Local Ukrainian relief update –people want to help

By Louise Smith

On the front page of the Brome County News last week was an article by Taylor McClure focusing on the work of Bohdana Zwonok. She was gathering materials for Ukrainian refugees. In just one week the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster has only grown. Distribution of goods is becoming an issue as Russia now is targeting areas in the western part of Ukraine close to the Polish border. For updates on her efforts there are two Facebook groups that can be looked at, Knowlton.com and Lac-Brome.com.

In a separate article the Bears for Peace Campaign at Emmanuel United Church in Cowansville was featured. The church was hoping to raise $400over a six-week period and in only one week, half of the goal was met! Karen Ingalls, the church secretary, had someone who had gone to Massey-Vanier at the same time as her, drop by last week to purchase some of the bears. A member of Trinity Church dropped off a donation. People outside of the congregation are making a connection and it is appreciated. The Welcome Project centered in the church is getting some attention as well. For more information or to buy a bear, the church office phone number is 450-263-0204.

Finally, some movement towards accepting Ukrainian refugees seems to be taking momentum, but there are still questions around the extensive government paperwork that is forming a hindrance to getting people in quickly. The email given for the federal representative for our area, mentioned in an article was inaccurate. The email for Pascale St. Onge is pascale.st-onge@parl.gc.ca. Someone contacted me to get the correct email, as she wanted to offer accommodation for a Ukrainian family. It does not hurt to contact governmental representatives to encourage speed in getting things done and to ask questions.

Provincially, our MNA is Isabelle Charest of the CAQ. She is the Minister Responsible for Women and is Junior Education Minister. Under Bill 101, for humanitarian reasons, children can attend English schools. However, according to a report by Amy Luft of CTV News, on March 17, Education Minister, Jean-Francois Roberge, has stated that he is committed to integrating Ukrainian refugees into the French sector of schooling even if English is the second language of some of the refugees. Premier Legault has made statements that in an interim situation he is open to the idea of making an exception. But nothing is clear. Anyone wishing to contact their provincial rep to make their opinions known, or to receive further information, can contact Isabelle Charest at minister.deleguee@education.gouv.qc.ca or at 418-266-3255.

One thing that is clear is that many in the Eastern Townships and beyond want to do something productive to help alleviate the terrible circumstances in which refugees from Ukraine have found themselves.

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