Incredibly rare for a minister to spend as much time as she did in Ukraine, says Wrzesnewskyj
Marco Levytsky, NP-UN National Affairs Editor.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, made two major announcements during her July 18 to 23 visit to Ukraine.
“It’s incredibly rare for a minister to come to a country for a period of a week… and to really get a direct sense of how our projects are impacting on lives and it speaks to the importance our government places upon our work within Ukraine,” Etobicoke Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, (MP, Etobicoke-Centre), Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, who accompanied the minister along with Alexandra Chyczij, First Vice President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, told New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
“You typically see a minister flying to Kyiv for a day have a series of meetings then go. “We’re showing a very different methodology of how we are approaching the situation in Ukraine.”
He added that Bibeau is the only minister from the G7 to travel right into the conflict zone.
Bibeau’s first announcement, which she made on July 19 in Kyiv during a joint press conference with First Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, was a new call for preliminary proposals entitled “Growth that works for everyone — Inclusive and shared prosperity in Ukraine.”
The $30-million call for preliminary proposals will fund innovative projects to enhance the economic security of rural women, especially those affected by the conflict in the eastern part of the country. The projects will also help to create a more competitive, innovative and sustainable environment for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as increase employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women and for vulnerable and marginalized groups.
“Canada remains committed to the strengthening of its partnership with Ukraine over the long term. When we invest in women and the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, we give them the same opportunity as everyone else to become agents of change and contribute to building a better and more inclusive Ukraine,” said Bibeau.
“Canada established its support program for Ukraine right after Ukraine proclaimed its independence in 1991. Canada’s assistance and support are even more valuable as they are aimed at the most important areas of Ukraine’s reforms: development of democracy, economy, ecology, trade and entrepreneurship. So we may say that every victory of Ukraine has a part of Canadian friendship and support,” added Kubiv.
“We welcome today’s announcement by Minister Bibeau of additional support for Ukraine’s civil society and economic development, which will assist Ukraine in consolidating democracy, continuing transformative reforms, and strengthening security,” said Chyczij.
Speaking with NP-UN by telephone from just outside the conflict zone, July 22, Bibeau said the decision to get preliminary proposals first is to see which ones are the best. Once people are asked to submit final proposals, they are virtually guaranteed those will be accepted.
The projects may receive funding of up to $500,000 per year. The entire $30 million is to be distributed over a five-year period.
The second, announced on her last day of the visit, will provide up to $4.75 million in funding over five years to support a Women’s Voice and Leadership initiative in Ukraine.
The project will strengthen the capacity of local women’s organizations to promote and defend human rights and empower Ukrainian women and girls.
“Women’s rights organizations and movements have invaluable experience in driving global and national action on gender equality. Local and national advocates often have the greatest understanding of the challenges that women and girls face, and essential knowledge of how to advance their rights and bring about systemic changes. That is why Canada supports women’s organizations and movement in Ukraine and across the world in tackling gender inequality,” said Bibeau.
While in Ukraine, Bibeau met with several people living in the Russian-occupied zone who travel to the Ukrainian zone to pick up their pensions and other social assistance support.
She said they get no support from the occupiers and have to rely on their Ukrainian pensions in order to survive.
Travelling through the checkpoints is a very arduous process. While they are treated well on the Ukrainian side, on the other side basic human rights are not respected and the wait times can be extremely long.
Most of the people affected are seniors and the only things they have left are their homes.
“They want to stay in their home even though there is firing over their heads every night,” Bibeau said. At night they go into the basement to get cover from the shelling.
However, “you don’t feel hate when you speak to these people. They just suffer.”
“The minister is a real people person. She was walking up to the people crossing the checkpoints in Mayorsk and asking them questions,” said Wrzesnewskyj adding “it was a real eye opener”, for Bibeau.
Minister Bibeau also visited development projects supported by Canada.
“Canada is making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable and often the most vulnerable are the women …“I saw how moved the minister was. Her eyes welled up seeing at first hand,” said Wrzesnewskyj.
During her visit, Minister Bibeau met with Volodymyr Groysman, Prime Minister, as well as several other Ukrainian ministers, to discuss the Ukrainian government’s reform agenda, including its strategy for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
One of these was Acting Health Minster Ulana Suprun, whom Bibeau invited to travel with her by car, which allowed them to talk for several hours.
Wrzesnewskyj said there is also an opportunity for Ukrainian Canadian organizations to put proposals together, since Chycziy was present at all the meetings and the UCC will be reporting back to their constituent organization.
“I am honoured to have been invited to represent the UCC on Minister Bibeau’s visit to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Canadian community will continue to work closely with the Canadian and Ukrainian governments to ensure peace and prosperity for the Ukrainian people,” stated Chyczij.