Mr. Chair, before I begin, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona.
The debate we are having in the House tonight is important, and I am glad that so many MPs from all parties want to participate. The situation in Ukraine is deeply worrisome, and everyone has an opinion on it, including those of us here in the House and all Canadians.
Russia's illegitimate military intervention in Crimea and the ensuing violence, which is still ongoing, shocked the international community. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 6,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine and over 15,000 more have been injured. People in the region are having a harder and harder time getting water and electricity, and the fighting has been going on intermittently despite ceasefires between the two parties.
My NDP colleagues and I supported and continue to support Canada's efforts to help the Ukrainian people, including our involvement in NATO'S Operation Reassurance. We stand with the Ukrainian people and we will continue to do so. We have a duty to help them. In addition to the non-lethal military support already provided by Canada, we can assist Ukraine in other ways, such as contributing to the country's democratic development or its economic stability.
I do not have much time today, but my colleagues from Laurier—Sainte-Marie and Ottawa Centre, in particular, have outlined various measures that Canada could take to help the Ukrainian people.
I would like to come back to the announcement that was made a few weeks ago by the Minister of National Defence. He announced the deployment of 200 Canadian military members to train the Ukrainian armed forces until March 2017. We know that there are some issues with the Ukrainian military at present. It can and must play a key role in stabilizing the region. Unfortunately, it continues to have difficulty modernizing and becoming more professional. Canada can certainly help train Ukrainian troops. Quite honestly, the intentions behind the deployment that was recently announced are commendable.
However, many questions still remain about exactly what our Canadians troops will be doing on the ground. There was a press conference to announce the whole thing, and tonight we are having a take note debate. However, we are getting very few additional details on the real mandate that Canadians troops will have on the ground in Ukraine.
Canadians and parliamentarians alike deserve more information on the details of the mission. This is a democracy, and transparency is important. There should be a debate in House.
My riding, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, is home to CFB Valcartier. The soldiers who are part of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group are currently taking part in the exercise MAPLE RESOLVE. They will be in a period of high operational readiness as of July 1. Being in a state of high operational readiness means that the soldiers who are currently at Valcartier could be deployed to Ukraine in the coming months, once the group from Petawawa completes its deployment.
With that in mind, it is crucial that the soldiers in my riding and their families be kept informed of the government's intentions and of the real mandate that our troops will be assigned.
In addition to the take note debate we are having today, we need to have a formal debate and a vote in the House. For now, the government has made a unilateral decision without consulting parliamentarians from all the parties. That is unfortunate. Everyone in the House agrees that we must help Ukraine. Canada has a role to play and we can certainly contribute to democratizing the country, stabilizing its economy, and training its troops. However, we should at least debate this in the House. It is part of our responsibility as parliamentarians. Unfortunately, that was overlooked yet again. Although I appreciate the debate we are having this evening, we have to do more. We are a democracy. It is important for the government to give us the opportunity to hold a formal debate on the issue and formally vote on it in the House.