More rallies are planned this weekend in Nelson and Castlegar in support of Ukraine.
Organizer Olga Hallborg says Nelson’s mayor and councillors have been invited to the first event on Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of city hall.
She has posed two questions for them: how might the city help newcomers to the area who are fleeing the war in Ukraine, and would they support a no-fly zone over Ukraine as the country has requested?
A second rally is planned Sunday at 1 p.m. in front of Castlegar city hall. A previous rally in Castlegar drew about 50 people.
Hallborg says she’s not sure how many Ukrainians might be headed to the West Kootenay, but she has invited some friends and family.
“I’m waiting for one of my friends to get a visitor’s visa,” she says. “My nephew might be here as well at some point. We’re in the process of applying to enter the country under special authorization.”
In the meantime, she says the federal government is recommending people apply through all other available visas. Canada has indicated a speedier process will be available within weeks, but for now they must stick to the normal channels.
“Applying for a visitor’s visa is routine,” Hallborg says. “It’s not harder but it’s not any easier at this time.”
Hallborg notes the government has indicated Ukrainian refugees will be granted work permits when they cross the border, but she says many will not be able to speak English, so their job opportunities will be limited.
While she would like to see this area provide a haven, “there would be important questions regarding availability of English classes, so those people can integrate in society while they are here temporarily.”