Mr. Chair, it is a privilege to stand here today to share some thoughts on what is a very important issue, not only here in Canada but around the world, as the world is very much focused on what is happening in Ukraine.
To make it very clear, we in the Liberal Party recognize the sovereignty of Ukraine. The western world and beyond have seen this horrible situation arise because of one leader from Russia, Putin, who has caused so much damage and destruction in an area of the world where there is an immense amount of pride and a desire to see Ukraine grow. The setback for this great nation is most unfortunate and very hard to describe.
When we look at where we are today and how it evolved, I would suggest that the real heroes are the people of Ukraine who took note of what was taking place, not that long ago, in terms of the European Union and the the trade association that was being rejected by the former president.
We witnessed the people of Ukraine filling the streets, in particular the Maidan, sending a very powerful message not only to the elite and the leadership in Ukraine but to people around the world.
The real heroes are those individuals who put their lives on the line, many of whom lost their lives in that battle. We appreciate the efforts of people from coast to coast to coast here in Canada who in their caring hearts want to see Canada play a role in what is happening in Ukraine. That has been a motivating factor in what we are debating today and in the many other debates we have had, for well over a year, related to Ukraine.
We have had members' statements. We have had not one but two emergency debates, I believe. Many members of Parliament have visited Ukraine. We have had hundreds of people of Ukrainian heritage participate in the presidential election and parliamentary elections. All of this is because Canada truly cares about what is happening in Ukraine.
I indicated what a privilege it was to have President Petro Poroshenko address the House of Common and acknowledge how much he appreciated the friendship and general goodwill from Canada, in particular from people of Ukrainian heritage who have been reaching out and supporting Ukraine in a time of need.
Very briefly, I would just commend the people of Winnipeg for their efforts. We have seen fundraising events. We have seen protests, in very cold temperatures.
Canada has been engaged not only at the political level, but at the grassroots level. It has been the people, whether they are the people of Ukraine or the people of Canada, who have been a driving force to ensure that we take the actions that are so very important to support Ukraine in its time of need.
What can we do? We are talking today about sending 200 Canadian forces personnel for training purposes to Ukraine. The leader of the Liberal Party has stated, virtually from day one, that we support Canadian military personnel going over and playing the role that has been asked of them. Whether it was the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid or other types of support to Ukraine, much like Canadians as a whole, we as a political entity have been very supportive.
We have some incredible individuals within our caucus, including our critic for foreign affairs, the member for Toronto Centre, and my colleague from Wascana. As it was suggested earlier, the leader of the Liberal Party has allowed me, by going to Ukraine on several occasions, to get a better sense of what is taking place. That has been very beneficial. The caucus discussions we have had have been very thorough. In fact, some might recall that back in February, on behalf of the Liberal Party, I raised the issue during question period of Canada possibly having a military presence and asked what the government was doing in that regard.
We recognize the phenomenal efforts of individuals as well as organizations, none more than the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. It has been fantastic in supporting members of all political parties in the House and providing updates. There are some valid issues that have been raised through the congress. I have attempted to raise them this evening. I very briefly will make reference to two of them on which it would be valuable to hear some dialogue. I recognize it is a very awkward statement for some members to provide comment on, but it is something that needs to be raised.
I raise them in the perspective of our allies and the people who support us. We need to work in sync with our allies and the United States. There are also things that can be done in providing some leadership.
The first issue of banning Russia from the SWIFT banking system is something of great concern. I do not know to what degree the government has raised this issue, so I put that on the table.
Second, earlier today I made reference to the number of deaths. There have been an estimated 7,000 deaths and 19,000 wounded. The issue of weaponry is one that has been brought to our attention. I suspect it has also been brought to the attention of the government.
To what degree has the government had some sort of discussion on those issues with our allies and the United States?
We have talked about trade this evening. That has some merit in the long-term relationship between Canada and Ukraine. After all, President Poroshenko addressed the House and said, in essence, that he would welcome Canada entering into trade with Ukraine. If we think about the European Union, the trade deal and so forth, it would seem to be a natural fit. However, I suspect we have to be very aggressive on that file.
I have appreciated the opportunity to share a few thoughts.