Alberta Premier Smith apologizes for past comments on Russian invasion of Ukraine
Province's new premier says her opinion on the matter has 'drastically evolved' since she made the remarks
Days after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's comments about the Russian-Ukraine war came to light, the UCP leader has issued an apology.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Smith said she is "reaffirming my condemnation" of the invasion and offered an apology for past comments.
"I categorically condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the indescribable suffering Russia has and still is inflicting on the Ukrainian people," the premier wrote.
"Prior to re-entering politics earlier this year, I made some ill informed comments on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. My knowledge and opinion of this matter have drastically evolved since that time, and I apologize for those previous comments."
Today, I am reaffirming my condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and offering my full apology for past comments. <a href="https://t.co/bCpwiRV5Dz">pic.twitter.com/bCpwiRV5Dz</a>—@ABDanielleSmith
A member of Calgary's Ukrainian community welcomed Smith's apology.
"To me, an apology is a personal matter and you know, that being said, I respect her choice and I'm happy that's the way she decided to handle it," said Ukrainian Calgarian Olex Vasetsky.
"One of the most significant and important parts in that letter is her promise to reach out to representatives Ukrainian community, so I think that the first step and it's a necessary step and you know we hope that we can clear the air and move forward to help both Canada and Ukraine and Alberta."
The past remarks surfaced over the weekend after a freelance journalist published comments Smith made on social media platforms before her ultimately successful bid to become leader of the United Conservative Party and premier.
On a livestream chat on April 29, Smith said: "The only answer for Ukraine is neutrality," adding she understands why Russia would have a concern with a western-aligned Ukraine armed with nuclear weapons on its doorstep. Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons in the 1990s.
In a Feb. 24 post, she said: "I've read that two regions of Ukraine feel more affinity to Russia. Should nations be allowed to break away and govern themselves independently? If that's truly what people want, then I think so. But is that what the people want — or is it propaganda?"
Vasetsky believes that the premier's comments came from a lack of information and knowledge of the region, and that she may have been fuelled by Russian misinformation.
"I could see clearly that there are some Russian propaganda cliches like, you know, Ukraine has to remain neutral and other countries should decide its fate, who they should align to like," Vasetsky said.
"Those are the lines that Russians have been pushing for a long time, sort of this cliches on various news websites."
On Monday, Opposition critic Sarah Hoffman said it was "tone deaf" and "cruel" for Smith to urge Ukraine to accept neutrality, even as its people were fighting and dying in the Russian invasion and called for an apology from the premier.
Hoffman responded to Smith's statement on Tuesday, calling the apology a positive step. However, she said Smith had caused pain to Ukrainian Albertans and damage to the province's reputation.
Hoffman added that the NDP is looking "forward to what else will be done to address the damage she caused both to Alberta communities, our economy, and our image on the world stage."
Smith wrote Tuesday that her office is reaching out to Alberta's Ukrainian community leaders to take steps toward helping refugees settle into communities across Alberta.
"I stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people," she wrote.
Despite the apology, the initial comments could create another problem for Smith — her credibility as a politician, says Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams.
She says Smith will be questioned on the information she was providing, and where she was getting it from.
"There have been a number of folks online that have pointed to some of her posts on local.com, focusing on the links in her newsletter … where she is tapping into linking to highly questionable sources of information," Williams said.
She believes that this issue raises bigger questions about Smith's competence and her being able to distinguish between credible and conspiratorial information.
"The questions about her competence and her judgment, I think, are going to dog her moving forward."
With files from The Canadian Press