Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced on Thursday that the federal government has created two new pathways for Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country to come to Canada – part of a plan to accept a “number unlimited” of people who want to leave.

For starters, Fraser said his department has created a new visa category that will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians to come to Canada to live, work or study here for up to two years.

Those accepted under the Canada Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization program will have an open work or study permit and employers will be free to hire as many Ukrainians as they wish.

Fraser said the federal government is waiving most typical visa requirements, but applicants will still need to provide biometrics and go through a background check process before leaving for Canada. The application process will open in two weeks.

Fraser said the department is prepared for a possible influx of Ukrainians and that there are biometric kits and staff ready to help potential applicants at diplomatic posts in Warsaw, Vienna and Bucharest and 30 other locations across the country. ‘Europe. Canada is also waiving the application fee for all Ukrainians who wish to take advantage of this program.

The NDP wants Canada to abolish the visa requirement

Fraser also announced that the government was introducing a “fast track” to permanent residency for Ukrainians with family in Canada. The minister said a “wider circle of family members” will be able to sponsor Ukrainians who wish to come to Canada on a more permanent basis.

Some critics, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called on the government to scrap the visa requirement altogether to allow all Ukrainians to travel to Canada unhindered.

WATCH | Canada is introducing two new pathways for Ukrainians fleeing war to come to this country:

Canada announces new options for Ukrainians to come to Canada

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced new programs that will help Ukrainians fleeing war to travel to Canada to work, study or reunite with their families. 2:41

Asked about the possibility of visa-free travel for Ukrainians, Fraser said that this type of change would take 12 to 14 weeks of work to implement because the department’s IT systems would need “some renovations” and airlines would have to alter their normal processes. He said the situation is urgent and there is no time for a three-month delay.

Fraser also said it was prudent to do background checks on all applicants to weed out any Russian collaborators. He said a blanket visa waiver would mean some people could “fall through the cracks”, including Russian-aligned people who attacked Ukrainian forces in breakaway regions of Donbass.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress said the new pathways will help some of the nearly one million people who have already fled the country.

“Canada, along with all civilized nations, is coming together to support efforts to help these innocent people. Our community is grateful,” the group’s president, Alexandra Chyczij, said in a press release.

“Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian cities from the air. These are crimes against humanity that are causing a humanitarian catastrophe not seen in Europe since World War II.”

Canada imposes massive tariffs on all Russian imports

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also announced new measures on Thursday to tighten the screws on the Russian economy.

As punishment for what Freeland called a “barbaric” invasion of Ukraine, Canada is imposing a hefty 35% tariff on all exports from Russia and Belarus – a country that has been used as a staging base for Russian troops. The change could effectively end all trade between Canada and these former Soviet bloc countries.

Canada is also imposing sanctions on two major Russian oil and gas producers, Rosneft and Gazprom. This decision follows an earlier decision to stop all oil imports from Russia.

With the addition of these two major oil companies, Canada has now sanctioned over 1,000 Russian individuals and entities.

WATCH: Refugee crisis on Polish-Ukrainian border worsens

The growing humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Ukrainian border

A train station near the Polish-Ukrainian border is the scene of a growing humanitarian crisis as many Ukrainians arrive with no money and an uncertain future, something Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly witnessed firsthand . 2:16

Freeland said Canada and its G7 partners have already imposed the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. She said “more will follow in the days to come” as Russian forces continue to bombard Ukrainian cities with rockets and missiles.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that President Putin and his accomplices pay the price for this grave historic mistake,” Freeland said. “We cannot allow it to succeed and we will not.”

Freeland said Western actions have crippled the Russian economy.

The country’s central bank has raised the benchmark interest rate to 20%, a move that will wipe out Russian savings and drive up the price of everything. The country’s stock exchange has been closed for four days.

Two major rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, have downgraded Russia’s public debt to junk status, which will make it increasingly difficult for Putin and his regime to borrow money to finance his war machine. The country’s currency, the rouble, has seen a steep decline since the invasion and the resulting sanctions, with its value falling by around 30% against the US dollar.

“The economic costs of the Kremlin’s barbaric war machine are already high and they will continue to rise,” Freeland said. “I want the Russian leadership to understand that we are going to continue. There is a huge will among the democracies of the world to continue to increase the pressure.”

Canada deploys deadlier military aid

To help Ukrainians in the fight against Russian forces, Defense Minister Anita Anand announced that Canada would provide more lethal aid to the country.

Anand said Canada is sending 4,500 M72 rocket launchers and 7,500 hand grenades drawn from existing Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) stockpiles. She said these supplies will be deployed “as quickly and safely as possible”.

This expedition builds on an earlier commitment to send Ukraine up to $10 million in lethal and non-lethal aid, including sniper rifles, carbines, pistols, body armor and 1 .5 million cartridges.

Canada is also giving Ukraine about $1 million to purchase “high-resolution satellite imagery,” which will allow Ukrainian forces to monitor the movements of Russian forces as they continue their incursion.

“We will continue to strengthen measures to support Ukraine’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. The brutality of what we see on our screens angers everyone,” Anand said.

“A more violent conflict is not what Ukraine, Canada and the rest of the world want or need. We want peace.”

In this file photo from September 13, 2021, military vehicles and tanks from Poland, Italy, Canada and the United States drive during the NATO military exercises ”Namejs 2021” on a field of training in Kadaga, Latvia. NATO responded to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 by bolstering alliance forces and conducting exercises in the territories of its easternmost members. (Roman Koksarov/AP Photo)

The CAF also has about 3,400 personnel on “high readiness alert” for possible deployment to the region to provide more protection to NATO countries bordering Russia. Anand said NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe will decide whether these Canadian troops will be dropped into a country like Latvia in the coming weeks.

Canada already has troops on the ground as part of Operation Reassurance, which sent CAF personnel to Central and Eastern Europe to implement assurance and deterrence measures.