Canada announces symbolic measure against Ukrainian regime

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander speaks to reporters

They didn't go as far as some would have liked, but the Harper government is going to implement a minor measure against the Ukrainian regime for their actions against anti-government protesters.

On Tuesday afternoon — just one day after an emergency Parliamentary debate on the issue — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that their government will bar certain individuals from the Ukrainian regime from entering Canada.

"Canada remains deeply concerned by the escalating violence that has occurred in Ukraine in past weeks. We strongly condemn the killing of protesters," Alexander told reporters on Parliament Hill.

"After extensive consultations with stakeholders including allies our government has been compelled to take action and indeed meaningful action. Today our government is announcing that effectively we will restrict entry into Canada for key Ukrainian government officials that have been responsible for their repression and silencing of opposition voices."

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It's a symbolic gesture at a time when some Ukrainian Canadians have been calling on the government to take stronger action.

Former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj says that he was disappointed by Tuesday's announcement.

"Clearly not adequate," he told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"[It] would have been a good first step in November when the students were first brutalized in Independence Square."

In a lengthy Facebook rant posted on Saturday, Wrzesnewskyj called for Canada to institute sanctions against President Viktor Yanukovych's administration in the form of visa bans and freezing assets; he wants Citizenship and Immigration to welcome injured Ukrainian protesters and family members of killed protesters without delay; and he wants Canada to send observers to the troubled region.

"For 2 months our community has called on Prime Minister Harper to show international leadership and impose targeted sanctions," Wrzesnewskyj wrote.

"How much more violence and bloodshed is necessary for our government to act?"

Baird says that despite the good news on Tuesday — that the Ukrainian prime minister has resigned and that the regime has repealed strict anti-protest laws — further sanctions are still possible.

"I think this is not a final step for Canada. This is another process in our engagement in support of freedom and prosperity in Ukraine," he said.

"Obviously we're following the situation on an hour-and-hour basis.

"I think this is an important step and we'll obviously continue to follow it. And increased action, if and when it's required. We want to send a strong message that what we see going on in the streets of this great country are unacceptable."

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Former Liberal MP David Kilgour says that he agrees with Wrzesnewskyj that Canada must take significant action.

"For almost 27 years as MP, I listened to the 18 or so per cent of the residents of southeast Edmonton, whose families were in those years of origin in Ukraine," Kilgour said in an email exchange with Yahoo Canada News on Monday.

"Canada was the first country to recognize the independence of Ukraine. About 1100 of us Canadians observed the Orange election of 2006 after Yanukovych's rigged victory in 2004 was overturned. Our group was at an electoral outpost near the Russian border.

"In short, what happens in Ukraine is of the utmost importance to many Canadians of any background or should be."

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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