Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly speaks to a deminer at the HALO Trust training facility during the practice session in Ukraine on Feb. 15.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

In a whirlwind tour of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced more than $21-million in donations for demining efforts and humanitarian causes, including assistance for the victims of sexual abuse.

“We’re all in,” she said Wednesday at the Halo Trust site outside Kyiv, where the global charity trains hundreds of Ukrainians in demining techniques. “We will continue to help Ukraine by providing weapons, humanitarian help and financial assistance.”

Canada last year donated $2-million to the Halo Trust, which is conducting demining operations and munitions disposal in contaminated areas throughout the country, especially in the south and east, where Russia has been mounting a grinding offensive in recent weeks.

She did not announce a new Halo donation but Canada is giving $7.5-million to the demining operations of Tetra Tech Inc., a California engineering consulting company whose shares trade on the Nasdaq market.

An arm of Tetra Tech specializes in explosives detection, including electromagnetic surveys of mined areas, and their disposal. In November, the U.S. State Department announced a US$47.6-million contribution to Tetra Tech for demining assistance in Ukraine.

To rebuild Ukraine, the world needs to help clear the land from mines

The rest of Canada’s donations – almost $14-million – announced on Wednesday by Ms. Joly will go to various humanitarian and civil causes, especially those that deal with sexual violence. She said that she met Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Andriy Kostin, on Tuesday to discuss funding programs to train police to detect sexual violence and lawyers to prosecute those crimes.

One donation will see $5-million to go to “comprehensive survivor-centred services and support for national authorities in responding to crimes of sexual violence in Ukraine,” according to Ms. Joly’s office.

Ms. Joly also met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, though few details of the Wednesday encounter were released. In a statement, his office said Mr. Zelensky “expressed gratitude to the Canadian government and the Canadian people for their strong support and assistance.”

Open this photo in gallery:

Ms. Joly tours the HALO Trust Training Center where deminers learn how to remove land mines in the country.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

He cited Canada’s military contributions to Ukraine, including four German-built Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which are widely used in NATO countries. Those tanks recently arrived in Poland, where Ukrainian crews are learning how to operate them.

Ms. Joly did not comment when asked if Canada might send more Leopards to Ukraine. Canada has 82 of the tanks, considered among the most lethal in the world, in service and another 30 in storage. Canada has committed more than $1-billion in military assistance to Ukraine.

On Wednesday in Brussels, NATO defence ministers said they would step up their military support of Ukraine, including the delivery of more heavy weapons such as main battle tanks and air-defence missiles. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “we see no signs that Russia is preparing for peace. On the contrary, Russia is launching new offensives.”

Ukraine’s mine-sniffing dog Patron awarded medal by Zelensky

But Ukraine received no assurances that the it would receive American-made F-16 fighter jets, the No. 1 item on the country’s weapons wish list.

Ms. Joly said that funding demining operations is a priority, partly because Canada a prime sponsor of the Ottawa Treaty, formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Russia is not party to the treaty, nor are dozens of other countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Iran, Egypt and Israel). “The Ottawa Treaty is one of the key diplomatic projects of the last 30 years,” she said.

Open this photo in gallery:

The Halo Trust is conducting demining operations and munitions disposal in contaminated areas throughout Ukraine.

Open this photo in gallery:

HALO Trust deminers practice with surface scanner at the training facility.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

Ukraine is one of the most mined countries in the world, with Ukraine and Russia widely using the devices.

The Halo Trust has some 700 staff in Ukraine, about one-fifth of them women. On Wednesday, Halo was giving refresher courses to about 90 deminers. The charity plans to have about 1,200 deminers by the end of the year. “The mine contamination here is huge,” said Jasmine Dann, 29, a Halo training officer from Belleville, Ont. “Demining is an arduous process. You are clearing metre by metre.”

She said the mines pose grave risks to children and farmers. Halo has said it will take decades to clear all the mines from Ukraine after the war ends.

The training is extensive and the safety equipment is high quality, partly because of the Canadian government’s contributions. Some of the Halo staff used protective suits made by Med-Eng Holdings ULC, a Canadian company. The suits weight 30 to 50 kilograms and cost as much as $80,000 each. They are equipped with an air-conditioning unit and radio communications.

Halo has reported no casualties in its mine-clearance operations since the start of the war a year ago.

Last month, a report by Human Rights Watch said that Ukraine, a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty, has almost certainly used rockets to spread thousands of anti-personnel lines in around the eastern city of Izyum when it was occupied by Russian forces.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have extensively scattered land mines around the Izyum area, causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” said Steve Goose, HRW’s arms division director. “Russian forces have repeatedly used anti-personnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe