Canada's NDP


March 20th, 2024

MP Mathyssen Addresses the Lack of Conservative Support for Ukraine

Madam Chair, I am a little concerned, so I would love some clarification from the member. He spoke about how supportive he was of the actions of Emmanuel Macron. In response to Macron calling for soldiers to enter into Ukraine's land, the temperature was raised by Putin, in terms of threats of further nuclear responses. I would love to hear the member's clarification on that. It seems to me that is not helping what we are trying to accomplish. We want to ensure that Ukrainians have a peaceful, fast resolution to this, as opposed to raising the temperature.

Madam Chair, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Strathcona.

It has been more than two years since Putin began his full-scale, illegal invasion of Ukraine. Today, New Democrats want to reaffirm our solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Putin's genocide has killed and injured tens of thousands of Ukrainians and displaced hundreds of thousands more. However, through it all, Ukrainians have maintained their courage in fighting for Ukraine, for democracy, for international law and for an international order based on justice and accountability. Their spirit and resilience in the face of this war shines bright, and they do it for all of us.

Since Parliament's last take-note debate on Ukraine, much has changed. The unanimous solidarity among democratic countries is beginning to crack. The long-awaited strategic security partnership package from the United States has been held hostage by far-right Republicans who seek to undermine Ukraine's fight. Hungary's Viktor Orbán has repeatedly blocked Ukraine's membership in NATO and the European Union.

At a time when the far right is increasingly listening to Putin, Ukraine needs Canada to step up and support its fight. That is why it is so painful to see what is happening here in Canada.

First, we have seen the government not meet the urgency of Ukraine's fight. Time after time, the government announces a new aid package to Ukraine, whether it is for air defence systems, light armoured vehicles, funding toward demining activities, or seized Russian assets, only to have the promise left unfilled. While the government delays its delivery of aid, Ukraine is being bombed and Putin's attacks continue. We must demand that the government quickly deliver on all promised aid packages and find new ways to deliver aid quickly.

Second, what is truly painful to see is the erosion of our unanimous solidarity within this very chamber. I know the pride many members of the Conservative Party had when thinking they were champions for Ukraine. However, recently, I was shocked to see the shift in positioning from the official opposition, and Canadian Ukrainians have spoken to me in my riding about how they feel abandoned by this.

Not only did the Conservatives vote against the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, but they put up delay after delay on the bill. After President Zelenskyy specifically asked us to support the deal, Conservatives did everything they could to block it. Even last night, the Conservative Party senators teamed up for one last attempt to block the bill.

Conservatives also voted against additional monetary supports for Ukraine, with millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and the monies required by Operation Unifier so Canadian Armed Forces members can continue to train Ukrainians. The Conservatives voted against those measures.

Canada is not immune to American-style far-right politics. We know that the dog whistles we hear from the Conservatives about cutting foreign aid, refusing to commit to honour the security guarantee and calling Ukraine some “faraway” land are playing to a dark side of their base that we have to call out.

As this war continues and we hear more and more escalatory rhetoric from Russia, Canada needs to take a leadership role on the world stage. Last week, Putin openly declared Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons. This was far from the first time the world has heard those threats, but we need to continue to take them seriously.

The nuclear threat is the highest it has ever been. The tensions between NATO, Russia and China are constantly rising, and diplomacy between countries is at an all-time low. Canada has a role to play in restarting the necessary talks on nuclear disarmament. Canada could join the 93 other countries that have signed on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We can use our voice on the international stage to push for disarmament negotiations so that Ukraine and our allies are not faced with nuclear blackmail and bullying by nuclear superpowers.

This is a moment for all of us to reiterate our commitment to supporting Ukraine and supporting the fight to create a peaceful, just world.

Madam Chair, Ukrainians are used to all these announcements, but there is no follow-through. Canadians are used to that. There are so many projects and promises that Liberal governments have made over the years that they have never followed through on. While all of those announcements are great, I would really love to see some follow-through.

Madam Chair, I know my hon. colleague cares a great deal about those in his community who are fighting for their relatives, family members and the Ukrainian diaspora.

I too have that in London—Fanshawe. In greater London, there are about 10,000 Ukrainians, and they have said the same thing to me. They are very concerned about this wavering of support they are starting to see and the lack of support for the free trade agreement with Ukraine.

I am so proud of the incredible work of the local Ukrainian council and the Ukrainian Centre. There is also the Canadian Ukrainian Logistics Division, which continues to go to Ukraine to deliver much-needed aid: helmets, boots, tourniquets, just name it. They have spoken to me about how concerned they are.

I can only say that I do not understand it. I hope the Conservatives see reason and come back to the solidarity that we all need to see for Ukraine.

Madam Chair, I would probably repeat a lot of what I said to the Liberal member. Conservative actions mean a great deal, and we have seen those actions and a lack of support. They have made their bed and they need to lie in it.

Mr. Chair, I certainly do not want to repeat what has already been said, but I do want to raise my concern as well that there is a bit of a precedent here that we need to be worried about.

There are a lot of big feelings in the House, but the problem is that it should not be those who scream the loudest or light their hair on fire who get the most attention. When one is in a grocery store and a kid is on the floor kicking and screaming, one does not feed that fire. I would ask that we be more cautious, absolutely, with the words we use, but it should not be those who kick and scream the loudest who get their way all the time.