This early morning finds me on an unexpected flight back to Ottawa. Thursday afternoon, I had a call from Government House Leader Mark Holland to say that Parliament would reconvene on Tuesday for an address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – when we were intended to be on a work week in our constituencies. Mark also wanted me to know that a spot had been confirmed for a speaker from the Green Party, but only for an “in person” address.
So, I am most likely airborne as you read this. Before turning to events in Ukraine, I want to cover some other developments.
It was amazing to have confirmed, first by APTN and now by The Tyee (read it here), that on the very day flood waters were reaching peak last November, the BC government was busy gathering up more police power to arrest Wet’suwet’en land defenders.
Over the last three years, policing on the Morice Road has cost more than $21 million. But it was not enough in November 2021.
It boggles the mind that BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth verbally approved the RCMP call for more men instead of pointing out there was another kind of emergency that was, to put it mildly, more pressing. The Tyee report by Amanda Follett Hosgood is based on emails released through Access to Information requests. They confirm that, contrary to what the RCMP had claimed, RCMP Chief Supt. John Brewer asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth for additional officers, writing “I need to move resources now.”
Hosgood reports: “Verbal approval to dedicate provincial resources to the police action was given by Farnworth the next morning, as the province scrambled to respond to the extreme weather event that had caused landslides shortly after midnight the same day.”
I know I am a federal MP and try to avoid commenting too much on provincial matters, but as a British Columbian, I am beyond appalled by this government. It all piles up – Fairy Creek. LNG and Fracking subsidies. Site C. Ignoring opportunities to halt TMX. I do not want to forget how angry I am with this government’s many deceits and failures.
We must all work very hard to send many more reinforcements – not Horgan’s style reinforcements to arrest Wet’suwet’en leaders – but to the benches of the BC Legislature so that Sonia Furstenau will be our next premier.
Speaking only for myself, I believe Farnworth and Horgan are culpable in the deaths in the heat dome. We all heard the weather forecasts at the end of June. A provincial emergency should have been declared. Life saving warnings should have been issued. Cooling centres should have been set up. We had time. But they ignored the threat. Horgan claimed no one could know. Remember his press conference when he said “We thought it would just be hotter…”
Hotter weather? A killer heat dome was coming and they blamed the municipalities as the order of government responsible. And now we know that a few months later, as the flood waters threatened some of those very same communities ravaged by heat and fire, they were focussed on more arrests in Wet’suwet’en territory.
It beggars belief.
On to a bit of good news. On March 2, the United Nations Environmental Assembly carried a resolution to negotiate a new treaty – “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument.” The plastics pollution treaty will also involve setting up a science body to stay on top of the research of the growing threat, designed along the same lines as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The treaty still needs to be negotiated, but the first step is encouraging.
And back to Ukraine.
I received through the Global Green Parliamentarians’ Network a heart-breaking appeal from the Green Party of Ukraine:
Appeal of Ukrainian Greens to the Greens of the world,
March 9, 2022, Kyiv, Ukraine
Dear Green Friends!
We are writing to you from bomb shelters, from our home Ukraine, which is mercilessly attacked and bombarded by Russian forces since the fateful day – February 24, 2022.
Ukrainians are indiscriminately hit, collateral damage amounts to total destruction of cities, many civil and social infrastructures that have no relevance to the military are destroyed, thousands of civilians dead and injured. Millions are fleeing their homes. Ukrainian army and civil defense volunteers have taken up arms and are fighting for the survival of Ukraine. And they are successful to a great extent. But, missile and bomb attacks by air are causing greatest damage. We are helpless. We have no weapons to counter air attacks. We appeal to you for support. Please urge your governments to help protect our sky by having a no-fly zone. This is a deterrence and not an invasive tactic, in full consonance with the UN Charter, CSCE Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum….
For the sake of world peace and security, for democracy and resolution of conflicts through peaceful means and for a rules based world order, please help Ukraine! Protect our skies, protect our people from death, our country from devastation.
It was signed Vitaliy Kononov, Chairperson, Partija Zelenykh Ukrainy.
The Greens in Ukraine are a very small party and have no elected members. But we Greens are all aligned- whether big or small. I wrote back to Vitaliy Kononov – with no idea if he can receive emails from wherever he is sheltered. I told him we are with him and support our Ukrainian Greens and will do whatever we can – but that we cannot support the call for a no-fly zone.
As Green MPs around the world, we are all in agreement. We cannot urge our governments to push NATO for a “no-fly zone.” The reasons are solid, even though in the moment, I fear they ring hollow. We cannot risk provoking Vladimir Putin into a nuclear exchange. Mutually Assured Destruction is what the Cold War arms race has bequeathed to us.
Globally, there are over 13,000 nuclear warheads. Most are in Russia (6,255) and the USA (5,550), see the data here.
There is a reason I have been the most outspoken MP for the last decade on the need to press for nuclear disarmament. Unlike most of my colleagues, I remember the Cold War. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Led by the indomitable former Ambassador for Disarmament, former MP and Senator, the Hon Doug Roche, and working across party lines, Greens have pressed every federal government to engage in the United Nations process to abolish nuclear weapons.
So, I was surprised that this week I had some attacks on Twitter (I know, who cares? I am attacked on Twitter all the time). But this week some people misquoted from Good Sunday Morning to allege my support for Ukraine meant I am suddenly hawkish. So, let me briefly clarify that when I cited the things President Zelensky said he wanted in last week’s GSM, it was only to point out the obvious- he was not demanding Canada build pipelines. He has not mentioned wanting oil and gas from Canada. I think that was clear in reading the Sunday letter- but maybe someone has done some selective editing in sharing it with others.
My track record as a peace activist in parliament is pretty clear. After all, I was the only MP to vote against bombing Libya. All NDP, Liberal, Bloc and Conservative MPs voted for bombing in June 2011. But that was more than ten years ago, so maybe no one recalls. I should not assume anything.
The Green position is very clear and it is global. German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock is a member of our Green family. I only met her once for our Green Family Breakfast – an annual event at climate COPs. As a minister in the only global party committed to a culture of peace and non-violence, she has had the brunt of the shift in the new government of Chancellor Scholz to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. And to say no to a “no-fly zone.”
We are all working very hard to see more sanctions against Putin, more humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and to call for peace talks. There may be a glimmer of hope in yesterday’s proposal from President Zelensky for peace talks in Jerusalem brokered by Israel. Israel has a long-standing military dependence on Russia for access to Syrian airspace. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is the only leader to meet with Putin in person since the beginning of the war on Ukraine (link here)
It is an unsavoury alliance. The government of Israel needs Russian support to be able to attack Hezbollah in Syria. Both Russia and Israel are allies of Syrian president, the butcher Bashar Al-Assad – who has killed his own people in the hundreds of thousands.
Initially, the Israeli condemnation of the attack on Ukraine managed not to mention Russia by name. And in this horrific war against Ukraine, it is never far from my mind that conflicts, oppressing rights and killing indiscriminately, as in Syria, Palestine and Myanmar and places farther from our evening news, also require peace talks, humanitarian aid and sanctions.
But the clear and urgent imperative now is to stop Putin from unleashing further death and destruction on the people of Ukraine. The war against Ukraine is a war that threatens peace everywhere, threatens democracy everywhere and stopping Putin will (I believe) be a turning point for peace everywhere and democracy everywhere.
So, please know that I will do anything to help Ukraine. I am deeply moved and inspired by my colleagues in the Green Party of Ukraine, by the courage of President Zelensky, by the bravery of the now more than 14,000 Russians who have been jailed simply for taking to the streets to call for peace – and moved to tears by reports of the Polish mothers who have left their baby carriages in the train stations for the arriving Ukrainian mothers carrying their babes in their arms as they escape Putin’s bombs… We are all moved. We must do more.
As Ukrainian Green leader Vitaliy Kononov wrote us all—“For the sake of world peace and security, for democracy and resolution of conflicts through peaceful means and for a rules based world order, please help Ukraine!”
In hopes of peace and better news next week,
Some helpful reading on the history of Russia and Ukraine from retired Canadian diplomat and local resident, the brilliant Jeremy Kinsman:
PLEASE- sign my new petition against exporting thermal coal:
And lastly, a bit of reading with an interview from me on how our voting system blocks progress on critical issues, like climate:
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens