NP-UN Western Bureau.
Accompanied by his fiancé Amanda Simard, Etobicoke-Centre MP Yvan Baker visited three centres in Western Canada to meet with local communities and hear their concerns, November 15-19.
Baker, who is also Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, met with the respective provincial councils of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) in Winnipeg November 15, Edmonton November 16, and Vancouver, November 18.
Among the issues raised at his Edmonton meeting at St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Community were:
• The plight of Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia for indoctrination;
• Avoiding a “brain drain” of Ukrainian university students to Canada;
• How some Canadian companies manage to sidestep sanctions against Russia;
• Improving English language education for displaced Ukrainians;
Referring to the November 7 testimony before the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights of four children who had been forcibly taken away by Russia, Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF) Secretary Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz, asked what Canada can do to bring other children home and help rehabilitate them. Could Canada work with the Red Cross on this, she added.
Baker replied that was a great idea, but noted it was difficult to get the children out of occupied territories. Pressure must be applied on Russia though sanctions and criminal charges.
Dr. Roman Petryshyn, Founder and former Director of the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre at Grant MacEwan University, said Ukrainian universities will need a rebuilding effort after the war and students currently in Canada need to be encouraged to go back in order to avoid a “brain drain”. He suggested a national program funded by the federal government and the provinces to make it possible for the students to return home.
Baker said that was an “excellent idea”, noting you can’t rebuild Ukraine without its people.
UCC Edmonton President Yarko Broda brought up a November 13 Globe and Mail story which stated that Russia is circumventing Canadian sanctions to arm its invasion of Ukraine by purchasing made-in-Canada electronic detonators through Kyrgyzstan, and asked how the Government of Canada will deal with this.
Baker replied he is not an expert on sanctions, but “there is an enforcement mechanism and maybe we have to do better with this mechanism. My job is to ensure that those people who are in charge of this do better.”
Both Orysia Boychuk, President of Alberta UCC and Olha Kulybanych, President of the newly created Bow Valley UCC Branch expressed the need for federal funding to provide more English classes for Ukrainians fleeing the war, noting that knowledge of the English language is the number one obstacle for many of the refugees to find gainful employment. This problem is particularly acute in rural areas.
Baker said he will take these concerns back and look for sources of funding.
In his opening remarks Baker said Ukraine needs a decisive victory, to regain lost territories, win the peace, join NATO and the EU. As well Russia must be made to pay as much as possible for the rebuilding process and war criminals must be brought to justice.
“There’s nothing to celebrate until Ukraine wins a decisive victory,” he stressed.
In his closing remarks Baker stressed the importance of all parties supporting Ukraine and expressed concern over the lack of support coming from Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.
“He has never advocated for Ukraine – not once,” he said.
“The degree to which we can solve these problems that we are all talking about needs everybody rowing in the same direction and that’s not happening from the leader of the Conservative Party,’ added Baker.