Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander visited Dnipropetrovsk and Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 26 -28. According to the Minister's office press-release, in Dnipropetrovsk, he visited the Jewish Cultural Centre and Holocaust Museum, home to the Institute for Jewish Culture in Ukraine. Also in Dnipropetrovsk, Minister Alexander visited the International Organization for Migration distribution centre where he made an announcement about further humanitarian assistance for crisis-affected Ukrainians. During this visit, Chris Alexander met with an “inspiring” local woman who donated a full bag of clothing and shoes to the centre (see p 12). Minister Chris Alexander also visited Command Centre East of the Ukrainian armed forces located in Dnipropetrovsk where he in particular observed Canadian-supplied first aid kits which have already arrived in Ukraine.
On April 28, Minister Alexander attended the International Support for Ukraine Conference in Kyiv where Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko gave a keynote speech. On that day, Chris Alexander delivered a shipment of Canadian night vision goggles to Ukrainian armed forced in Kyiv which is part of an $11‑million Canadian assistance package announced in November 2014.
During his visit, Minister Alexander made the following announcements about about further Canadian help for Ukraine:
Altogether, last week, Minister Alexander announced $48.7 million in new assistance funds. This brought the total amount of the Government of Canada's assistance for Ukraine to over $627 million since January 2014. This amount includes support for economic stabilization, democracy and human rights, humanitarian assistance and security. This also includes two $200-million low-interest loans to help stabilize Ukraine's economy.
Upon his arrival in Canada, Chris Alexander had a media call with journalists. To the New Pathway's question about Italy's presumed plans to easen actions on Russia and recent calls on Ukraine by some European officials to fulfill Ukraine's obligations according to the Minsk-2 agreements, Minister Alexander said he believed that European countries were committed to upholding the sanctions and at least considering new sanctions if the Russian aggression continues. He also said that he witnessed himself in Ukraine that the Ukrainian side was committed to its obligations according to Minsk-2 and worried about the future of this agreement due to the recent violations of the ceasefire by the opposing side.
Answering Marco Levytsky's (Ukrainian News, Edmonton) question about an idea to provide a supportive immigration program for Ukraine at the time of war, Minister Alexander said that Canada welcomes Ukrainians and that in the first three months of 2015 the volume of applications to go to Canada from Ukraine grew by up to 40%. Chris Alexander said he was impressed by the quality of the visa service in Kyiv, which is one of the fastest Canadian visa services in the world.
Later in the week, we also talked to the Minister of International Trade Ed Fast about his recent meeting with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin in Ottawa. During the meeting, the parties discussed the future Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine – the negotiations are underway and will continue later in May when a road map could be designed that will allow to conclude them. Minister Fast said that he was satisfied with the pace of the negotiations, which, however, was limited and had to be recalibrated due to the challenges that Ukraine is facing on all fronts.