What can Canada do for the Ukraine?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

This week — and possibly as early as Monday night — our parliamentarians will hold an emergency debate about the situation in the Ukraine.

As has been widely reported, that country is currently embroiled in a struggle between anti-government protesters and a regime accused of harsh detainment and even acts of violence against it's own people. Protests erupted last November when President Viktor Yanukovych decided to put off a plan to deepen ties with the European Union. As explained by the Associated Press, most Ukrainians want to strengthen their association with the EU while limiting Russian influence over the former Soviet-controlled nation.

In this country, individuals from all political stripes, are calling-on the Harper government to intervene.

Last week, two Conservative MPs — Ted Opitz and James Bezan — asked the government for an emergency debate in the House of Commons. The Prime minister agreed.

"We understand that this violence is occurring because the majority of the population is very worried about the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past," Harper told reporters, according to CBC News.

"The government of Canada very much shares the concern of the majority of the Ukrainian people."

[ Related: Harper to call for emergency debate on Ukraine ]

But what can Canada do?

Liberal MP, Chrystia Freeland thinks that Canada should be playing a bigger role.

In op-ed published in the Globe and Mail on Sunday, the new MP for Toronto-Centre suggests that Canada must intervene because what happens in the Ukraine can have repercussions across the region and around the world.

"The [Ukrainian] struggle is now openly a battle about democratic values: it will end only with severe repression or a total climbdown by the regime. The outcome matters," she wrote.

"We have both a moral and a geopolitical interest in the victory of Ukraine’s democrats. Fortunately, Canada can act to support them – and we must.

"Ukrainian opposition leaders have already called on the west to moderate talks between the protesters and the Yanukovych administration. Canada should play a leading role in that effort. Whatever the outcome of talks, the presence of Western leaders makes a further government crackdown more visible, more costly, and therefore less likely."

[ Related: Four things to watch for as Parliament resumes ]

Former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj shares in Freeland's sense of urgency.

In a lengthy Facebook rant, posted on Saturday, the third-generation Ukrainian-Canadian expressed his frustration at the lack of government action.

"For 2 months Ukrainian Canadians have been in anguish as they've watched Yanukovich brutalize their Ukrainian "brothers" and "sisters" as he attempts to introduce a police state with the encouragement and aid of Kremlin dictator Putin," he wrote.

Wrzesnewskyj is calling for Canada to institute sanctions against the Yanukovich administration in the form of visa bans and the freezing of 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?"

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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