That this House do now adjourn.
Madam Speaker, dear colleagues, fellow Canadians, tonight Ukraine finds herself on the brink.
Last night I came back from Ukraine, having observed the second round of presidential elections. I have to admit that prior to leaving for Ukraine, I was naively optimistic. I was optimistic because, between the two rounds of elections, I had travelled to Ukraine as part of a parliamentary delegation.
The world condemnation after the first round of fraudulent elections, coupled with the vote results, notwithstanding the systemic massive fraud that was committed, when the people chose the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko.
As I said, I was naively optimistic. What I saw in the second round was exponentially worse than what took place in the first round. There are hundreds of documented cases of electoral fraud, abuse and intimidation. I would like to categorize what we saw into six broad areas.
The first was intimidation and bribery. During the second round, what we saw was a certain line being crossed. The regime was no longer satisfied with intimidating its own population, its own commissions and election observers. It crossed the line to intimidating Canadian election observers.
On the Friday night that I arrived in Mykolayiv, after having travelled 30 hours, I was given the news that a group of Canadian observers, which included my sister, had been detained hours earlier on the pretext that the group's vehicle was stolen. When I found out, I immediately placed a call to the governor's office and the observers were released.
On the day of the election, one of our first teams headed out at 6:30 in the morning. As they headed out of Mykolayiv toward the village, for three or four minutes a BMW with tinted windows tried to force their vehicle off the road and into a ditch.
During the day, we had observers whose documents were confiscated. An observer from Toronto had her passport taken away from her by the militia and confiscated. Cars were chased through the day. Our observers were physically removed from vote locations.
The second category is falsifications of lists. On the day of and the day just preceding the election, hundreds of names were added to poll after poll. These have been documented by our Canadian observers.
On the falsification of ballot boxes, this speaks to the systemic fraud that was put in place. There was a detention centre that I visited. In the main hall it appeared that the election was proceeding. As I observed, I noticed the commission head and a sidekick would once in a while go through a side door. I took the opportunity to open that door to see what I could find there. I found three ballot boxes, unsealed, spare seals and a stack of ballots. As we had a vote process taking place, in a side room we had everything prepared for a second vote, a false vote, to be put in place.
I have spoken partially to the deprivation of the rights of observers. Our observers were not allowed to vote locations. For example, the head of the territorial commission, which encompassed polls throughout the city of Mykolayiv, a city of a million people, disallowed commission members who were in support of democratic candidate Viktor Yushchenko, and disallowed Yushchenko observers and international observers. This was immediately referred to the state prosecutor who said that the opinion of the commission head would hold.
When the commission head was pressed, he stated that this was based on the decision of the head of the committee for organization and methodical work of the central electoral commissioner. We see that this was organized and it reached to the top of the actual central electoral commission.
What we saw was the de facto coup d'état committed by the current regime, the corrupt criminal regime of President Kuchma, along with the complicity of the Russian President Putin. In the past 10 years this regime has not only robbed the country blind, it has robbed the people of Ukraine. In its last remaining years it has commenced the process of taking away the freedoms of the people of Ukraine. The press is no longer a free press. In fact, the current outgoing president of Ukraine was caught on tape giving the orders to take care of a journalist. This man disappeared a few days later, and his headless corpse was found soon afterwards.
They have now decided that robbing the country blind was not enough, that they would rob the people of their will. The people have had enough. What I witnessed the day after the vote was what I would like to call the orange uprising. Throughout Kiev, the capital, we saw orange streamers on the antennae on cars. Throughout Kiev, we saw people wearing orange colours, orange arm bands. In the centre of the city, on Monday morning, approximately 100,000 people gathered. By evening, it was 200,000 people. By yesterday, it was 500,000 people. We understand there are approximately two million people protesting in the streets.
Since Ukraine's independence 14 years ago, we have talked about a special relationship between our two countries. Sometimes people misunderstand that term. They think it is based on economics. If we take a look at the economic figures, we quickly realize that it is not based on this. What it is based on is the hundreds of thousands of family ties between our two countries. There are 1.1 million Ukrainian Canadians in Canada. Tonight and in the coming days we have to give meaning to those words “special relationship”. We have to make it clear that we do not accept this coup d'état.
Mr. Yushchenko has now become a symbol, just as the colour orange has. It is no longer the man we refer to when we hear the chants of “Yushchenko”. He has become a symbol of freedom. The will of the people of Ukraine has been expressed. We should acknowledge Viktor Yushchenko is in fact the president of Ukraine, and there should be consequences.
Prime Minister Yanukovych, President Kuchma, their cronies and their families should face economic and individual sanctions. They should be prevented from travelling the countries of the free world. We should also send a message to Russian President Putin, who directly involved himself in this election campaign and continues to meddle at this very dangerous point in time.
Finally, I would like to express, on behalf of the people of Canada, that tonight and in the days to come we will stand by the people of Ukraine, just as we were the first country in the western world to acknowledge Ukraine's independence in 1991. In the coming days we will take a lead among the circle of democratic nations in the world.
Finally, our prayers are with the people of Ukraine as they stand on the cold, dark streets of Kiev and all the cities where the people have come out to protest. Our prayers are with them during this orange uprising.