– Solomia Ruban
TORONTO, August 10, 2015 – A Town Hall discussion on Canadian Foreign and Defence policy in Ukraine was held with Chrystia Freeland (MP for Toronto Centre), Yvan Baker (MPP for Etobicoke Centre) and Borys Wrzesnewskyj (former MP and Liberal Candidate for Etobicoke Centre).
All candidates voiced their opinion on the topics selected by moderator Arif Virany, a Liberal Candidate for Parkdale-High Park area. These were: Canadian military aid to Ukraine, the future possible steps to Ukrainian-Canadian collaboration and Liberal’s support of Ukraine.
One of the most anticipated questions during the panel discussion was: ‘Whether it would be a good thing if Canada armed Ukraine?’ Yvan Baker cited the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, saying that “…if Canada armed Ukraine, it would encourage some of the military leaders of the US to support <this initiative as well>.” In Baker’s opinion, “It would also send a signal to Russia that the West is willing to take all the steps necessary to prevent Russia from doing what it’s doing right now (military aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine).”
During the discussion, Chrystia Freeland once again reassured the audience of her representing the Ukrainian “hromada’s” interests, as well as of the Liberal Party’s continuous support of Ukraine. In her opinion, “Ukraine now has turned a new page and the Ukrainian civil society is more united than it has <ever> been in its history.” Freeland also added that the problem Ukraine is currently faced with should not be solely viewed as Ukraine’s issue – but the Western world’s humanitarian crisis.
Each of the three keynote speakers briefly mentioned Harper’s merits on the Ukrainian matter; however, they criticized a lot of his actions at the same time. For example, Borys Wrzesnewskyj mentioned Jason Kenney’s, Canada’s minister of National Defence, request for an inventory of surplus weapons that would match the list of equipment requested by the Ukrainian government; and how several month later this equipment was destroyed.
Many potential voters attending the event were not completely convinced by the proposed Liberal party’s future intentions regarding their support of Ukraine, as the country fights to sustain its territorial integrity. One member of the Ukrainian-Canadian community repeatedly posed a question to the Liberal Party representatives as to why their leader – Justin Trudeau – had not yet expressed any strong points on Putin’s oppression of the Ukrainian people. Even though the same question was reiterated several times, none of the speakers was able to give a sound answer on how their affiliated party plans to stand by Ukraine once elected.
Highway Liberty members also had a chance to ask the three speakers about their thoughts regarding Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s aggression as refugees. Specifically, our question was connected to the concern of refugees not being able to get an access to the health system and to receive a work permit upon their arrival in Canada. In regard to this matter Mr. Wrzesnewskyj told us that once elected he planned to sit down with the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress and build up a strategic plan of their first steps to help Ukrainian refugees. Mrs. Freeland added that a lot of Ukrainian-Canadians are coming from families of political refugees; therefore, she and the rest of the speakers understand and support those people coming from Ukraine right now.