Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will visit Canada next week and address Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.

Harper invited the Ukrainian leader in a show of support for the country, which is fighting against pro-Russian rebels in its east. Poroshenko will make his first official visit to Canada on Sept. 17, according to a news release from the prime minister's office.

“I know we all look forward to welcoming the president to our country,” he said, promising Canada’s unwavering support to Ukraine.

Harper explained that Canada remains invested in Ukrainian affairs because of the generations of Ukrainian immigrants who have helped build Canada. More than 1.2 million people of Ukrainian descent currently live in Canada.

“We may not be Ukraine’s most powerful friend,” he said, “but we will always be its most certain.”

Canada’s help to Ukraine so far includes deploying some non-combat troops from the Canadian army, navy and air force to join allies in Eastern Europe; millions of dollars towards various projects; military equipment; and sanctions against more than 180 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities, Harper said.

He said Canadian election observers will be in Ukraine next month when Ukrainians head to the polls. Ukraine is holding a parliamentary election on Oct. 26, following Poroshenko's dissolution of the current assembly.

To the Ukrainian people, Harper said, Canada says: “Remember that during your struggle for peace and freedom, Canada is – and Canada always will be – at your side.”

Harper made the announcement at the United for Ukraine Gala Dinner hosted by the Canada Ukraine Foundation. Wayne Gretzky also spoke at the fundraising event in Toronto.

With files from the Associated Press