As some Canadian tech companies take steps to support Ukrainians, others are cutting ties with Russia

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In addition to their support, some startups are following the example of the Canadian government by sanctioning Russia.

In a microcosm of world events, some members of the Canadian tech community are moving to help Ukrainians while others are cutting ties with Russian affiliates as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third week.

A group of Canadian entrepreneurs, including Solon Angel, Founder and Chief Impact Officer of MindBridge AI, Kostyantyn Khomutov, CEO of GBatteries, and Fahd Alhattab of Unicorn Labs, have launched a non-profit organization, Ukrainetocanada.org, dedicated helping Ukrainian refugees reach Canada.

The organization’s launch comes as the federal government created two special programs for Ukrainians fleeing war that allow refugees to stay temporarily or permanently in Canada. Like other countries, Canada waives most of the requirements that exist under a traditional unlimited visa for applications accepted under the stream. Nearly 2.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

Canada has the third largest Ukrainian population in the world, with some 1.4 million Ukrainians living there.

Angel noted in a LinkedIn post that aside from his family and his responsibilities at MindBridge, he plans to devote all of his efforts to working with Ukrainetocanada.org.

“We are immigrants, entrepreneurs and human beings,” the group writes on its website. “When the world turned around for Ukrainian citizens, we immediately cleared our calendars and went to work helping Ukrainian refugees flee to safety.”

Angel also posted stories of Ukrainian refugees on her LinkedIn, shared available job openings and called for help.

Daryna Kulya, the co-founder of OpenPhone, also took to LinkedIn to call on people to talk about the war, donate to charities supporting Ukrainian troops, and help Ukrainians by buying products at their businesses or by hiring.

Based in San Francisco but founded in Canada, OpenPhone is a startup that provides businesses with cloud-based phone numbers. The startup has made calls and messages made through its platform to Ukraine free of charge.

“Today I want to share with you the pain of someone who had to call his parents at 5am (when he was thousands of miles away) and wake them up telling them the war was on. course,” wrote Kulya, who is Ukrainian. She wrote of the “desperation of someone helping their family navigate the map of bomb shelters and trying to get to safety”.

The group behind Ukrainetocanada.org and Kulya aren’t the only ones who want to help Ukrainians. VanHack, an organization dedicated to helping international tech talent find work in the Canadian tech ecosystem, recently announced that it will waive its placement fees for all Ukrainian tech hires. The tech recruiting company also encourages employers to donate to verified Ukrainian charities in lieu of its placement fee.

VanHack has also created a resource for companies to easily find Ukrainian tech talent through its website. VanHack also said its global mobility team is equipped to support Ukrainian tech talent by offering emergency immigration and relocation services to candidates, as well as additional financial and logistical assistance through its partners. .

WFHomie, an employee engagement and people analytics startup, hosted a virtual music bingo event on March 9, with 100% of proceeds going to Save the Children, Ukraine Crisis Appeal. The latter is a charitable organization that provides humanitarian aid to 7.5 million Ukrainian children. Pavla Bobosikova, CEO and co-founder of WFHomie, is part-Ukrainian and has strong Eastern European roots.

Major Canadian tech companies like Hopper, Shopify and Wealthsimple have also taken steps to support Ukrainians.

Travel technology company Hopper has announced plans to fund a total of USD 50,000 through its integrated credit system to people fleeing Ukraine and in need of temporary accommodation in neighboring countries.

“We hope this booking credit will help ease the financial burden for hundreds of refugees,” Hopper wrote. Airbnb made a similar move in February, announcing it would provide free temporary housing to 100,000 displaced Ukrainians.

For its part, Wealthsimple has announced that it will waive all transaction and transfer fees for Wealthsimple Crypto clients who wish to donate Bitcoin or Ethereum to the Ukrainian government.

Shopify has announced that it will not collect fees from our Ukrainian merchants and partners, and will not match donations from employees supporting a relief effort.

While many startups and founders are extending their help to the Ukrainian people, a number – like Shopify – have also expressed their intention to limit or cut ties with Russian organizations during the brutal invasion, which saw hospitals and civilians targeted in repeated bombings of several towns. Shopify has temporarily suspended operations in Russia and Belarus, noting that it “will comply with applicable sanctions as they are announced.”

The companies appear to be following the lead of the Canadian government, which has said companies doing business in Russia or with Russian entities should consider seeking legal advice and referring to regulations on the Canadian sanctions website in this regard. regarding activities that may violate Canadian law. penalty law.

In addition, François-Philippe Champagne, Federal Minister for Innovation, and Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, recently asked that research funding organizations under government responsibility refrain from entering into agreements with institutions Russian research.

In particular, the Canadian government cited the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The federal government has also called on other entities receiving federal funding for science and research, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Institute for Quantum Computing, to restrict their engagements with Russia.

In response to questions from BetaKit, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Institute for Quantum Computing claimed to have no ties to Russian collaborators.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation specifically noted that it “does not have formal agreements or relationships with Russian post-secondary institutions or their government.”

And for its part, the Institute for Quantum Computing informed BetaKit: “Currently, the Institute for Quantum Computing has no funded research collaborations with Russia.”

The federal ministers went on to say, “Recognizing the historic role that scientists, scholars and researchers have played in defending freedom against tyranny, we do not call for a broad ban on collaborations with individual Russian researchers. .

“However, we have asked research granting agencies to put in place strict measures to prohibit the funding of research collaborations that could serve the interests of Vladimir Putin’s regime,” the ministers added.

Following the announcement of the sanctions by the Canadian government, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) alerted all “market participants” to the economic sanctions recently imposed by the Canadian government. The CSA warned that the sanctions impact crypto-asset trading platforms and investment funds, among others, and that they could be directly affected if they “cross with any of the “designated persons” sanctioned by the CSA. the federal government”.

“All market participants are encouraged to exercise due diligence and consider obtaining expert advice to understand, track and continuously monitor their obligations under the regulations,” the CSA advised.

Like Shopify, other tech organizations taking a stand against Russia include Collision, which is slated to take place in Toronto in June. The group said it would ban organizations with ties to the Russian government from participating in the event. Collision also banned all Russian companies from exhibiting at the tech conference.

For his part, Kurtis McBride, co-founder and CEO of smart city startup Miovision, said he was suspending service for all Russian customers until Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine and that “complete repairs be carried out”.

The move by Kitchener-Waterloo-based Miovision comes as regional leader BlackBerry also ceased all business operations in Russia.

Back on his LinkedIn, Solon Angel explained why Canadian tech leaders were getting involved in the Ukraine crisis: “If the Ukrainian presence was a city in Canada, it would be as big as #Ottawa. That’s why it affects us. »

Photo by Tina Hartung on Unsplash.

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