Ukrainian Canadian leadership comes together to help Ukraine
February 1, 2022
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The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) announced the establishment of a Humanitarian Relief Committee in preparation for a humanitarian crisis ensuing from the anticipated Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“For almost three decades, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation has helped coordinate and deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine as it makes strides to grow its democracy towards economic prosperity and freedom,” said Orest Sklierenko, CUF’s President and CEO, in a joint statement with Alexandra Chyczij, National President of the UCC on January 27. “Our foundation was created to help in times of need; with this continued aggression and interference from the Putin regime, we are turning to all Canadians to help support this vital humanitarian work.”
The Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Committee was established jointly by the two organizations to formalize a coordinated approach in providing humanitarian assistance quickly and efficiently to those in need in Ukraine to address any further aggression by Russia. The committee will work with the Ukrainian Canadian community across Canada to reduce duplication of effort, increase efficiency and ensure aid efforts have the most effective impact for Ukrainian citizens affected by the crisis.
“The Ukrainian Canadian community is extremely concerned about the ongoing escalation of Russian aggression on Ukraine’s borders. As Canadians, we stand with the Ukrainian people, and their right to enjoy freedom, democracy, and live in a safe and secure independent state,” said Chyczij.
A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between UCC and CUF details a framework for mutual collaboration. The MOA’s primary purpose and scope are as follows:
to work collaboratively on humanitarian assistance initiatives directed towards Ukraine, facilitating uniform and coordinated action between the UCC and CUF, its branches, and members, while building on the recognized expertise, experience, and resources of each organization;
to develop projects that will combine the subject matter and implementation experience of CUF with the expertise of UCC in uniting the Ukrainian Canadian community;
to offer donors and other stakeholders an opportunity to make contributions and receive reports through a single channel; and
to adopt a coordinated approach in collaboration with donors and other stakeholders who wish to support people in Ukraine affected by the crisis.
The primary efforts of cooperation will be to provide humanitarian assistance/relief in the areas of:
Assistance to displaced persons;
Emergency Shelter; and
The roles and responsibilities of UCC and CUF are detailed in the MOA, including financial accountability, reporting requirements and overall transparency to the Ukrainian Canadian community.
The members of the committee are:
Victor Hetmanczuk – Chair;
Oksana Kuzyshyn – Vice-Chair;
Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz – Secretary;
Anna Kuprieieva – Member.
The announcement of the Humanitarian Relief Committee comes after the Government of Canada announced the extension and expansion of Operation Unifier, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, on Jan. 26.
“Our commitment to Operation UNIFIER ensures that the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to support Ukraine’s security forces so that Ukraine can defend its sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity,” Trudeau said.
The Canadian government extended Operation Unifier for an additional three years with plans to boost both intelligence sharing and support to combat Russian cyberattacks and send non-lethal equipment. More than 32,000 Ukrainian soldiers have had training according to the NATO standards through Op Unifier, with almost 200 Canadian men and women in uniform in Ukraine training Ukrainian soldiers these days.
“The extension and expansion of Operation Unifier will help the Ukrainian Armed Forces strengthen Ukraine’s defenses,” Chyczij said. “This is an important contribution by Canada. However, Ukraine has been at war for eight years and the threat of a further Russian invasion grows every day.”
UCC’s CEO Ihor Michalchyshyn told Global News on January 23 that Ukrainian Canadians are “extremely concerned” about the country’s situation. The most important thing Canada can do right now, he said, is help Ukraine’s defences to deter a Russian invasion.
“The more we can help Ukraine with military defencedefense, the riskier it becomes for Russia to invade,” he said.
UCC called on Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada to join several NATO allies and immediately provide Ukraine with defensive weapons. Ukraine is facing a crisis of increasing Russian aggression and a possible further Russian invasion, the January 26 UCC statement said, and Ukraine needs arms to defend itself.
While Ukraine is not a part of NATO, Michalchyshyn said there is a “significant expectation” Canada will support the country since it is an ally and partner. He said Canada could help Ukraine further with coastal defence and aircraft surveillance systems, which he said are specialties of Canada. He added that Ukraine is also interested in anti-aircraft and border surveillance and protection systems.
If not enough is done, Michalchyshyn warns an invasion could lead to a massive refugee crisis, destabilization of Europe and “death and destruction on a level not seen since World War II.”
UCC said that the Canadian people strongly support the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine. It would create significant deterrence against a further Russian invasion of sovereign Ukrainian territory and assist the Ukrainian people in defending their freedom and homeland.
“The Canadian people are clear in their support for Ukraine’s right to defend itself, and Canada must do the right thing and provide defensive weapons to Ukraine now,” it said.
According to a survey conducted by Abacus Data on January 20-21, 3 in 4 Canadians support or are open to supporting Canada by providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. The number of Canadians who explicitly support the provision of weapons to Ukraine by Canada (42 per cent) outnumbers the number of Canadians who oppose the provision of weapons (23 per cent) by almost 2 to 1.
“It is disappointing that the Canadian government is not yet joining our allies in providing Ukraine with weapons,” Chyczij said on January 26.
At the time that UCC and CUF announced their partnership, the Ukrainian Embassy in Ottawa put out a statement in which it called for more action from the government – more than the $120 million loan promised on January 21.
“We have hundreds of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles deployed along the Ukrainian border and in the occupied parts of Ukraine’s territory,” the Embassy’s statement said. “Facing the risk of a further Russian invasion, we need to defend our land. The U.K. and the U.S. have already shipped the military equipment and we would appreciate if Canada follows suit.”
The Embassy said that in addition to the existing training centres under Operation Unifier, the Canadian mission should be present in other locations throughout Central and Southern Ukraine.
The Embassy’s statement also said it is essential for Canada to impose severe sectoral sanctions to discourage any further action from Russia.
“It is essential for Canada to impose severe sectoral sanctions swiftly as a way of raising the costs of any military or hybrid action contemplated by Russia,” it said. “We welcome Canada’s support for a comprehensive multi-tier deterrence package, consisting of political, economic and security measures which effectively demotivate Russia from escalation.”
Michalchyshyn said that additional sanctions, the kind that are usually applied in an internationally coordinated way after an invasion, could be imposed on Russia before it makes any more moves.
“Our perspective is, though, of course, to do these things now to dissuade Putin so that he knows the cost of an invasion is so high that he will back down and sends his troops back to barracks,” he told CBC News on January 24.
Canada has been one of Ukraine’s most significant bilateral donors since 2014, having spent $245 million on the country’s constitutional, judicial and security reforms, among other things. That figure does not include what both Liberal and Conservative governments have spent on military training and technical assistance missions in Ukraine over the past seven years.
On January 21, Trudeau said that Canada’s foreign minister Mélanie Joly discussed the $120 million loan to “help support Ukraine’s economic resilience” during her Ukraine visit and that the government was exploring other options to provide financial and other support.
“The conversations that our foreign minister had with Ukrainian officials, including the Ukrainian president, stress that we’re happy to be there to reinforce the resilience and the strength of Ukraine’s economy faced with Russian destabilization, including economic destabilization,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau also said he did not close the door on sending weapons to Ukraine.
“We are looking at what more we can do and how we can help even more. We will surely have more to say in the days and the weeks to come.”
Donations in support of humanitarian relief can be made through cufoundation.ca.
With files from UCC This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement