To The Editor:
I am deeply saddened and extremely angry at what is happening in Ukraine.
You may recall that when I was your Member of Parliament I participated in a diplomatic mission with Canada’s Foreign Affairs Committee (Google MP Stetski goes to Ukraine) to Ukraine, Latvia, Poland and Kazakhstan in 2017.
The purpose of the mission was to see how these countries were faring 25 years after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. All of the countries except Kazakhstan were extremely worried about Putin and his obsession with restoring the old Soviet Union.
In Ukraine we met with Members of Parliament, government Ministers, educators, members of civil society and their Prime Minister. I was so impressed with how hard Ukrainians were working on ridding itself of Soviet-era corruption and embracing democracy while fighting a Russian-backed war in the Donbass area of eastern Ukraine and seeking to have Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, returned to them.
Our RCMP were there helping to train 11,000 primarily young police officers and our military personnel were there helping to train Ukrainian armed forces.
I was particularly impressed and encouraged by the role that young Ukrainians were playing in building a democratic future for their country. They were working with politicians to bring in legislation that helped to build a better society and enshrine rights enjoyed by other democratic countries around the world.
In Ottawa, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress sponsored a Parliamentary Internship Program which brought young Ukrainians to Ottawa to work in MPs and Senator’s offices for up to 10 months. I had the privilege of meeting many of these Interns during my time in Ottawa, and they were always inspiring. They came here to learn about our Parliament and our way of life in Canada, and to take the best of what we have to offer back to Ukraine.
I have included a photo of one group of interns – it breaks my heart to think that some of them may well now be dying to protect their country.
It was Ukraine’s wish to become a partner in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and it was Putin who always pushed to keep Ukraine out of NATO.
Putin clearly has had long-term ambitions to fully invade Ukraine, and if Ukraine was a member of NATO, the 30 countries who make up “the most powerful alliance in the world” would be obligated to defend the country.
Rightly or wrongly, without that membership it gives those 30 countries, including Canada, the opportunity to avoid direct military conflict with Russia, at least for now, and instead impose sanctions that may, or may not, yield any results.
Will Putin stop with Ukraine?
Countries like Latvia and Poland certainly were concerned back in 2017 that the answer is no. If he is successful in Ukraine it will boost his insatiable ego and his dangerous delusion of restoring the old Soviet Union. NATO members, including Canada, need to ensure that Putin understands that what he is doing is horribly wrong, is tragic for the people of Ukraine, is bad for the people of Russia, and is of serious concern for the rest of the world. Putin needs to be held accountable.
For now, we need to do what we can to support the people of Ukraine. There are an estimated 1,360,000 Canadians with Ukrainian heritage living in Canada. Hundreds of thousands of primarily women and children are fleeing the Ukraine seeking refugee status. The least we can do is help to support them in the countries that they are fleeing to, and in future welcome them with open arms to Canada.
Their hope, and ours, is that sometime in the near future they will be able to return to a free and democratic Ukraine.
Wayne Stetski, MP Kootenay-Columbia, 2015 - 2019
A group of Ukrainian Canadian Congress Parliamentary Interns are pictured with former MP Wayne Stetski working in Ottawa. Many returned to Ukraine to help build a better future and may now be risking their lives for a democratic future for their country. — Submitted