Today I had the pleasure of meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after his speech to Parliament.
Southwestern Manitoba is home to a sizeable Ukrainian-Canadian population and now with the recent arrival of new Ukrainians immigrating to Brandon, the current crisis is being closely watched by local residents.
I want to be crystal clear: our Government will always stand up for the people of Ukraine. This is not just a matter of foreign affairs but rather a family matter between two nations that share a special bond.
On the international stage, Canada has led from the front in dealing with the current situation in Ukraine. As the Prime Minister recently said, we may not be Ukraine's most powerful friend but we will always be its most certain.
Since Euromaidan started in late 2013, the Government of Canada has provided not only moral support but tangible assistance such as medical supplies, equipment and care for Ukrainian activists. The Government of Canada has also imposed numerous sanctions on key members of the former Yanukovych regime.
Just recently, the Government of Canada announced further support to bolster democracy, the justice system and civil society in Ukraine. In addition, a Canadian Hercules from CFB Trenton touched down in Kyiv with a cargo of protective medical and logistical support equipment to help the Ukrainian Government defend their sovereign territory.
Canada has a long history of supporting an independent and free Ukraine. In 1960, former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker demanded free elections for Ukrainians, then under the control of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Brian Mulroney's government was the first in the West to recognize Ukraine's independence. And then, in 2008, Canada became one of the first countries to recognize the Holodomor.