Canada pledges additional $100 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins a global pledge rally remotely from Ottawa, co-hosting the event with European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, seated centre, on Saturday. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins a global pledge rally remotely from Ottawa, co-hosting the event with European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, seated centre, on Saturday. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Saturday that Canada would provide an additional $100 million in aid to help ease the ongoing refugee and humanitarian crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"This is a moment where the world needs to come together, to stand up for Ukraine and to stand up for our values and principles," Trudeau said as part of his closing remarks, delivered remotely to a global pledge rally from Ottawa.

The rally, co-hosted by Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, culminated Saturday in commitments of $12.4 billion from countries to help with the crisis. The funds promised by Canada will be channelled through humanitarian agencies.

The humanitarian funding comes on top of new promises unveiled in the federal budget this week, which included $500 million in military aid, as well as an offer of an additional $1 billion in loans to Ukraine.

Trudeau also highlighted changes to Canada's immigration system that are intended to help more people fleeing the conflict find refuge in this country. Those changes include additional charter flights, short-term income support, temporary accommodation in hotels and more help with integration.

In a call later on Saturday, Zelensky thanked Trudeau for his participation in the pledge rally, while both leaders condemned recent Russian actions and called on the country to end the war in Ukraine.

Sean Fraser, Canada's immigration minister, said earlier this week that more than 12,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since the beginning of the year. Earlier in the week, Canada had received more than 112,000 applications for an expedited program to come to Canada, and 30,000 of those applications had been approved, he said Saturday.

Fraser said Canada was already suspending biometrics collection — a key part of the process — for some low-risk groups, including people under 18, those over 60 and some people with previous Canadian visas.

Almost 4.5 million refugees have left Ukraine since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations. More than half of those are in Poland, where the pledge rally was held Saturday.

Denunciations of alleged war crimes

The policy moves come as Canadian officials are turning up the temperature on their rhetoric concerning Russia, prompted by revelations and mounting evidence of alleged war crimes perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine. Those accusations have this week centred on the town of Bucha, near the capital Kyiv, where witnesses have seen evidence of murdered and tortured civilians.

Trudeau referred to the conflict on Saturday as "Vladimir Putin's evil war" and denounced attacks against civilians — and particularly sexual violence against women — as an attempt "to crush the Ukrainian spirit, the Ukrainian identity." Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said earlier in the week that what happened in Bucha was "clearly war crimes."

In her budget speech on Thursday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister, explicitly labelled Putin a war criminal.

"The world's democracies — including our own — can be safe only once the Russian tyrant and his armies are entirely vanquished," she said.

In an interview on CBC's The House, which aired Saturday, Freeland, who has close personal and familial ties with Ukraine, said she delivered that speech in her official capacity.

"That was a statement of a really important fact for Canada's national security. The reality today — and it is a terrible reality — is that Vladimir Putin is the biggest threat to Canada's national security and the security of the world," she told host Chris Hall.

Freeland said Ukraine is on the front line of that fight and needs Canada's support.

"They are fighting this fight. They are dying in this fight, but we can help them."

WATCH | Chrystia Freeland discusses war in Ukraine during budget speech:

Russia has denied that its military forces were responsible for the deaths in Bucha, claiming the images were fabricated.

Speaking to CBC's Power & Politics earlier this week, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, said Russia should not be believed.

"I think it's just preposterous for the Russians to claim it's all fake. It's not fake. There is more of it to come."