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Evidence of meeting #25 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was elections.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Borys Tarasyuk  As an Individual
Valentyn Nalyvaichenko  As an Individual
Marcin Swiecicki  As an Individual
James Sherr  As an Individual
Andrei Piontkovsky  As an Individual

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

My question is for Mr. Swiecicki. At the start of your presentation, you mentioned the Promethean theory, which dates back to the restoration of the Polish state in the early 20th century. It's pretty incredible to note to what point this old idea is still valid today in the context of the European Union and democracy.

I'd like to know generally what measures Poland has taken to help democracy in Ukraine. Also, would it be possible and desirable for Canada to coordinate its current efforts with Poland's?

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Marcin Swiecicki

If I correctly understood your question, you asked about the measures taken in Poland to assist Ukraine.

First of all, there were a lot of observers—a great number of observers, for example, during the Orange Revolution—and also the great support of the political class in Poland for democratization. Also, as I said, President Kaczynski was invited and took part in the international committee, or round table, trying to find the solution during the crisis of the Orange Revolution.

There are hundreds of Polish universities, institutes, and foundations that find it fashionable to have a program and cooperation with Ukrainian associations, federations, and foundations to invite Ukrainian students and offer them scholarships. Of course, Poland is still a relatively poor country among European Union countries, so therefore we are initiating various actions in the European Union—a fund for endowment for democracy.

It's a partnership. The Erasmus Mundus program is to increase the role of the European Union in assisting civil society in Ukraine, because as I said, the capacity of Poland is too small in comparison to....

Therefore, I think that Canada can also advocate on the global scale in various other institutions to support the Ukraine. It can also increase exchange programs, scholarship programs, and fellowship programs. It can cooperate with financing, and support universities, independent think tanks, and foundations in the Ukraine, and invite people, for instance, just to increase raising human capacity on how democracy works, or how the economy works in free countries.

Of course, Canada could also very strongly support a monitored election process that is right now being started.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Do you think that opening the doors, facilitating access to western countries—Canada in particular—for young Ukrainians, Belarusians and Moldovans would pull the rug out from under dictators and ensure that the situation becomes more democratic? We know that a lot of things change when young people get involved.

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Borys Tarasyuk

May I add to what Mr. Swiecicki said? There is a Ukrainian-Polish interparliamentary assembly. There is also a Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian interparliamentary assembly. Why not a Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian-Canadian interparliamentary assembly? This is one of the options.

As to the access of young people to Canada, I think this is a very important issue. This is the crux of change for the better in all countries—that young people get the possibility to travel easily to other democracies, and Canada in particular.

In this regard, let me tell you a story. While being the foreign minister two times, in 2005 and 2007, I initiated a non-visa regime for all citizens of all EU member states, Canada, and the United States. Now all Canadian citizens enjoy the right to travel to Ukraine without a visa.

For me to travel to testify before this committee took quite a lot of effort to get a Canadian visa. The one who granted all Canadian citizens a non-visa regime received a visa for just one entry—a single-entry visa. I don't think this is an adequate attitude on the part of Canada.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you. That's all the time we have. We'll move back to the government side.

Mr. Bezan, you have five minutes, please.

March 7th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank all our witnesses for your presentations today. I know you've travelled a great distance to be here. As someone who's proud of his Ukrainian heritage, it's great to see that we have people from Ukraine, Poland, Britain, and Russia advocating for more democracy and freedoms within Ukraine.

I know that my baba and gido left Ukraine almost 100 years ago and never had the chance to feel democracy within Ukraine. They came to Canada to get that. My family is quite proud that one of the family is in the Parliament in Canada today.

I've been in Ukraine as an observer in the election process, and I have great concerns about the laws—whether or not they're even constitutional, and whether or not there's independent jurisprudence within the court systems. You talk about the influence that the government has, that Yanukovych has within the constitutional courts, and how that's going to slant the electoral outcome. You talk about having more election observation.

I was there with a lot of my friends, who are joining us here today, as election observers in the last presidential election. There's only so much we can do, and if they're going to continue to change the laws, how are we going to ensure a fair and open process?

I've always been opposed to the amount of money that's spent on elections in Ukraine. There's no cap. There was as much money spent in Ukraine on the presidential election this last go-round, just between Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, as there was in the last U.S. presidential election. It was $1 billion. It's atrocious that they're spending that type of money that could have been spent in better ways to stimulate the economy and create jobs and economic opportunities in Ukraine.

How do we change those laws? How do we provide that influence as Canadians? I know there should be increased monitoring and increased long-term overview and oversight of the electoral process and the electoral commission system, which is extremely partisan. In my opinion it should become a government agency that's completely unbiased.

I'm going to ask Mr. Tarasyuk and Mr. Nalyvaichenko to speak to that.

Dr. Sherr, I appreciated your very candid comments about how we can engage with the Russian influence within Ukraine. Perhaps you can talk about the whole role that civil societies may play in influencing what's happening on the ground within Ukraine.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Why don't we start with Mr. Sherr?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

James Sherr

Thank you very much.

I think anything we can do to develop relationships and institutionalized relationships with the class of small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs in Ukraine will be an immense investment in the future. Those people are best placed to have a direct tangible interest in seeing European standards advance in that country.

We all know many representatives from that group who sincerely would give up 40% or 50% of their income to not live in a country where every single week they are being intimidated, pressured, and harassed by somebody. That combination is needed. I think the efforts that will be most rewarding are those that respond to the direct interests of people in the country and are not purely ecumenical. Sadly, there's very little being done in this area. These people as yet have very little political self-awareness, and I think that is where a new generation of leaders might emerge.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you.

I'm sorry, we won't have time for both of you, so who wants to speak?

Mr. Nalyvaichenko.

5:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko

Thank you.

Talking about laws, I think the best position now is to be united, as Mr. Tarasyuk mentioned several times, and be in touch and in cooperation with NGOs that would like to support democratic, fair elections. This year for sure, 100%, we know if we support them they'll support us during the elections. I think for the international community to support such NGOs in Ukraine is the best way to invest—if I may use that word—in Ukrainian democracy.

Ukraine needs changes in our legislation—and as many amendments as we can make—in a future Parliament, in a new Parliament, concerning anti-corruption legislation. Fighting corruption in all laws and legislation should be done. That's a priority for a new position in the new Parliament.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

That completes the second round. We're going to have to keep moving here. I apologize, Mr. Tarasyuk.

We're going to start the third round. Mr. Opitz, please.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

Mr. Nalyvaichenko, you talked about the opposition. I'm going to fire questions fairly quickly because there's a lot I'd like to get on the record in five minutes.

You talked about the opposition being united. In the elections coming up, that's going to be a critical feature. If your opposition is obviously divided, then you're not going to be very effective.

By the way, we support a lot of the NGOs. The NGOs here in Canada are exceptionally strong. The diaspora here is exceptionally strong.

It was in this country that Mr. Bezan's bill recognized the Holodomor as a genocide. The League of Ukrainian Canadians pushed very hard, and that's why you're sitting here today, because they had a pivotal role in that.

You also have a very active youth. Through the CUP program recently, we had Ukrainian interns, and they were top-notch. I had one myself and she was brilliant. They're very engaged young people. They're in tune with what's going on in their country. They're active, they're interested, and they are looking for direction. They are looking for leadership. They are young and they need that.

How are you, sir, going to bring together a credible opposition, and in fact, one that now has to compensate for the absence of Yulia Tymoshenko?

5:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko

First of all, thank you very much. Let me express our appreciation, on behalf of all Ukrainians, for supporting us during the investigation of the genocide against Ukrainians that was conducted by Bolsheviks, by Communists, in 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine.

Now the Ukrainian court, the Kiev court, ruled on this crime and the verdict is a part of our legislation. Everybody in the world knows what actually happened to our country, to our nation.

On the political points of your question—in Ukraine, I think it is not only for us to say how important it is that the politicians of the opposition unite, but also we must do that and create the mechanisms to become united. First and very efficiently, the declaration was signed. Then we signed an agreement of mutual support, and joint dates and measures during the elections. The next step should be the united, combined opposition, both in majoritarian districts and proportional partial system from the united opposition.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

I'm going to turn to Mr. Tarasyuk very quickly. On the trip to Lviv in 2010, the Prime Minister was at the Ukrainian Catholic University and the Lontsky prison. It was reported after his visit that both the director of the university and the director of the museum were subjected to government harassment and intimidation.

Can you briefly comment on that, sir?

5:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Borys Tarasyuk

Well, there is nothing to comment on except for expressing concern over this activity of Ukrainian authorities. This attempt to impose control over the NGO and different institutions was condemned by the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This is not admissible in a democracy.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Sherr, in your opinion, for the next election, how many observers should Canada deploy?

5:30 p.m.

As an Individual

James Sherr

That is a question beyond my expertise. I would simply say, as sincerely as possible, as many as possible.

I would say also—and the point is now fully understood by the OSCE—more important than effective monitoring of an election on election day is monitoring the pre-election period, and understanding the rules and the twisting of rules that take place in that critical period.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Swiecicki—and I will get back to you at the end, sir, if I have a moment—the Euro Cup that's being run between Canada and Poland this summer, how is—did I steal your question?

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

No.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

What is the benefit of that between the two countries? How do you see that particular joint enterprise benefiting Ukraine and perhaps helping to promote democracy?

5:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Marcin Swiecicki

I am not convinced that it can contribute a lot to the promotion of democracy, but certainly it can promote Ukraine and the beauties of various cities still undiscovered by many Europeans. I hope that Ukraine has more visits from tourists and has more contacts after the Euro Cup.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Tarasyuk, you wanted to comment on election observers.

5:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Borys Tarasyuk

I would like to remind you that in 2004, at the most dramatic presidential elections, Canadian NGOs and parliamentarians were represented in the largest group of foreign observers, which numbered 1,500. Our expectation is that this time Canada will provide no less than 1,500 of the international observers.

5:30 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

We're going to turn it over to Madam Laverdière.