Ukrainian refugees in NL hit with car insurance rates 5 times provincial average

Ukrainians who fled the Russian invasion of their country and arrived in Newfoundland are being asked to pay thousands of dollars more for car insurance than the provincial average. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Ukrainians who fled the Russian invasion of their country and arrived in Newfoundland are being asked to pay thousands of dollars for car insurance, and activists say the high rates are complicating the refugees’ efforts to settle in the province. .

The Canadian Press saw two auto insurance quotes provided to Ukrainian refugees in St. John’s: one for $5,592 a year and one for $8,288 a year. Meanwhile, the average annual rate in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2020 was just over $1,200, according to the General Agency for Insurance Statistics.

Adilya Dragan, a liaison for many of the 166 Ukrainian refugees who recently arrived in the province, says the high fees are the most important thing for many who have chosen to settle in the St. John area.

“It’s really a lot,” Dragan, originally from Russia, said in an interview Tuesday.

Most have landed jobs that pay $15 to $20 an hour, putting high insurance rates completely out of reach, he added.

Newfoundland and Labrador led the country in bringing Ukrainians to Canada. The province opened an office in Warsaw in March to help those fleeing Russian attacks, and was the first province to charter a plane carrying refugees to Canada. That flight landed on May 9 in St. John’s.

Dragan said that some Ukrainians, especially those who cannot speak English, have only been able to find jobs outside the city center. Others have found work in St. John’s but can’t find a home in the region’s tight rental market, he said.

The vacancy rate in St. John’s was 3.1% in October 2021, up from 7.5% a year earlier, according to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.

Dragan drives a 31-year-old Ukrainian man to work every weekday because he can’t afford insurance, he said. He works construction in Conception Bay South, about 30 miles southwest of St. John’s.

Housing pressure

Monica Abdelkader, director of settlement services for the province’s Association of New Canadians, says she agrees that high insurance rates are putting pressure on the need for affordable housing in the St. John region.

Abdelkader, like Dragan, points out that there are many single mothers in the group who will also have to pay for summer camps and childcare as schools close for the summer.

She says sky-high insurance rates aren’t unique to Ukrainian refugees.

“This is a problem that has plagued newcomers for a long time,” Abdelkader said in an interview Tuesday. “A lot of work has been done in this area, research has been done in the past and nothing has really changed.”

A gathering inside St. John International Airport following the arrival of 166 Ukrainians in May. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Refugees arrive without Canadian driver’s licenses, from countries where it is likely to be difficult or impossible to obtain driving records and other paperwork, he said, adding that costs tend to come down a bit after the first 90 days in the country, and then again. after a year. .

But in the meantime, Abdelkader said, newcomers are starting from scratch and often alone to find a solution. In the case of Ukrainians in Newfoundland and Labrador, some employers increased the refugees’ wages to help them pay for insurance until rates became more manageable, he added.

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne says insurance companies are not required by the province or its public services board to charge such high rates.

“The government is asking our province’s insurance industry to do what the entire province has done, which is come forward and offer solutions and not exploit this as an opportunity to increase revenue,” Byrne said in an interview Tuesday.

The province is working on a way to obtain Newfoundland and Labrador driver’s licenses for refugees who have licenses in Ukraine, with an announcement expected in the coming days, it added.

Amanda Dean, Atlantic’s vice president for Canada’s Insurance Bureau, said that could be “helpful.”

He encouraged Ukrainians and insurance brokers to call the office with their concerns. Ukrainians should also tell brokers why certain documents or driving records might be missing, Dean said, so brokers can explain the situation to subscribers, who ultimately decide prices.

“We’re having a lot of conversations on this topic and others right now,” Dean said in an interview Tuesday.

“It’s something new, and we absolutely want to work with brokers and the government.”

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