ukrainians in Manitoba. Whatever number that is in our books, we must expend to see the arrival, the settlement and the support of Ukrainians. We will invest that money,” he said.
The province has yet to welcome an influx of Ukrainian refugees through the federal government’s emergency visa program, added Friesen.
He said he expects to see thousands of Ukrainians settle in Manitoba. The government has previously said it will accept whoever wants to settle in the province.
“We’re making better estimates each day in terms of what our capacity is. But this initial work has gone to working very quickly to understand what do we need to be ready, so housing and food and services like language and child care.”
The Manitoba chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been spearheading efforts to welcome Ukrainians. The volunteer-based group has arranged for families to help refugees once they arrive.
Joan Lewandosky, president of the Manitoba chapter, welcomed the shoeboxes as a symbol of the province’s and Manitobans’ support for Ukrainians.
“They confirm that decency and human kindness have no borders, that Manitoba and its people openly welcome these newcomers and that light and goodness will ultimately prevail over evil and darkness,” she said.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.