Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to rise today to address what I believe is a very important issue, not only for Ukraine, but for Canada and indeed the world.
What is happening in Ukraine has had an impact around the globe. However, in Canada it is important to recognize the hundreds of thousands of people who have been following the news. That is one of the wonderful things about the Internet and the number of newscasts that take place. Throughout the world, and particularly in Canada, many people have been able to follow very closely what has been taking place in Ukraine.
We understand and appreciate the anxiety and the very real fear in Ukraine. I am not a historian, in any sense of the word, but this situation has received quite an amount of attention, even inside the House. We had an emergency debate in January. We had a take note debate last December, and we are having another take note debate this evening. The high level of interest speaks to the need for debate. People are very sympathetic about what they are seeing on the nightly news that is taking place in Ukraine.
I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of people, and there were three critical points provided to me, which I will read. In regard to the people of Ukraine and what expectations we have, my point of view is one of fundamental principle. For example, the people of Ukraine deserve the right to protest. The recent laws that were passed in January to prohibit anti-government demonstrations were anti-democratic and unacceptable.
Another point that was raised was that the people of Ukraine have made it clear that they want to be a part of Europe. The decisions that were made by the Ukrainian government in November show a blatant disregard for citizens. The people believe that they deserve a choice and opportunities for their future.
The third point is that a truly democratic society should promote freedom of responsibility, speech and expression, and people should never have to fear violence and imprisonment because they feel passionate enough to seek a peaceful rally for their opposition. We have witnessed a great deal of harm, people being beaten, tortured, and killed in far too many cases, as a result of what has been taking place in Ukraine.
We like to think that the people of Ukraine, much like the people in Canada, have a fundamental right to democracy, to freedom, and they want and desire the rule of law. These are principles that we believe are very important.
At the end of the day, we have witnessed widespread support across Canada. We have had rallies here on Parliament Hill. In my community of Winnipeg North, there were rallies at the Manitoba Legislature, in which I was able to participate. There were events at church organizations. I spent an afternoon at a local restaurant, where someone was showing a YouTube video to another individual about what was taking place in Ukraine. There has been so much that has been done, with expressions of interests from Canadians from all over the country.
What they are asking for is that the Government of Canada work in an apolitical fashion and send a very strong message to Ukraine. That is one of love and kindness, and at the same time to be firm and support the people of Ukraine. This is something that I believe is absolutely essential.
The last time we had an emergency debate was January 27, and I had the opportunity then to conclude debate. Back then I stated:
...I say that we acknowledge and want what the people of Ukraine want. The House of Commons today is prepared to speak out in support of the people of Ukraine and respond to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who want us to take action. All of us will take action where we best can.
That holds true today, in the sense that we do need to do whatever we can.
Last weekend we had a wonderful convention in Montreal, and Ukraine was a very topical issue. Whether in the larger or smaller rooms, there was a great deal of discussion about what was taking place in Ukraine. More than 3,000 people from all across Canada went to the Montreal convention. It was decided to bring in an emergency resolution. I want to read for members the three critical parts, because I am limited in terms of time.
The three parts that I think bear repeating here this evening are as follows:
Be it further resolved that Canada call for an observer mission of at least 500 Canadian observers led by a pre-eminent Canadian to help oversee this election;
That was a wonderful statement, and earlier I stated that there is no reason we could not do even better than 500.
The resolution continued:
Be it further resolved that the international community take all necessary steps to ensure that any and all human rights violations in Ukraine are properly investigated and, as appropriate, prosecuted.
Be it further resolved that the Government of Canada call upon the IMF to urgently meet with the new Ukrainian leadership to provide economic support and develop a new plan
This is something that came from concerned Canadians from all across Canada who were at a convention where they felt it was important to bring forward an emergency resolution because of what we were witnessing, even over the weekend.
The members of the House have already had the opportunity in different venues to talk about it since the weekend. I know our foreign affairs critic, like other members of the House, stood in his place on Monday to express a concern, and in fact even made reference to the resolution that I just finished reciting in part. Other members were afforded opportunities. I had the opportunity to introduce a petition, and I made reference to this in one of my questions.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has done a phenomenal job in working with other organizations in our provinces to ensure a high public awareness of what is taking place and in encouraging people as a whole to come together and contribute in whatever way they are able.
I realize that my time is quickly running out. I want to appeal to all members of the chamber, as I believe my leader and members of the Liberal caucus as a whole have been very clear on, that there is a need for Canada to play a very strong leadership role. We are prepared to work in an apolitical fashion. We want to be engaged and help and be a part of the solution. We support the people of Ukraine. We wish nothing but the very best in the future.
We see the value of providing support, whether in terms of observers, targeted sanctions, the continual economic development of Ukraine and the role Canada might be able to play in that, or institutions.
All of the above need to be acted upon. We are prepared to work in the best manner we can, in an apolitical fashion, so we can truly do what Canadians want and express our goodwill toward a great nation.