Yorkton and area Ukrainian-Canadians are adding their voices to calls for the Government of Canada to do more about ongoing unrest in Ukraine.
“We’re very concerned,” said Harry Kardynal, a member of the Yorkton branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). “A lot of our relatives are still there.”
At its meeting today, the Yorkton UCC will distribute a petition asking Parliament to 1. stand with the Ukrainian people during this difficult time and continue to forcefully oppose all efforts to repress their rights and freedoms; 2. monitor developments closely and utilize all options at Canada’s disposal; and 3. work with like-minded countries to impose personal sanctions against those individuals, their family members and associates who are responsible for human rights violations, criminal activity or corrupt business practices in Ukraine.
The petition will be available at Yorkton’s Ukrainian churches for people to sign and will then be passed on to Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz, said Larrissa Van Caeseele, co-chair of the Yorkton UCC.
“There is a lot of concern in the constituency,” Breitkreuz said. “I am also personally very concerned. Ukraine has been fighting for freedom and independence from Russia. This is really a step backwards. I admire their courage and bravery.”
In November, Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, announced his government was abandoning an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and instead would seek closer ties with Russia. During an ensuing protest at the capital Kyiv on November 30, police brutally suppressed demonstrators. The following day, galvanized by images of their bloodied countrymen, 300,000 people poured into Kyiv’s main square.
Since then, at least five people have been killed, hundreds injured and dozens arrested in clashes with riot police.
At the end of January, Mykola Azarov, the prime minister, resigned and the Ukrainian Parliament repealed anti-protest laws and offered amnesty to demonstrators in custody.
Despite the Ukrainian Parliament’s actions, Yanukovych has not backed down and his opposition continues to occupy central Kyiv.
Canada has barred key Ukrainian officials from entering this country, but has yet to take stronger action advocated by the NDP such as financial sanctions and expedited visas for vulnerable Ukrainians who want to emigrate. Breitkreuz said the government is looking at all those options, but is hopeful a diplomatic solution will prevail.
“We don’t want to harm the Ukrainian people,” he said. “We’re going carefully.”