Mr. Chair, thank you to you and members of the committee for their participation in this important debate about Canada's ongoing and forward leaning leadership role in supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine against the aggression planned and executed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and his support of violent extremists, who are responsible for the loss of thousands of lives in Ukraine over the past many months.
The Government of Canada believes that the ultimate responsibility for the terrible crime and disaster of the Malaysian Airlines flight being shot down over eastern Ukrainian territory rests with the Kremlin and President Putin. We join with all free and civilized peoples in demanding accountability for that terrible crime.
I am pleased to contribute to this important debate concerning our ongoing response.
When Russia launched its attack on Ukraine last February, resulting in the illegal occupation of Crimea, Canada acted quickly, in a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We continue to take action today.
As the Prime Minister has made clear, “Canada continues to stand with the people of Ukraine in the face of the Putin regime's ongoing aggression”. As he said face to face with President Putin at their meeting at the G20 in Melbourne last fall, “I'll shake your hand, just so I can tell you that you need to get out of Ukraine now”.
On April 13, the Prime Minister, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lawson, and I announced enhanced support for Ukraine in the form of a training mission that will start later this year.
This is in addition to the long-standing training opportunities already offered by the Department of National Defence through its military training and cooperation program. The training will be held in western Ukraine, primarily at the NATO Partnership for Peace Training and Education Centre in Yavoriv.
I should add that Canada and the United States helped the Ukrainians build this training centre a few years ago. There will also be training on improvised explosive devices at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilskyk, in southwestern Ukraine.
Our contribution will consist of approximately 200 personnel who will provide training assistance until March 21, 2017. That is the decision of the government, of course. The government at that time will make a decision as to whether or not to expand or extend the training mission.
It will do so in the fields of first, individual and unit tactics training, which most lay people would understand as conventional military training; second, military police skills and procedures; third, explosive ordnance disposal; and fourth, flight safety training, combat and combat first aid, and logistics systems modernization.
Let me assure members that the Canadian Armed Forces will only train units from the Ukrainian armed forces, not from individual militias, contrary to some inaccurate media reports in the Ottawa Citizen.
We will work closely with Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, which will conduct a thorough investigation of everyone who participates in this training.
We will also continue to share satellite images and information with the Ukrainian government, to help it stay on top of the situation.
Sharing satellite imagery with Ukraine has no negative effect on Canada's ability to use RADARSAT-2 for supporting the defence and security of Canada, again contrary to inaccurate and misleading reports that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.
I should point out that when President Petro Poroshenko visited us in Ottawa last autumn, his number one ask of Canada was the sharing of these RADARSAT images to assist Ukraine in having a better situational understanding of the Russian threat posed within its own territory.
I am pleased to say that within days of becoming Minister of National Defence, we signed the memorandum of understanding and began sharing those images on a regular basis. They have been enormously helpful to the Ukrainians.
Canada's contribution has been fully coordinated and sychronized with the efforts of the United States in the region through the United States-Ukraine Joint Commission. This support to the Ukrainian people exemplifies Canada's commitment to work with our international allies and partners to help build Ukraine's capacity and to preserve and promote a free, democratic, and peaceful region.
We are helping Ukraine with the resources available. This past August, Canada provided non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine, including a range of targeted protection medical and logistical equipment, such as 7,000 helmets, 30,000 sets of ballistic eyewear, 2,300 protective vests, 300 first aid kits, 100 tents, and 735 sleeping bags.
When he spoke to this very place, where you are sitting, Mr. Chair, this past September, President Poroshenko said:
As a commander-in-chief, as a Ukrainian, and as a father of a soldier, I thank Canada for each life that is being saved today in the Ukrainian Donbass by the helmets and bulletproof vests you gave us.
Since that time, we have made further commitments. Canada committed to a further contribution of non-lethal military supplies. From that commitment, Canada has delivered 30,000 coats, 70,000 pairs of Gore-Tex boots, and other equipment.
I have been told by Ukrainians who have contact with the troops that this Canadian equipment was, throughout the last winter, the most desired equipment in the Ukrainian military. In fact, it became known as Kanadki, basically Canadian wear, a very popular expression of solidarity.
Once manufacturing is finalized, Canada will also be sending 22 Harris high-frequency radios, 238 pairs of PVS-7 night vision goggles, 1,100 tactical medical kits, a mobile field hospital structure, and a yet to-be-determined amount of explosive ordnance disposal equipment.
Let me add a word of appreciation for the enormous contributions made, charitably, by Canadians, many but not all from the Canadian-Ukrainian community, who have contributed millions of dollars to support first aid kits, and indeed, for medical doctors who have flown to Ukraine to act as medical volunteers. We salute them for their contribution.
In addition to this commitment, in January 2014, the government announced a contribution of more than $578 million in assistance to Ukraine.
This assistance includes initiatives to promote stabilization and economic growth in order to strengthen security and foster civil society.
I should add that Ukraine is the only European country with which Canada has a humanitarian development program through which it receives this assistance. Furthermore, in August 2014, we donated non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine, such as medical and logistics supplies, including helmets, goggles and ballistic protective equipment. In November, Canada also committed to providing additional supplies, as I mentioned.
The following month, Canada signed a declaration of intent with Ukraine for joint military training and capacity building in response to Russia's belligerence. In January, we formalized the provision of military assistance to Ukraine by joining the U.S.–Ukraine Joint Commission and agreeing to co-chair with Ukraine that commission's military police subcommittee.
I would also like to speak to the strong role we are playing in NATO assurance measures. We have made robust contributions to strengthening security in central and eastern Europe by providing $1 million to the NATO trust fund for Ukraine, with a focus on improving its command, control, communications, and computer capabilities. We have contributed to three NATO-accredited centres of excellence in the Baltic region on cyberdefence, energy, security, and strategic communications. There is, of course, the deployment of Canadian military personnel and assets in central and eastern Europe as part of Operation REASSURANCE, including CF-18s, which have participated in Baltic air policing patrol; the HMCS Fredericton, which is participating in patrols in the Black Sea; and more than 200 Canadian infantrymen, who are present in Poland as we speak.
The Canadian army is deployed on the ground in central Europe, as I said, which is giving confidence to the countries in eastern Europe.
All of this constitutes a robust response by Canada. Let there be no doubt, with this further military training operation, that Canada, Canadians, and the Canadian Armed Forces stand side by side with our Ukrainian friends and partners in sending a message of strength and resolve to a bully in Vladimir Putin, who only understands the language of deterrence. We continue to stand by the people of Ukraine.