Put Moral Principles Ahead of Business Interests

Chrystia Freeland with the leaders of Ukrainian community in Edmonton, AB. Marco Levytsky

Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau.

Back in the days when the Liberals were in opposition, Chrystia Freeland on quite a few occasions, questioned the ruling Conservatives over the exclusion of Russian oligarchs Igor Sechin and Vladimir Yakunin from Canada`s sanctions list – despite the fact both had been on U.S. sanctions lists right from the beginning in 2014.

What’s more, in response to the Election Questionnaire issued by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and posted on their website on September 29, 2015, Anna Gainey, President of the Liberal Party of Canada, made the following statement:

“A Liberal government would immediately expand the list of sanctioned Russians to include influential businessmen, and close Putin supporters, Igor Sechin and Vladimir Yakunin.”

Well, the Liberals have been in power for almost two years now and Chrystia Freeland is now Canada`s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Yet neither of these individuals is on Canada`s sanctions list despite the Liberals’ election pledge to “immediately expand the list” to include them.

When Freeland was questioned about their exclusion, as well as questioned whether Canada would provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine now that the U.S. Congress has authorized such provision in a bill President Donald Trump actually signed, by New Pathway – Ukrainian News during a meeting she held with the Ukrainian community in Edmonton, August 11, she artfully dodged both questions.

To be fair, it could very well be the case that Freeland may be pushing for the inclusion of Sechin and Yakunin (or his replacement at Russian Railways, Oleg Belozerov), at the cabinet level, but is outvoted by her colleagues. If that is the case she is required to toe the line and maintain cabinet solidarity in public.

So why would it be so difficult for a Canadian government to place these individuals on our sanctions lists, when both the U.S. and the European Union have done so? Perhaps it`s because of the extensive business interests they have in Canada.

Sechin’s Rosneft, through its RN Cardium Oil Inc. subsidiary, owns 30 percent of Exxon Mobil Corp’s Harmattan acreage in the Cardium formation near Sundrie, Alberta, while Russian Railways has a very close business relationship with Canada`s Bombardier. This has been documented by CTV News, Global News and The Globe and Mail. Rosneft, it should be noted, is Russia`s oil and gas giant and, as such, provides the bulk of the revenue that feeds Vladimir Putin`s war machine.

Ironically, the Conservatives, who avoided taking action on these specific items when they were in power – now call for both when they are in opposition.

So, as far as both parties are concerned they can take one stand in opposition, but things get to be quite different when they form the government. Would the NDP be any different? Maybe now that they will have a new leader that is a possibility, but then they are also not likely to form a government. And let’s not forget the fact that outgoing leader Thomas Mulcair led the charge for bailing out Bombardier, thus he could not be counted on to take any action that would upset that corporate entity.

So, the question remains what is the use of sanctions if you exclude those individuals who can be hurt most because of their extensive business interests in Canada?

There is a French term “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, which has entered the English lexicon as a rhetorical comment which basically means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” This certainly applies in this particular case.

But wouldn’t it be a refreshing change for a Canadian government to put moral principles ahead of business interests for once?