Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to deliver a speech to Canadian parliamentarians next Tuesday, Government House Leader Mark Holland says.
Mr. Holland posted a letter to Twitter asking the Speaker of the House of Commons to grant approval for Mr. Zelensky’s virtual appearance.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited the besieged leader to address Parliament when the two spoke on Wednesday. Mr. Zelensky has already addressed the British Parliament and U.S. Congress amid his push for Western leaders to do more to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine.
So far, his central request for a no-fly zone over Ukraine has been rejected by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 30-member states.
Mr. Trudeau extended the invitation to Mr. Zelensky during his five-day tour through Europe to meet with leaders about the next steps in the West’s humanitarian and military response to the two-week-old war.
On Thursday, U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris said her country and Canada will strengthen their security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine and the neighbouring countries that are grappling with the influx of refugees. At the same time, Polish President Andrzej Duda urged Mr. Trudeau to move faster to welcome Ukrainians.
Ms. Harris and Mr. Trudeau met for an hour on Thursday evening in Warsaw, a city on the front line of the humanitarian crisis triggered by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians are streaming into the city every day from the border.
They’re among the 2.3 million people who have fled to safety in the first two weeks of war. At the capital city’s central train station, hundreds of people crowded into the building with others outside, waiting for transportation, figuring out where to go next, and looking for basic items such as food and clothing.
Ms. Harris said Canada and the U.S. plan to “strengthen our assistance” on security and humanitarian issues, but did not provide specifics about what was being considered.
“I know we stand in solidarity, in terms of our outrage at this war, and the aggression that Russia has taken against Ukraine, unprovoked, unjustified, and we value of course the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” the U.S. Vice-President said.
The Vice-President and Prime Minister discussed the snowballing issues prompted by the war, including the need for weapons for Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, the fallout in the energy markets, humanitarian and refugee support, and international co-ordination, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Mr. Trudeau told reporters the priority for the two leaders was “standing with Ukrainians and all Eastern Europeans as we reinforce the Eastern flank of NATO.”
The Prime Minister’s sit-down with Ms. Harris was his last meeting in a rush of appointments with leaders from Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Poland and NATO this week. On Thursday, he said the government would spend $117-million to help speed up the arrival of Ukrainians fleeing the war. But the government did not specify how fast people who apply will be able to land in Canada and has not set a number for how many Ukrainians they will settle.
The extra funding for immigration services will help ensure “we can get Ukrainians fleeing for their lives to Canada sooner,” Mr. Trudeau said.
He also said his government will match an extra $20-million in donations for Ukraine made through the Canadian Red Cross. He had already pledged to match $10-million. The Red Cross said it has already raised $59-million.
Mr. Trudeau also said $50-million of a previously announced $100-million fund has been allocated to the World Food Program and UN Refugee Agency.
The Prime Minister announced the spending at a joint press conference with Mr. Duda. The Polish President thanked Mr. Trudeau for Canada’s support, and said the Prime Minister was the first world leader to reach out before the war had even started.
Mr. Duda said 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have already crossed into his country. In a subsequent scrum with reporters, the President said he asked the Prime Minister to speed up Canada’s immigration process. He said he was afraid that in a few days Poland will “have a real problem” with the numbers of refugees, and Canada’s help would be “very necessary.”
“I told him please, Justin, try to introduce some very, very, very simple procedures,” Mr. Duda said, “simple procedures of visas etcetera to move this process faster, to accelerate it.”
Poland’s government has struggled to respond to the wave of refugees. The Globe and Mail has reported that individual Poles, private businesses and non-governmental organizations have tried to fill the gaps.
At Warsaw’s central train station, refugees lay on an array of mats and blankets, huddled with their pets and the few belongings they were able to take with them. Others sat on benches while power bars and extension cords charged a tangle of cellphones. Even more families stood outside the train station with suitcases, backpacks and pet carriers and ate food or stood quietly. Others searched through boxes of donated clothing to find what fit or waited in line for information.
Twenty-two-year-old Dina Tekhova arrived in Warsaw on Thursday morning with her aunts and cousins; her parents stayed behind despite the heavy bombardment in their hometown, Kharkiv. Ms. Tekhova said they went to her aunt’s house before the war started because it has a cellar.
“We sat a lot for a week in that cellar. We were really scared because there were bombings, then on the sixth day the planes came and the planes were the most terrifying thing,” she said. “We thought the bombings were really scary but then the planes came.
“They were really loud and they just bombed really close to us. … The door of the cellar opened because of the impact.”
She said she packed in 15 minutes, cramming just two pairs of pants, two sweaters and her passport into a knapsack before heading out the door.
Eva Sribnenko, 19, also from Kharkiv, was at the train station with her cousin, friend, mother and aunt. In an interview aided by Google Translate, she said she has friends in Russia who still don’t believe what’s happening is a real war.
She said buildings were destroyed in her city and her friends lost their houses. “We want all people in Russia to see this situation,” she said.
“Slava Ukraini!” they all said at the end of the interview: “Glory to Ukraine.”
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