Elizabeth May on Ukraine (Adjournment Proceedings)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked in the House during question period on March 25. Some time has passed since then.

The question I asked pertained not just to Canadian involvement in Ukraine. All members here want to see us do what we can to restore freedom, security, and peace to the region, and there is tremendous concern across Canada about Putin’s aggression. There is no question about that.

However, my question actually goes to the matter of the engagement of Parliament when we make decisions about foreign affairs, particularly decisions that increasingly bring us within the range of hostility of another country with which we have, for other purposes, the relationship of allies. I am speaking of Russia.

Through all manner of trade arrangements and other multilateral agreements, we have relations with Russia. We are not at war with Russia, and although I believe Canadians would want to press Putin to withdraw from Ukraine, there is a lot here that we have in common.

My question on March 25 for the Prime Minister was in relation to our support for Ukraine. The extent of Canada’s involvement is not clear and public on the website of DFATD. We do not necessarily know, except through the media, about the provision of RADARSAT-2 data to Ukraine, which has been reported as occurring over the objections of the Department of National Defence and of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I also asked point-blank that I had heard there is a memorandum of understanding between Canada and Ukraine, and I asked the Prime Minister to confirm if such a memorandum exists and to share with parliamentarians when that memorandum of understanding would be tabled with the House.

The response I received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke to those things about which we all agree and all know, which is that Canada is standing with the people of Ukraine and will continue to do so. However, the response was—and this is not a shock in this place—a response that was not responsive.

Since the time I asked that question, I have also learned that Ukraine is not satisfied with the quality of the RADARSAT-2 data it is receiving through the Department of National Defence. Additional requests have been made of Canada to actually place a RADARSAT-2 station in Ukraine so that the Ukrainian government will be able to more quickly access the RADARSAT-2 data. This is highly technical material. It takes trained DND personnel to massage the data to be able to tell Ukraine what it says and what it means.

I would pursue this matter again with the parliamentary secretary, to the extent that he is able to share it with us. Again, this is an area where we will all be in agreement, but unlike the situation in Iraq and Syria, for which we had a debate in the House and talked about what is being planned, we are finding out in dribs and drabs what Canada is doing to assist Ukraine, increasingly in a military context.

We know we have Canadian military there to help in the training. My question again is this: is there a memorandum of understanding between Canada and Ukraine? Will the House be able to review this agreement? Will we have a debate on it? Is it true that we are now contemplating putting a satellite system into Ukraine? If by any chance it was struck during conflict, it would actually compromise our access to RADARSAT-2 data for all the other things Canada needs that data for. Whether it is for weather or information about Canada, we need that data to be secure.

David Anderson: Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite has brought up a whole host of issues. Certainly I am glad to be here tonight to talk about our broad support for Ukraine. Hopefully she will get some information here that will help her to understand that.

We are a leading supporter of Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. We continue to strongly condemn the actions taken by Russia, including its illegal annexation of Crimea and its efforts to destabilize southern and eastern Ukraine. We have repeatedly called on Russia to withdraw its forces and immediately de-escalate the situation.

On February 13, 2015, we joined other G7 leaders in welcoming what was called the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” adopted on February 12, 2015, and urged all sides to adhere strictly to the provisions of the package and to carry out its measures without delay. Russia’s provocative military activity remains a serious concern to the international community and cannot go unanswered.

We have been at the forefront of the international community’s response to this crisis and have provided deep and wide-ranging support to Ukraine, including humanitarian and development assistance, financial aid, and non-lethal military aid.

To support Ukraine’s security and stability, Canada has provided $16 million in non-lethal security equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces, including winter clothing, a mobile field hospital, explosive ordinance disposal equipment, and other goods.

In addition, we are deploying approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to Ukraine until March 31 of 2017 to develop and deliver training and capacity-building programs for Ukrainian forces personnel. We have also imposed a broad range of sanctions against more than 270 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities.

In terms of assistance to Ukraine, Canada is providing $400 million in low-interest loans to help Ukraine stabilize its economy. As well, over $202 million has been announced in bilateral development assistance projects. Humanitarian assistance has been provided to help an estimated five million people who have been affected by the violence in Ukraine.

In the face of Russian aggression, Canada has contributed to NATO assurance measures and $1 million to NATO trust funds, as well as $3 million to NATO’s centres of excellence to assist allies in Eastern Europe.

Within the broad range of support that Canada is providing, we are also sharing RADARSAT-2 satellite products with Ukrainian authorities. The member opposite had asked about that. At a time when the international community is closely monitoring Russia’s implementation of the Minsk commitments, this technology allows Ukraine to have much better situational awareness.

Ukraine’s political stability is imperative, and Canada continues to strongly support the OSCE’s special monitoring mission. We have just announced an additional $2 million contribution to it, as well as an extension to the term of Canadian monitors.

Canada’s assistance to Ukraine is multi-faceted. We remain committed to supporting Ukraine as it resists Russian aggression while undertaking the reforms necessary to ensure Ukraine’s future as a democratic, stable, and prosperous country.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my friend, the hon. parliamentary secretary, sharing what he did. I do think the Parliament of Canada needs to know more about the nature of our commitments to Ukraine in terms of RADARSAT-2 data.

I am still very curious and I do not yet have an answer. I am certainly grateful to the hon. parliamentary secretary for sharing as much as he did, but if he is not certain if such a memorandum of understanding exists, I would appreciate it if he would take it upon himself to ask the minister.

Canadians know that the Parliament of Canada is the place where we review our commitments, whether militarily or internationally. We discuss and we debate in this place, and it really is important that all members of Parliament be fully informed about the extent of our commitments overseas, particularly in those cases where we are going to be in broad agreement.

A memorandum of understanding, should it exist in the context of our constitutional monarchy and our Westminister parliamentary democracy, should not be executed solely by the executive on its own. We would want to know what we are committed to, even if we are in agreement. As a matter of respect for the supremacy of Parliament, that memorandum of understanding should be made available to members.

Again I thank my hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for whom I have nothing but deep respect.

David Anderson:
Mr. Speaker, the member can be reassured that we made a commitment to continue to be at the forefront of the international community’s support for Ukraine’s long-term stability, security, and prosperity.

We view the situation in Ukraine with the gravest concern. We remain committed to a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict. As the situation evolves, Canada will also continue to co-operate closely with its G7 partners, NATO allies, and other like-minded countries.

Canada is committed to supporting the humanitarian, the political, and the economic well-being of the Ukrainian people through this difficult period. We expect the Government of Ukraine to demonstrate true commitment to reform by implementing key priority reforms in the coming year.