Help Ukraine, but don’t forget others

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Canada was first to recognize an independent Ukraine on December 2, 1991. Since then, Canada has welcomed hundreds of Ukrainian students to intern and study our democracy, hoping they’d take its principles and ideals home. This partnership between Canada and Ukraine was seen as crucial by the parliamentary staff with whom these students served and learned.

Ukraine’s plans to join NATO were shelved following the 2010 election of Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine’s 2013 Euromaidan demonstrations led to the 2014 ousting of the contentious president and to the Revolution of Dignity. Putin responded to this by annexing Crimea.

Now we’re watching as Russia, unprovoked, invades Ukraine. (The Minsk protocol didn’t include any agreement that Ukraine wouldn’t pursue NATO membership. Even if it had been included, that’s basically Putin blackmailing Ukraine into undermining its own sovereignty.) Putin has not only now played nuclear Russian Roulette with Ukrainian power plants, but he’s also contracted mercenaries to murder the Ukrainian president for standing up to corruption and for daring to refuse Putin’s control. Our friends have been attacked and we should stand with them. Let’s also remember all those, worldwide, suffering from oppression and war. Ukraine, a country that welcomed refugees from other conflicts, is itself under attack and victim to multiple war crimes.

There have been reports of refugees of colour–offered asylum in Ukraine who are prevented from leaving the country. Is there some racism at work? Is the Western world suddenly worried “because they look like us” and “are civilized like us?” Is it “because it’s Europe, not some uncivilized middle eastern region?”

Surely, anyone paying attention is terrified by Putin’s apparent lack of exit strategy, regardless of how loudly the West repeats that it doesn’t want to be pushed into a nuclear conflict.

Yemen, for example, has been in conflict since at least 2011, yet it has faded from our headlines and concerns. Some 2,842–5,099 have died in that conflict. Where is our worry for these poor souls? Where is the support for those trying to flee? Canada supplied arms and other military equipment to the aggressor, Saudi Arabia. How can we look ourselves in the mirror without cutting off arms sales to such oppressive powers, without even confronting them? Doesn’t every life matter, European or not? How about Canada’s Afghan friends and family, now hiding from the Taliban?

We are Canada: we must stand with all who face aggression. We should be sending everything Ukraine needs to fend off the Russian attack. We should also be welcoming all those seeking refuge from war and oppression.

There’s surely enough room right here in the Pontiac.