Greens question decision to send more 'offensive' weapons to Ukraine

Construction workers climb onto the roof of a destroyed church in the village of Bohorodychne, Donetsk region on January 4, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
Construction workers climb onto the roof of a destroyed church in the village of Bohorodychne, Donetsk region on January 4, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

The Green Party says Canada should consider restricting the types of weapons it sends to Ukraine and should press for a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Both positions make the party an outlier on the Canadian political landscape. One Ukrainian-Canadian group called them "a moral obscenity."

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Pedneault described Russia's war on Ukraine as illegal and said he has supported the Canadian government's previous decisions to send weapons to Ukrainian forces.

But as the conflict passes the one year mark, he said, he worries about where the tanks and aircraft donated by allies could ultimately end up.

"I am questioning the whole question of supplying weapons in active conflict areas such as this one, weapons that can be used for offensive purposes," he said.

Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press
Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

Pedneault described being in Ukraine during the first 10 days of the conflict as part of his previous job documenting human rights violations for Human Rights Watch.

"One thing that I know, having spent 14 years working in conflict areas, is that an aggrieved party — for all the good reasons and human reasons — will most likely and often try and seek revenge," he said.

"Do we have any assurances that war will stop at the border of Russia once territory is reclaimed?"

Pedneault pointed to Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of places where western military aid was eventually "scattered around" to groups hostile to human rights.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress condemned the party's position.

"It is a moral obscenity to argue that people who are the victims of an unprovoked assault should not be given the means with which to defend themselves," said UCC senior policy adviser Orest Zalydalsky in an email to CBC News.

"To argue against the provision of weapons to Ukraine is to argue that Russia should be allowed to annihilate the Ukrainian people."

Defence Minister Anita Anand's office did not respond to a question about whether Canada has placed conditions on the future use of weapons sent to Ukraine.

"We continue to move in lockstep together with our allies in order to provide Ukraine with the military equipment that it needs to win. Ukraine has proven that they are effective at using what we send," she said in an interview last week with The House.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be sending Ukraine four additional Leopard 2 tanks, an armoured recovery vehicle and 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

"Canada ... will continue to stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes for as long as it takes," he said.

Greens push for peace talks

The Green Party argues Canada should be doing more to encourage peace talks.

"It's not clear to me that military victory is at all possible," Pedneault said. "So then what are we left with? To engage in diplomatic efforts."

Pedneault cited Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's comment that the conflict isn't likely to end on the battlefield.

Earlier this month, Gen. Milley told the Financial Times that it was "almost impossible' for Russia to overrun Ukraine but that it was also "very, very difficult for Ukraine this year to kick the Russians out of every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine."

China put forward what it called a 12-point peace plan this week. The proposal was criticized by some, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who questioned China's credibility given its refusal to denounce Russia's invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed some openness to China's "thoughts" on Friday, saying he considered the plan a good signal and was open to meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press
Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press

Zelenskyy also stated again that any peace plan would have to include a full Russian troop withdrawal.

In an interview airing Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told Rosemary Barton Live  that helping Ukraine defend itself puts it in a better position for any peace talks.

"It's really Russia invading Ukraine and not vice versa. So that is why arming Ukraine is important," said Joly.

"Because everything that is going on, on the battlefield will have an impact afterwards at the negotiation table."

Pedneault said it will be up to Ukraine and Russia to decide if there are peace talks, but suggested Canada's influence with Ukraine could help to bring them to the table.

Pedneault said he is not advocating that Ukraine cede territory to Russia but is calling for a space where the two sides in the conflict could discuss the conditions for peace.

"I am not saying that we should kowtow to any bully here, but it is important to take into consideration the fact, once again, that they do have nuclear weapons and that should force us to explore all possible options," he said.