Manitoba sets aside low-budget shoe tradition for symbolic shoeboxes for Ukraine

The Progressive Conservative government has once again broken with the tradition of buying a new pair of shoes for budget day.

This year, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen took the opportunity to demonstrate the government’s commitment to resettling as many Ukrainians fleeing war as possible.

He packed shoeboxes full of toiletries and other personal items to give to arriving Ukrainians, Friesen said.

“We will take as many Ukrainians as we can looking for safe haven,” he said Monday at the Winnipeg headquarters of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada.

“I know there are those who say, ‘We should be doing more.’ I want to be clear that budget 2022 fully considered Ukrainians coming to Manitoba, so whatever number on our books we have to spend to see Ukrainians coming, settling and supporting, we We’ll invest that money,” Friesen said.

Friesen made the promise the day before his government’s provincial budget was released. He said the budget would provide additional supports for immigration and settlement services.

Twist on a budget tradition

Over the past few years, the Conservative government has bought shoes for other people, ranging from a newcomer to a construction worker. It is tradition across Canada for the Minister of Finance to buy new shoes.

Joan Lewandowski, chair of the provincial council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Manitoba, said the shoebox gesture was significant.

“While the shoeboxes of hygiene products presented today are largely symbolic in nature, they demonstrate that Ukraine is not alone,” she said.

“They confirm that decency and human kindness know no boundaries, that Manitoba and its people openly welcome these newcomers, and that light and goodness will eventually prevail over evil and darkness.”

Shoeboxes containing toiletries and other personal items are reserved for displaced Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country. (Pool Camera/Urban TV)

Friesen said the government would spare no expense in settling Ukrainians. He said the government was going through several estimates of the number of people moving to Manitoba, but he did not provide those numbers.

He noted that one in seven Manitobans is of Ukrainian descent. “We think a lot of people will look at Manitoba and say, ‘I wish I was there. “”

Friesen said the government is making financial provisions to support their arrival, as well as support in the areas of housing, healthcare, mental health, education, childcare, assistance, language services and employment assistance.

Manitoba has already pledged $800,000 in humanitarian aid.

Friesen called the speed at which the government’s task force is moving to prepare Manitoba “breathtaking.”

At this point, Canada has taken in 14,000 refugees from Ukraine under the federal government’s emergency visa program, but so far they have all settled in centers larger than Manitoba.

The United Nations estimates that 4.3 million Ukrainians have fled their homes for neighboring countries, with millions still displaced within the country itself.