Mr. Chair, as we know, Ukraine is caught in a very difficult situation. We have talked a great deal about it in this debate. Its situation is very difficult from a geopolitical point of view and in terms of defending its territory, as well as from a human point of view.
I would like to take some time to talk about it at greater length, so that we do not forget that after all these are human beings who have been caught in this situation. We must not forget that since April 2014, according to the UN and the World Health Organization, more than 6,000 people have died and more than 15,000 people have been wounded. The situation in the eastern part of the country is still extremely difficult. North of Donetsk and Lugansk, there have been many disruptions in water and electrical services. In the Donetsk area alone, 10,000 residential buildings have been destroyed. A large number of factories, roads and airports have also been destroyed, and the electrical power infrastructure has been completely wiped out.
The number of people displaced by the conflict has now reached 1.1 million. I see my colleagues all around me here. I come from the greater Montreal area. The number of people who have been displaced in Ukraine is the equivalent of half of the greater Montreal area. In addition, tens of thousands of people are trying to leave the country by all sorts of means and are seeking refuge, trying to emigrate, and so on. In short, it is a very harsh human and humanitarian situation.
The economic situation is also very uncertain. In the last year or so, the value of the Ukrainian currency has dropped by about 70%. Here again, we must always think about what this represents. We have seen Canada’s currency drop, but imagine if it suddenly dropped to 25 or 30 cents U.S. Imagine the impact that this would have on our daily lives. In addition, in 2015 Ukraine must pay back an $11 billion debt. We know its risk of defaulting on the payment is quite high.
According to the Ukrainian minister of finance, the country spends $5 million every day on the conflict alone. That is huge for a country that is facing enormous economic problems.
At this time of great need, Canada must stand with Ukraine and we must be true to our friendship with Ukraine. There is a great deal that we can do.
For one thing, we can continue to put pressure on Russia. Moments ago, the Minister of National Defence once again told us that Canada has sanctioned more individuals than any other country. Is he serious? What matters is not the number of people sanctioned, but the people being targeted. Tomorrow we could decide to add all of the veterinarians in Moscow to our sanctions list. That would probably add a few hundred names to the sanctions list, but it would have no impact at all unless Vladimir Putin has an animal he is very fond of and they decide not to treat Vladimir Putin's dog or cat or whatever. This is not about numbers. It is about targeting the right people.
There are two key players: Igor Sechin with Rosneft and Vladimir Yakunin with Russian Railways. They are close confidants of Vladimir Putin. They are on the Americans' list, but for some strange reason, they are not on Canada's list. That is certainly one thing we could do: impose tougher sanctions. The first thing to do is to stop saying that it is the number of people sanctioned that matters rather than the individuals being sanctioned.
We could also help reduce Ukraine's susceptibility to a form of blackmail by offering our expertise in the area of energy efficiency. That may seem odd, but I think this approach could be interesting. Given that we have a great deal of expertise in that area, this assistance could help alleviate some of the pressure being put on Ukrainians and help reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, which Vladimir Putin's Russia is exploiting.
Another aspect, and perhaps the most important, although the others are also important, has to with helping Ukrainians build the society they aspire to. In that regard, democratic development is key, and Canada must absolutely be a partner to Ukraine and support that country in the area of good governance.
I was very interested to hear what the representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress had to say when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which I am pleased to be a member of. Their remarks were so poignant, that I would like to quote part of their evidence. They said:
Canada can help foster NGO sector development, especially groups working in the areas of human rights, education, and law reform, as a vibrant civil society is one of the best guarantors of Ukraine's long-term democratic evolution.
I personally feel very good about that. I firmly believe that we must build civil societies because they support good governance and a truly democratic society.
Earlier we were talking about the fight against corruption, even within the army. Reports indicate that supplies provided by the U.S. were diverted and ended up on the black market. Ukrainians themselves, including those I have talked to, are saying that there is corruption at various levels of society. This is another area we can help them with.
As long as there is corruption, there cannot be fair and sustainable economic development, good governance or rule of law. This remains a major challenge in Ukraine, and I think that we could do a lot in that regard, in addition to providing financial support. We have to be there and stand with Ukraine.
In short, as we said earlier in the debate, there is much to be done. This is a friendly debate because we agree on the substance of the issue. The government has already engaged in the areas I mentioned. We encourage it to continue its efforts and to really focus on the issues of ensuring good governance, fighting corruption and strengthening civil society, among others.
Ideally, the government could play an important role in urging other countries to provide assistance. For example, to date, the Ukraine humanitarian response plan, established in February 2015 by the UN, has only received 12% of the funds required.
In 2014, the level of funding was good. However, in 2015, funds are not being collected as quickly as in 2014, probably because there are so many crises in the world. In my opinion, Canada could have a role to play in advising other countries to listen, not to forget Ukraine, to support it, to be present and to continue helping it.
I cannot help but say that had we not burned bridges with so many countries, it would be even easier to participate in the diplomatic efforts that are so vital, but we could at least try.