NP-UN National Affairs Desk.
March 9 on Parliament Hill, Etobicoke Centre Member of Parliament Yvan Baker was elected Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG) during the annual general meeting. CUPFG is one of Canada’s largest and most active parliamentary friendship groups with over 100 members representing all political parties.
The purpose of the CUPFG is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas between Canadian Parliamentarians and their counterparts in Ukraine and to promote and enhance the political, economic and cultural relations between Canada and Ukraine. The CUPFG has hosted bilateral meetings and roundtables with Ukrainian political leaders such as President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, and Speaker Andriy Parubiy, as well as human rights activists such as Crimean Leader Mustafa Dzemilev, Hennadiy Afanasyev, and most recently Oleg Sentsov. Annually, the CUPFG co-hosts, with the Ukrainian Embassy and Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the annual Holodomor Commemoration, Vyshyvanka Day and Ukrainian Day on Parliament Hill.
“Canada and Ukraine have a special and strategic bilateral relationship,” Baker said at the meeting. “This is based on the ties built between the 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians and their ancestral homeland, and Ukraine’s position as the bulwark against Russian aggression and challenge to liberal democracies.”
“I am deeply honoured to having been elected and entrusted to fulfill the role as Chair of this association at this crucial time. Canada has stood at the forefront of international support for Ukraine’s democratic, economic and defence reforms, as well as its sovereignty and territorial integrity. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the CUPFG from all parties, in both the House and the Senate, to continue to support Ukraine’s prosperity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Baker.
The Executive Officers and Directors of the CUPFG elected on March 9, 2020 are as follows: Chair: Yvan Baker, M.P. for Etobicoke Centre (Liberal); Vice Chairs: James Maloney, M.P. for Etobicoke–Lakeshore (Liberal); James Bezan, M.P. for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman (Conservative); Stéphane Bergeron, M.P. for Montarville (Bloc Québécois); Heather McPherson, M.P. for Edmonton Strathcona (NDP); Secretary: Julie Dzerowicz, M.P. for Davenport (Liberal); Treasurer: Cathay Wagantall, M.P. for Yorkton—Melville (Conservative); Directors: Han Dong, M.P. for Don Valley North (Liberal); Terry Duguid, M.P. for Winnipeg South (Liberal); Rosemarie Falk, M.P. for Battlefords—Lloydminster (Conservative); Peter Fonseca, M.P. for Mississauga East—Cooksville (Liberal); Irek Kusmierczyk, M.P. for Windsor—Tecumseh (Liberal); Kevin Lamoureux, M.P. for Winnipeg North (Liberal); Raj Saini, M.P. for Kitchener Centre (Liberal); Gerald Soroka, M.P. for Yellowhead (Conservative); Arif Virani, M.P. for Parkdale—High Park (Liberal); David Yurdiga, M.P. for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake (Conservative).
Baker told NP-UN about the role of the CUPFG: “It’s to first of all to build a closer relationship between people in government here in Canada and people in government in Ukraine. When the Ukrainian President or the members of Parliament come from Ukraine we parliamentarians from the friendship group meet with them. And the second role is advocating in government to help strengthen that relationship and help ensuring that we’re providing support to Ukraine so they can defend themselves and re-establish their sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Canada is also providing support for reforms in the Ukrainian judicial system, police and in addressing corruption in Ukraine. “We have members from all political parties – Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Bloque Quebecua, from all across the country which is really wonderful. Some of them have large Ukrainian constituencies, some of them have Ukrainian heritage and some of them don’t. But they believe that Canada should be supporting Ukraine, which I think is very positive.”
Below are Baker’s responses to NP-UN’s questions:
NP-UN: The Canadian government and politicians have not changed their stance on the situation in Ukraine although in many places of the world it’s now not very fashionable to talk about the Russian aggression.
Baker: Yes, in Canada the resolve is there to support Ukraine. And it’s not just me who says this, politicians of all political stripes, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and the prime minister will always stand with Ukraine. It may be true that Russia’s foreign policies are having some degree of influence in some parts of the world. But I’m optimistic that the countries of the G7 at their core understand that Ukraine should be independent and that its territorial integrity should be respected. That’s in Ukraine’s interest, that’s in their interests, because that helps enhance their own security. And although over time there may be changes that aren’t positive I think ultimately those countries will continue to support Ukraine. And you can see some of that resolve in Eastern Europe – Canada alongside NATO is doing a lot of work on a mission called Reassurance which is NATO troops based in Latvia to protect Europe from the Russian threat.
NP-UN: Do you think there is the Ukraine fatigue in the world?
Baker: Not that I am aware of. Yes, there have been changes in governments in Europe and different politicians have different levels of concern about what’s happening in Ukraine. But I just think, broadly, regardless of the politics of any individual leader in a given country, it is in Europe’s interest to have a free independent prosperous Ukraine. And I think, in the end, that’s the direction that the West will push but we can’t take that for granted. So Canada has to work hard. A good example of that is Operation Unifier that’s the mission where we train the troops not just at the ground level but also senior members of the military so they’re not only able to better defend Ukraine but are also more interoperable with NATO. And when there was talk recently that Russia should be able to rejoin the G7, Canada said, no way. Those are the opportunities for Canada to play an important role in making sure that the pressure is applied on Russia to get out of Ukraine.