Madam Speaker, I think it is important tonight to say:
This is a very important night for us. It is a chance for us to speak clearly with one voice in response to a very grave international situation, that being the outcome of the elections just held in Ukraine.
It is an important debate for those of us of Ukrainian descent because of what we have learned over the years from our ancestors. It is also important for all Canadians who care about democracy. It is important for all freedom-loving people around the world.
The debate tonight is of grave concern to all of us, particularly for the members of the New Democratic Party. We are strongly in support of actions in the face of the fraudulent electoral results in Ukraine. We all know that the future of democracy in Ukraine and therefore the future of democracy worldwide is at stake.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for Etobicoke Centre, for his work leading up to the elections. He brought forward a motion in the House on October 28 calling for a free and fair transparent process in Ukraine elections. The motion was supported by all parties in this House, the New Democratic Party included.
I want to thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for the days he spent in Ukraine as an observer of the electoral process. I am sure it was an exhausting voyage and a very difficult time emotionally for him. Yet he is here in the House tonight and is prepared to debate this very important issue and to provide constructive observations and suggestions for all of us.
I also want to reference the work of the government today. It is an important development for the Canadian government to be straightforward and come out in a clear way against the election results in Ukraine. The Deputy Prime Minister stood in the House today and said that the Canadian government does not recognize the official results of the election in Ukraine. She called for an immediate review of the electoral process and actions to be taken depending on the results of that review.
Those were decisive words. We appreciate that the government has taken such a decisive initiative so early on in the process. Some may have wished for it a day earlier. Perhaps yesterday we expected such a statement from the government, but we are grateful that today we are dealing with something very clear and very detailed.
The responsibility for us in this emergency debate is to assist the government in outlining the appropriate actions to be taken in the aftermath of this tragic situation. The fact that we are having an emergency debate tonight denotes accurately the urgency of this situation in Ukraine as we speak.
By all news reports thousands of people are demonstrating peacefully for democracy for yet another day. Riot police and troops are evident throughout the country. There has been a call for a general strike. At the centre are two candidates both claiming victory in the recent election.
We know from the observations of colleagues in this House and other international monitors who voyaged to Ukraine that in fact the election in Ukraine was fraudulent. As my colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre said yesterday in the House, we have clear reports from neutral international monitors, including Canadians, indicating that Sunday's election was neither fair nor transparent. The problems cited by observers include voter harassment, intimidation, biased television coverage by state owned stations, vote rigging and ballot box switching.
There has been intimidation. There has been corruption. There has been a denial of the democratic right to vote.
We all know how important the right to vote is, but we take it for granted. We cannot imagine what it is like for a country to have fought for that right year after year, only to see that freedom taken away as the result of an autocratic regime determined to fix this election in line with that regime's predetermined notion of society. It is nothing close to civil society, nothing resembling what we mean by civil society, but a regime that destroys those aspirations of freedom-loving people.
We are dealing with a situation today in Ukraine that is tense, explosive and terrifying. People are literally putting their lives on the line for the democratic values and rights that we have here in this country and are exercising in this place at this very moment. We owe them our full and unqualified support. We have to make it clear to those who would stand in the way of democracy that our support will be meaningful, it will deliberate and it will be strong.
As I just said, the Canadian government has indicated that based on the widespread incidence of fraud, it will not recognize the results of the recent election. It has called for a full review of the election results and has said that it will have to examine its relations with Ukraine unless corrective action is taken.
A full range of options must be considered in that examination. I would hope in this situation which has developed rapidly over the past number of weeks that we will move forward addressing this crisis with a comprehensive and well thought out strategy for an active role in resolving this difficult situation.
I think we can understand people taking to the streets when that basic right and freedom is taken away. I think we can understand the determination of people to fight for that freedom. We pray and hope for a peaceful resolution of this matter, but we surely can understand their response when an autocratic dictator moves in and denies the results exercised freely and willingly and democratically. As the member for Etobicoke Centre said earlier today in our discussions with the media, we must put our arms out and show compassion to the people of Ukraine who are experiencing such grief at this very moment. We as Canadians have a special responsibility to do that.
Madam Speaker, I should indicate that I am splitting my time with the member for Churchill.
Canada has a special relationship with Ukraine. We were the first nation to recognize its modern independence. The close family ties between those in Ukraine and Canada have created over the decades a unique bond.
We have a very special responsibility. I saw the fervour of that determination by Canadians just this past weekend in Winnipeg when we participated in a symbolic polling station at the legislative grounds beneath the monument of Taras Shevchenko. This event was organized by the Ukrainian students union at the University of Manitoba, who are determined to show to the world what civil society is all about and why it is so important for this country to take a stand.
Those demonstrations are happening everywhere in Canada. We will see more in the days to come. Let me just conclude by repeating the words of Taras Shevchenko whose monument was towering over us in Winnipeg on Sunday. He said in 1860:
Will there be punishmentof all the Czarson the land?Will there be truthamong people? There must be,otherwise the sun will riseand set on firethe whole land.