Madam Speaker, I will begin my remarks with a message for Vladimir Putin. It is the same message that the Right Hon. Stephen Harper delivered when he met with Mr. Putin at the G20 in November 2004, following the annexation of Crimea. The message is this: “You need to get out of Ukraine.”
At the time, Vladimir Putin denied the presence of Russia in Crimea. Now, almost eight years later, there certainly can be no denial. Canada did not buy his lies then, and in the wake of sham referendums last week, we do not buy them now.
I want to thank the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for their fourth report. It is a brief report but carries great significance. It reads as follows:
That the committee condemns any attempts to hold referendums in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine; any such referendums have no legitimacy, the committee maintains its belief that Ukrainian national boundaries recognized at the time of the Budapest Memorandum remain Ukraine’s national boundaries today, and the committee report this motion to the House.
I fully endorse the report from the committee and call upon every member of the House to do the same. We must send a strong and clear message from the Canadian House of Commons that Russian aggression in Ukraine is not acceptable. We must be unified in condemning the sham referendums held by Russia in the illegally occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
For our part, Conservatives will not now nor ever recognize these regions as Russian territory. Rather, these referendums have only served to redouble our commitment to Ukraine sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. It should be noted that these referendums took place amid a collapsing western front as Ukrainians continue the brave defence of their homeland once again.
However, the Russians are doubling down and are sticking to their dangerous military doctrine, namely the doctrine to escalate to de-escalate. The Russians have already raised the stakes by threatening the use of nuclear weapons should they be attacked in these occupied regions. These threats are not acceptable. The world has known the horrors of nuclear warfare and must not be subjected to it ever again. NATO has indicated that conventional forces will be used in response to such an attack in Ukraine.
The Putin regime is even targeting its own civilians by sharpening repression at home, including conscription of minority communities. This sounds a lot like actions I learned about in Soviet studies courses during my undergraduate time. This territorial grab harkens back to, pick one, the Soviet days or the Russian imperial days.
I have already been banned from Russia, something I wear as a badge of honour, so I will speak freely. The destruction that Vladimir Putin has inflicted upon Ukraine is nothing short of genocide. The horrific scenes of what Russia has left behind as Ukraine forces advance are nothing short of chilling.
I recall bringing my father-in-law, a man of Ukrainian descent, to the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. I vividly remember the look on his face when he saw the statue of the starving child, representing the millions who starved because of Joseph Stalin, the dictator who engineered a food shortage in Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s. His goal, like Vladimir Putin's, was to destroy Ukrainian ambitions for independence and ensure Ukrainian subservience. As a result, millions of Ukrainians experienced desperate hunger and died. Today we are witnessing the same aggression we saw from Stalin during the Holodomor, and it must be blunted.
Russia intends on using the so-called referendum results as justification for further aggression. They would have the world believe that they are defending what is theirs. However, Russia is the aggressor; Ukraine is the defender.
Canada will always stand against dictatorial aggressors and stand with those defending themselves. Canada must do more to support Ukraine. In the short term, we must ensure that Ukraine is well armed and has the weapons it needs to defend itself. President Zelenskyy has asked for more arms, and Canada should be a reliable partner.
We need to help Europe isolate Russia by supplying them with Canadian energy. We also need to remove our own domestic barriers to help Europe become energy independent from Russia. We should replace Russian oil and gas with a Canadian product that is produced with the highest environmental standards and respect for human rights.
The Prime Minister violated his own sanctions against Putin by sending back a turbine so that the Russians could continue to pump gas into Germany, so while the Liberals are against pipelines in Canada, they are in favour of maintaining the turbines for Russian pipelines that fund Putin's war. Meanwhile, we have 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that could be used to free Europe from its dependency on Putin. Plus, we have the ability to produce it cleaner than anywhere else in the world. We should use our resources to help our security partners in Europe.
We should also ensure that our own national security is fortified. Russia's extraterritorial target right now is Ukraine. What will Canada do when Russian turns its sights even further onto our Arctic and puts its 40 polar icebreakers against our one? Russia is aware that Canada has let its northern warning systems lapse, and NORAD modernization has to be elevated to urgent status, with the funds necessary to combat and detect modern warfare tactics and equipment.
Canada has chronically underfunded NATO, something that should be corrected immediately. We are well below the 2% commitment made years ago, and repeated currently. This is another case of too much talk and not enough action. European countries such as Germany, Sweden and Finland have moved swiftly to deal with present threats, and Canada needs to do likewise. We need to do likewise now.
Only now that Ukraine, especially its eastern oblasts, and parts of Europe are under threat is Canada starting to take its funding commitments seriously. These funding commitments mean better military equipment for our armed forces and mean helping with our flailing recruitment and retention. These funding commitments mean that Canada can continue to be counted on for the security of our own citizens as well as internationally. Right now, our allies are questioning our commitments and abilities. The Liberal government must get to work on these priorities right away. The path to greater support is clear. The only thing lacking is willingness.
Although the government's foreign affairs minister has stated that Canada is just a middle power that is good at “convening”, Canadians know that we are also proud and fierce fighters, trainers and peacekeepers. We have shown our mettle internationally since Confederation, particularly during the last century when we were called up to go above and beyond. Today, many Ukrainians fighting for their country and their families credit the Canadian Armed Forces for the calibre of critical military training they learned under Operation Unifier.
History will tell a very different story about Vladimir Putin than the one he tells himself. His legacy is one of lies, destruction, genocide and suffering. The world is uniting against him in a way not seen in a generation, demanding that he must withdraw from Ukraine and pay for his crimes. In the meantime, the House will condemn the sham referendums in Ukraine and give voice to those suffering under Putin's aggression.