MPs Debate Ukraine Violence In House Of Commons

OTTAWA, Canada -- Canadian MPs are holding an emergency debate on the crisis in Ukraine, where protests are being met by a violent response from the government.

An anti-government protester faces a line of riot police at the site of clashes in Kiev on Jan. 27. Police and demonstrators continue to clash in the Ukrainian capital a week after the latest round of violent protests began.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer ordered the debate, which will provide MPs the opportunity to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

All parties also came to an agreement on a motion condemning the Ukrainian government for its actions and an anti-protest law deemed by observers to be anti-democratic.

The all-party agreement on the motion prevented a figurative footrace between NDP MP Paul Dewar and Conservative MPs James Bezan and Ted Opitz, all of whom were seeking a debate.

The motion declared draconian a law adopted in Ukraine on Jan. 17 that severely limits the right of Ukrainians to peacefully protest.

It also condemned the killing and injuring of protesters in Ukraine and urged the Canadian government to consider sanctions against Ukrainian leaders.

The call for the consideration of sanctions echoes the language in the NDP motion and in a statement made by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Monday.

Trudeau said some Ukrainian officials have committed human rights abuses and crimes against their own citizenry.

“The Canadian government has an obligation to work with its allies and immediately apply pressure on the Ukrainian government to negotiate with the opposition," Trudeau said in a statement.

"This indefensible, state-sanctioned violence must be condemned and should end immediately. Unless real dialogue begins between the government and the opposition, we are likely to see more senseless deaths."

Harper addresses violence 

In question period Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to work with Ukrainian Canadians and Canada's allies to "encourage the government of Ukraine to move in a positive direction."

"This government has been very outspoken with many around the international community in condemning some of the actions of the Ukrainian government," Harper said, in response to a question from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

"We are very concerned that these actions speak of not moving towards a free and democratic Euro-Atlantic future, but an anti-democratic Soviet past.

"The government is signalling its strong desire to play a positive role and we encourage them in that regard," he said.

Battle lines in place 

Outside the House, Mulcair appeared to praise the government's efforts so far, and offered his party's support for more.

Mulcair suggested the conflict in Kiev represented a battle line that had been anticipated by some since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"We've always suspected there would come one case where the pull to the East and the pull to the West would come to one determining battle.

That is taking place in the streets of Ukraine right now," Mulcair said.

"Ukraine needs and deserves our support."

The Canadian government has demonstrated its concern over the Ukrainian situation by using more than just words.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was pictured in the middle of a throng of protesters in Kiev in December and just last week he promised his government was considering all options.

The government's religious freedom ambassador, Andrew Bennett, was dispatched to Ukraine and yesterday reported his concern for members of the minority Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Bennett also condemned the actions of the Ukrainian government.

“The new laws passed by President Viktor Yanukovych give the Ukrainian government, police and security services harsh new powers that severely limit individual rights and freedoms,” said Bennett.

“This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic practice and of grave concern to all who are committed to a free and democratic Ukraine."

But in question period Monday, Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale urged the government to move "beyond general statements about considering options." 

Goodale suggested the government could send observers and offer expedited visas to protesters in urgent need of sanctuary from the abuses of the Ukrainian government. 

All-party motion 

"That this House: Condemns the draconian law that was adopted in Ukraine on Jan. 17, 2014, that severely limits the right of Ukrainians to peacefully organize, assemble or protest;

Recognizes that such a law undermines freedom and democracy in Ukraine; 

Condemns the Ukrainian government’s use of violence and threats of legal action against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for helping peaceful protesters; 

Expresses condolences to the friends and families of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Ukrainian security forces on Jan. 21, 2014;

Calls upon the Ukrainian government to bring those responsible for these acts of violence and repression to justice;

Continues to call for Ukrainian security forces and government to refrain from the use of violence and respect the people of Ukraine’s right of peaceful protest;

Urges the Government of Canada, in collaboration with like-minded nations, to consider all options, including sanctions, to ensure that the democratic space in Ukraine is protected;

And that this House stands united with the Ukrainian people, who believe in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

Source: CBC News