Auto insurance

Ukrainians fleeing war face unfair car insurance rates, refugee says

“Because Ukraine is not on the list of countries eligible for the exchange, we have to start the whole (qualification) process from scratch”

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Alberta’s refusal to recognize Ukrainian refugee driver’s licenses makes transportation unaffordable for already cash-strapped newcomers, said a recent arrival in Calgary.

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Albert Bronskyi, who came to Calgary in April when his hometown of Kharkiv was attacked by the Russians, said he was forced to pay $600 a month for car insurance – double the normal rate – because the province does not consider his driving qualifications equal to Alberta standards.

“I have a full-time job and an apartment, but there is still a problem with the license exchange,” said Bronskyi, who was visiting a grandparent in Colombia when Russian forces invaded. Ukraine in February.

“Because Ukraine is not on the list of countries eligible for the exchange, we have to start the whole (qualification) process from scratch.”

That involves surrendering their Ukrainian driver’s license, which results in a three-week waiting period for a new Alberta license, he said.

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“Not being able to drive for a month is tough,” Bronskyi said.

It also makes obtaining a practical qualifying test without a valid license a legal challenge, he added.

Other provinces, including Saskatchewan and Manitoba, he said, moved to recognize Ukrainian driver’s licenses in the spring — leaving Bronskyi to wonder why Alberta hasn’t followed suit.

“For some reason, there has been no idea to change that in Alberta when there are nearly 5,000 Ukrainian refugees here,” he said.

” That does not make sense. . . it is very frustrating.

The gap is a concern among Ukrainian refugees, said Inna Platonova, president of the Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“I’ve heard it over and over — it’s one of the issues we’re trying to get the province to take action on,” she said.

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“Calgary is a sprawling city and (affordable transportation) is important for that mobility, for getting to work and for accessing services. »

At the same time, Platonova said the community is grateful for the province’s recently announced income support programs and child care subsidies for Ukrainians fleeing a war that has created millions of refugees.

And she said this is one of the many challenges newcomers from Ukraine face.

“The first need is housing. . . Calgary is becoming one of the main destinations for them in Canada and is also a center for interprovincial migration,” said Platonova.

The Alberta government recognizes Ukrainian driver’s licenses for up to one year “and is considering options to allow Ukrainians to exchange their licenses on a more permanent basis, as Saskatchewan and Manitoba have done,” said Treasury Board and Finance spokesperson Paul Hamnett.

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He said the issue of premium amounts is a matter to be negotiated between motorists and insurance companies.

Albert Bronskyi, a recent arrival from Ukraine, poses in East Village near downtown Calgary on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.
Albert Bronskyi, a recent arrival from Ukraine, poses in East Village near downtown Calgary on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Jim Wells/Postmedia

Insurers have worked with Ukrainian newcomers to offer reasonable rates, but applicants are responsible for providing a driving record from their home country, said Andrew Bartucci, spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“The challenges this person expresses could be ameliorated if they could transfer/exchange their Ukrainian driver’s license to an Alberta license,” Bartucci said in an email.

“The key thing, however, is that transferring a driver’s license and driving history from Ukraine would make it easier for insurers to understand an individual’s driving record, which is a key factor in determining auto insurance premiums.”

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But Bronskyi said that because he is considered a permanent resident, he was only given a three-month grace period – not a year – to use his Ukrainian driver’s license, which expires next month.

And he said the war in Ukraine has left that country’s government struggling to provide driving records to refugees.

“It’s almost impossible because of the war situation at home, and some cities are occupied by the Russian army,” Bronskyi said.

There is no reason for the Alberta government not to follow in the footsteps of other provinces and ensure an exchange of driver’s licenses between Alberta and Ukraine, says NDP critic transport, Lorne Dach.

“They figured out how to do it in other provinces, it’s not rocket science,” he said.

“These are people who have escaped from homes where rockets are going through their apartments, and we should do what we can to make their transition here as easy as possible.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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