In a passionate speech to Parliament on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that the Kremlin will be defeated and praised Canada’s ongoing support against the Russian invasion.
The Globe and Mail
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Parliament that Moscow seeks a genocide in his country with the aim of eradicating Ukraine, as the wartime leader campaigned to shore up international support in Kyiv’s fight against a military assault that shows no sign of flagging.
The address to the House of Commons on Friday was part of Mr. Zelensky’s first visit to Canada since Russia began its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022. He then travelled to Toronto to meet with business leaders and the Ukrainian Canadian community.
Kyiv’s counteroffensive to drive out Russian occupiers has been slow going. Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned that Ukraine’s supporters should “prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine.”
“Can we allow our identity to be erased? No,” Mr. Zelensky told the House. “We stand and we fight for life. Ukraine, not genocide, will be victorious in this war. People will be the winners, not the Kremlin.”
Speaking almost entirely in English, he reminded Canadians that Russia’s efforts to crush Ukraine are not new.
Mr. Zelensky noted that it was in Edmonton, decades ago, that the first monument in the world was erected in commemoration of the Holodomor, a man-made famine in Ukraine orchestrated by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
He expressed hope that a monument in Edmonton would “one day soon” be raised to Ukraine’s victory.
Mr. Zelensky was greeted by ovations in the Commons with all MPs standing to cheer as he entered the chamber. At least one unidentified onlooker shouted “Slava Ukraini,” or Glory to Ukraine. His speech was interrupted by many subsequent rounds of applause.
He thanked Canada for its billions of dollars in support and for its campaign to encourage countries to enact legislation enabling Russian assets to be seized and sold to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine. Canada has already passed such legislation.
“You are always on the bright side of history,” he told the Commons.
The Ukrainian President also thanked Canadians for giving refuge to more than 175,000 Ukrainians since the 2022 assault began. He lauded this country for “making Ukrainians feel at home when they are here in Canada.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in turn, said Canada will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
On Friday, Ottawa announced another $650-million in aid over three years for Ukraine, including funding for mental-health care as well as new sanctions on Moscow over the kidnapping and removal to Russia of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children.
This brings total Canadian government support since 2022 to more than $9.5-billion, including a $2.4-billion loan.
The new aid will also finance 50 armoured vehicles, including medical evacuation vehicles, that will be built by General Dynamics Land Systems workers in London, Ont.
Ottawa will also provide F-16 fighter-aircraft training “for pilots and for maintenance, so Ukrainians are able to maximize their use of donated fighter jets,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that Mr. Zelensky is fighting for the defence of the rules-based international order: the principle that states should not invade and conquer another.
“History will judge us on how we defend democratic values. And Ukraine is at the tip of the spear in this great challenge of the 21st century.”
“Putin thought President Zelensky would cave, in the face of personal peril,” Mr. Trudeau said. “But sir, you have not. You galvanized the world, you have made the bonds between democratic allies and friends stronger than ever.”
Despite not speaking French, Mr. Zelensky also made a nod to Canada’s other official language late in his speech.
“Je te remercie, Canada,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Zelensky said that while he doesn’t speak French, he wanted to make sure people knew his thanks were extended to everyone in Canada.
Mr. Zelensky also learned how to deliver his message of not backing down in Inuktitut, during his Friday morning meeting with Governor-General Mary Simon.
“She taught me a word from her mother tongue – ‘Ajuinnata,’” Mr. Zelensky said at the end of his speech. The term means to persevere or never give up and is incorporated into Ms. Simon’s coat of arms.
“Don’t give up, stay strong against all odds, and so shall it be,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Ajuinnata, Canada. Ajuinnata, Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.”
Oleg Stepanov, Russia’s ambassador to Canada, played down the visit. “The program, rhetoric and substance of the Ottawa part of the visit were all predictable. Nothing new or unexpected here,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
Mr. Zelensky’s bid to maintain Western support for what is shaping up to be a protracted fight against Russia is finding no opposition in Canada, although the federal government has far less means to help Kyiv compared with Britain and the United States, where hard-line isolationist Republicans are holding up some aid.
A Polish government spokesman on Thursday said Warsaw would not announce further arms shipments to Kyiv, saying it would only fulfill already promised weapons deliveries. This is happening as bilateral relations sour between the two countries because of a grain dispute that has arisen just weeks ahead of a Polish parliamentary election.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s request for $24-billion in more Ukraine funding to help pay for Ukraine’s defence and humanitarian aid through the end of the year is bottled up in a budget fight pushed by some Republican holdouts in the House of Representatives.
Comments from Republican Senator Rand Paul, a frequent critic of foreign aid, were emblematic of the opposition. He told Fox Business News that Ukraine is a “corrupt regime” and that the war has no end in sight.
Mr. Trudeau has made his government’s support for Ukraine a key part of its foreign-policy agenda.
Canada is home to one of the largest diasporas of Ukrainians, second only to Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is one of the approximately 1.4 million Canadians with Ukrainian heritage. She has been in regular contact with the country’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, since the Russian invasion.
Mr. Zelensky arrived in Ottawa after stops at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and in Washington, where he lobbied the White House and Congress for continued support as the war drags on.
He walked away with US$325-million more in military aid but future support is at risk. While there is broad, bipartisan support in Congress for helping Ukraine, a minority on the right of the Republican House caucus wants to stop the funds.
With reports from Reuters