Skyrocketing Auto Insurance Rates for Ukrainian Refugees in NL

The Canadian Press was able to see the submissions of two companies that offer car insurance to refugees. One was $5592 and the other was $8288 for one year.

The average rate in Newfoundland and Labrador is $1200 according to the General Insurance Statistical Agency.

According to Adilya Dragan, who helps many of the 166 Ukrainian refugees who recently arrived in the province, the high rates are a major concern for those who have chosen to settle in Saint John.

It’s really a lotsaid Ms. Dragan, who is originally from Russia, in an interview on Tuesday.

Most have found jobs that pay between $15 and $20 an hour, making paying for car insurance impossible, she adds.

A difficult integration

Newfoundland and Labrador is the province that became involved early in the arrival of Ukrainians. An office was set up in Warsaw in March to help those fleeing attacks by Russian forces and the province is the first to charter a plane to bring Ukrainians to Canada. The flight arrived on May 9 in Saint-Jean.

Ms. Dragan says some Ukrainians, especially those who don’t speak English, have only been able to find jobs outside the city centre. Others have found employment there, but are unable to find housing due to the competitive rental market in the area.

The vacancy rate in Saint-Jean was 3.1% in October 2021, a significant drop from 7.5% a year earlier according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

So Adilya Dragan drives a 31-year-old man to work every day because he can’t afford the insurance. He works on a construction site in Conception Bay South, 30 kilometers from the capital.

Needs for affordable housing too

Monica Abdelkader, director of settlement services at the Association for New Canadians, says these high insurance rates also illustrate the need for more affordable housing in the Saint-Jean area.

She notes that several single mothers in the group also have to shell out money for daycare services or day camps for their children this summer.

She points out that the insurance problem is not unique to Ukrainians.

It’s a long-standing problem for newcomersshe notes.

She explains that refugees arrive in the country without a Canadian driver’s license, from countries where it is difficult to obtain driving records or other documents. She adds that prices usually drop after 90 days and then after a year.

But in the meantime, the newcomers are starting to settle down and have to find a solution. In the case of Ukrainian refugees, some employers increased their salaries to cover some of the costs until the rates were manageable.

NL calls on insurers to act

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne says insurance companies are under no obligation to charge such high rates.

Provincial Immigration, Population Growth and Skills Minister Gerry Byrne.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Patrick Butler

The government is asking the insurance industry in our province to do like the rest of the province and find solutions, and not exploit this as an opportunity to generate more revenue.says Byrne.

The province is trying to find a solution to grant a provincial driver’s license to people who hold one valid in Ukraine and an announcement is expected in the coming days.

Insurance Bureau of Canada Atlantic Vice-President Amanda Dean that this would help.

She encourages Ukrainians and insurance brokers to call them to express their concerns. She adds that Ukrainians should inform companies of the reasons why they do not have certain documents or information on their driving record. This allows brokers to explain the situation to insurance underwriters who ultimately decide the cost of policies.

We have a lot of discussions about it right now. This is something new and we definitely want to work with brokers and governmentssays Dean.

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