House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Chair, I have an interest in this issue from different points of view, starting with a large Ukrainian population in my constituency. On the farm many of my neighbours and friends were of Ukrainian descent. As well, I am involved with the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association. In that association we often talk about Ukraine. Canada has been a great supporter of having Georgia and Ukraine come into NATO. I know some members of Parliament from Ukraine very well. When I ask how things are in Ukraine, they refer to the arrest and are very concerned by it.

In the long run it is apparent to me that what is holding Ukraine back more than anything else is corruption. It just cannot get through the issue of corruption like some other former Soviet bloc countries have. It is not nearly as successful, and that certainly is holding Ukrainians back.

On the general issue of corruption in Ukraine and how that is holding that society back, how does the member consider that to differ from the issue of the arrest of Mrs. Tymoshenko and the impact this could have on Canada-Ukraine relationships, and also on future development and advancement in Ukraine?

We all are sincerely hoping for the best for Ukraine. It is a country with so many resources and great people. It should be moving ahead faster than it is.

What does the member foresee as a possible impact of this arrest?

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Chair, my colleague asked about corruption and the relationship with this latest situation with Mrs. Tymoshenko. It is about trust in democratic institutions. If the average person does not believe there is transparency and that institutions are accountable and working for the population, then people do lose trust. There is a relationship between unhealthy and corrupt institutions and an undermining of people's belief that democracy is possible.

That is why, as my colleague was remarking previously, it is important to have young people come here to study and participate in institutions like Parliament through the internship program. It is important to have exchanges, like several of us as parliamentarians have done, where people go as election observers to see the institutions in Ukraine, and help to strengthen the democratic capacity of Ukraine.

People are very worried. The Ukrainian diaspora around the world and Ukrainians are very worried because once things start to slip backwards, people fear losing all the gains they have made.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her very fine presentation.

Currently, through CIDA, Canada is one of the main providers of aid to Ukraine. Insofar as this aid is directly and exclusively based on agriculture, would it not be wise to provide more support that is focused on training activities for legal experts and journalists? At present, it is clearly the lack of independence of the justice system in the face of partisan political power that is the problem.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

Indeed, Canada currently provides a great deal of aid to Ukraine. Perhaps now is the opportunity to change the orientation of this aid and start training journalists and legal experts to help democracy.

A great deal of care is taken in the maintenance and growth of democratic institutions for the future. Canada has a special relationship with Ukraine and I believe that we can provide a great deal of help.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member's intervention but I would like to ask her a direct question. We are having this take note debate on this issue. All parties thought it was important. Does the member think this could have a real impact on what is done in Ukraine?

Certainly, Canada has a very strong relationship with Ukraine. That relationship is important to the people of Ukraine. It certainly is important to the people of Ukrainian background in my constituency. I am sure some Canadians are wondering what difference it is going to make. Does the member think this debate could make a difference in the way that Mrs. Tymoshenko is handled and how this proceeds in Ukraine?

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Chair, I am convinced that the Ukrainian embassy here in Ottawa is probably taking note of this take note debate. I know that people of Ukrainian origin and people who believe in democracy across the country are watching this debate and appreciating that all parties have come together to express their concern about recent events in Ukraine and that we are united in wanting to foster institutions that will help promote democracy in Ukraine. People want to see concretely what Canada can do to help.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been very clear in terms of actions Canada can take in helping Ukraine to move in the right direction. We want to fully support those recommendations. We know that Canada will continue to play a big role going forward with the situation in Ukraine.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

October 18th, 2011 / 8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Assistant Deputy Chair Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I want to point out to those members who have recently joined us that in a take note debate format they are welcome to take any seat in the chamber. Unlike in the normal proceedings of the House of Commons, members can be recognized and speak from whichever seat in the chamber they prefer. Members are welcome to move to a seat that they would like to occupy and they will still be recognized.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak this evening to this matter of vital importance to the people of Ukraine, Ukrainian Canadians and people everywhere who cherish freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

I know that members of Parliament from all parties share my concern over the conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko last week to seven years in prison over allegations stemming from the handling of a natural gas deal with Russia. Fair-minded observers everywhere call into question the charges and the conduct of the trial. The Government of Canada and our western allies have condemned the actions of the Ukraine government, and rightly so.

I have had several discussions with Ukrainian Canadians in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. These include organizations active in the greater Toronto area and across Canada, such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the League of Ukrainian Canadians, among others. They ask that the Canadian government work with our allies to press the government of Ukraine to implement fair measures to ensure a fair and independent judiciary.

Much has been said about the flaws of the trial, including: the apparent political motivation of the charges, pressed by President Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated Ms. Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election; the jailing of Ms. Tymoshenko during her trial, even though she posed little risk of flight; her lack of access to defence counsel; inadequate time and facilities provided for the preparation of her defence; the judge further denying Ms. Tymoshenko the right to examine witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution; and the additional sentencing that Ms. Tymoshenko be barred from participating in political activity for a period of three years after her sentence.

We should make it clear that the threats to freedom and democracy in Ukraine are not limited to the Tymoshenko trial. Several opposition figures are facing similar charges to those brought against Ms. Tymoshenko. These political trials are incompatible with the requirements of the Ukrainian constitution, the laws of Ukraine, the state's international obligations and generally accepted norms.

We need to be clear that political persecution, in Ukraine or anywhere else, is completely unacceptable. Canada will not stand silent while the proud people of Ukraine have their hard-won rights trampled upon.

On October 14 of this year, I had the pleasure of participating in a tribute to our Prime Minister where he received the Taras Shevchenko medal for his dedication to public service, for his leadership and, in particular, for the outstanding contribution he made toward the development of the Ukrainian Canadian community.

First presented in 1961, the Taras Shevchenko medal is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress' highest honour. The Prime Minister is in good company, joining the first Canadian Prime Minister to receive this award, the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker.

Taras Shevchenko was a great artist and a renowned poet but, most important, he was a voice for freedom in Ukraine. As a consequence, Czar Nicholas I condemned him to live in exile. He was sentenced to live, “Under the strictest surveillance, without a right to write or paint”.

Now even that cruel sentence could not silence Shevchenko. In the decades that followed, his words and conduct would inspire Ukrainians to fight for liberty against not only the Czars, but also the totalitarian ideologies of the Soviets and Nazis.

What binds our two countries are values and principles. When Ukraine declared independence in 1991, Canada was the first western country to recognize its sovereignty. On December 1, Ukraine declared independence and, on December 2, Canada recognized its statehood and government.

Why? We all heaved an enormous sigh of relief when Soviet communism was finally and irrefutably discredited. The communist ideology had purported to be the cure for all that ails humanity. It had one major problem. Before it could implement its program, it had to jail or kill everyone who disagreed. Millions were murdered and millions more were starved. It is a past that must not be forgotten, that must never be swept under the carpet.

We stand with the people of Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine's history is not forgotten. In 2008, at the initiative of my colleague, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake, we had the chance to finally do something about it, and we did. We recognized Holodomor as a genocide by Canada's Parliament, so that we may never forget.

Going forward, we must let the government of Ukraine know that we implore Ukraine to respect human rights and the rule of law. We also implore Ukraine to ensure free and fair elections in the upcoming election and going forward into the future.

We look forward to a brighter future for Ukraine. We stand with the people of Ukraine in demanding respect for human rights, a fair and independent judicial system and freedom for all political prisoners.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for his very interesting speech. I would like to know what the government plans to do in order to put these words into action. Basically, we are all very concerned about the current situation. Will any concrete action be taken in order to indicate to the Ukrainian government that we disagree with what it is doing and why? What can we do to send a clear message?

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, last week the Prime Minister wrote a letter to the Ukrainian President to express our disappointment regarding the Ukrainian government's actions. The wording of the letter was quite strong. It is important that Ukraine and the entire international community know that we do not agree with the Ukrainian government's actions. It is also important that the people of Ukraine read our comments in newspapers, online and through any other means of communication. The people must know that Canadians stand in solidarity with them. This will give them strength to resist the appalling actions of the Ukrainian government. These concrete gestures, these forms of communication, are, in a way, the most important thing we can do in the short term.

In the medium term, we must commit to take action with our allies, that is, Europe, the United States and other countries that share our values. We need a unified effort with our allies in order to have an influence on Ukraine and its government, which is resisting our country's requests. That is what we will do.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Chair, it has been asked several times tonight in the debate whether this will do any good and what will make a difference.

When I was in Ukraine, through the 10 days of the Orange Revolution, 500,000 people were in Independence Square day and night. Standing there at midnight, listening to the national anthem wafting up through the snowstorm and up the hills where I was by the Ukrainian hotel, the enthusiasm was there, the regularity was there for the 10 days. The people of Ukraine were there because it was for their democracy. It was for their vote.

When I spoke on the stage at Independence Square to 500,000 people, I told them that Canada was with them. The applause from my comments through the interpreter was absolutely incredible.

I believe then and through the follow-up elections we experienced the pride that the Ukrainians showed that they did know how to do democracy and that they did want to have democratic elections.

Now we come to whether this will have any effect. This will be shown in Ukraine and I believe that in Ukraine they will speak up knowing that Canada is there giving them support.

Does the member think this will help?

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, absolutely, I think this will help.

I think the eyes of the world are upon Ukraine. I think the government of Ukraine knows that and the people of Ukraine know that. The more we keep repeating that message, the more they will know that we are with them and the more these actions will come to bear.

There are other questions that come about with respect to the trade and investments we are making. However, we need to continue to engage the people of Ukraine and increase those lines of communication. That is our preferred route and we will continue to press those actions.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Chair, when President Yanukovych was first elected there was concern that he might move Ukraine more toward Russia and away from the west. However, that has not happened and, to me, that just magnifies the importance of Canada helping to put pressure on against the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko and the whole process that led up to that. It is pretty clear to an outsider that this process, arrest and trial were not proper.

I had concerns when the new president was elected but my concerns did not come to pass. However, we now see this. I would like the member to comment on how he sees this situation and on the importance of once again pressuring Ukraine to back off and respect democracy, respect the judicial process beginning with this arrest and this situation.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, the hon. member is right. Even Russia is displeased with the actions and the words of the Ukraine government. Basically, the Ukrainian government was deploring the activities of Russia and saying that it acted in bad faith when it negotiated the gas deal.

I think Ukraine is finding itself more and more isolated in the international community. I think there is a certain need for all countries to be, not just economically engaged but to feel accepted in that community. The more we voice those strong words of disapproval and the more we isolate Ukraine, the more we can bring about judicial independence, freedom and human rights in that country.

Democracy in Ukraine
Government Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Chair, in the year that Ukrainian Canadians celebrate the 120th anniversary of their settlement in Canada and the 20th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine the judicial persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko is an extremely troubling development.

Our government has made it clear that we have a serious concern about the apparent bias in the ongoing judicial challenges being faced by Yulia Tymoshenko.

No matter what country we reside in, political persecution is completely unacceptable and the appearance of political bias shows contempt for the rule of law.

From coast to coast, Ukrainian Canadians make significant contributions to our society in business, sports, academia, medicine and numerous other fields. We often need to remind ourselves how hard and long the struggle for basic freedom can be for some of our world's citizens. When reminding ourselves of this, as Canadians we take great pride in knowing that our government is urging the Ukrainian government to strengthen its judicial independence. We also continue to support the efforts of the Ukrainian people to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous society within their country.

The conduct of the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko does not reflect the due process, fairness or accepted norms that Canadians value in our legal system. The conditions and context of which the verdict was reached and handed down raises deep concerns about the possibility of political motivation being the main factor in the questionable conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko.

The independence, fairness and transparency of this trial bring forward many questions to ask Canadians and citizens all around the world. Canadians pride themselves on being able to promote the strength and growth of democracy, both at home and around the world. We all know that judicial independence and a vigorous political opposition are vital to building a democratic and prosperous nation. However, the development in the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko affects all of us and our government is very concerned about the path that the government of Ukraine appears to be taking.

Legislation introduced in the Verkhovna Rada would decriminalize actions of the type included in the Tymoshenko case. The president is now on record as saying that the changes to the criminal code may apply retroactively but would not apply to Mrs. Tymoshenko.

These developments may have serious consequences for our bilateral relationship and for all Canadians who value democracy and the right of law that so many fight and die for and who are standing together with the people of Ukraine encouraging a fair and peaceful end to this unacceptable situation.

I appeal to all democratic nations who hold sacred the concept of democracy and good governance to join with us against the great injustice being forced upon Yulia Tymoshenko.

I am very emotional because I am an immigrant to this country. I was born and raised in communist Poland which is now independent Poland, a neighbour of Ukraine. I can see that old forces are being reborn in that country. These people deserve the best.

I would echo a question that was raised here, that being whether what we are doing here would have any effect on what is happening in Ukraine. It does. We have to support these people. It will encourage them to maintain their fight. It will encourage them to move ahead.

As all members will remember, we supported the Ukrainian people through the Orange Revolution where the election of the president was overturned as a result of the movement in the international community. We have to support the people of Ukraine. They should not feel that they are left alone. We are a democratic country. We must help others achieve the same democratic freedom we have in Canada, the greatest country in the world.