MPs debated Ukraine violence in House of Commons

Canadian members of Parliament held an emergency debate Monday night on the crisis in Ukraine, where protests are being met by a violent response from the government. MPs from all parties were essentially united in condemning the Ukrainian government's actions.

Emergency debate on the situation in Ukraine ran til midnight Monday

MPs discuss what steps Canada can take to help stabilize Ukraine's political crisis 10:27

Canadian MPs held an emergency debate Monday night on the crisis in Ukraine, where protests are being met by a violent response from the government.

The debate went until midnight, with MPs from all parties essentially united in condemning the Ukrainian government's actions.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer ordered the debate Monday following a request from Conservative MPs Ted Opitz and James Bezan.

Opposition MPs were also calling for a debate.

Parliament only reconvened from its Christmas break Monday, making Monday night the first practical opportunity for debate. 

As Canadian MPs were discussing what more the Canadian government could do, negotiations in Ukraine were underway that saw the prime minister resign Tuesday and the Ukrainian parliament vote to repeal its contentious anti-protest law. 

MPs pass motion condemning Ukraine government

Earlier Monday, MPs voted to pass a motion condemning the Ukrainian government for its actions and an anti-protest law deemed by observers to be anti-democratic.

The motion declared draconian a law adopted in Ukraine on Jan. 17 that severely limits the right of Ukrainians to peacefully protest. It also condemned the killing and injuring of protesters in Ukraine and urged the Canadian government to consider sanctions against Ukrainian leaders.

All-party motion

"That this House: Condemns the draconian law that was adopted in Ukraine on Jan. 17, 2014, that severely limits the right of Ukrainians to peacefully organize, assemble or protest;

Recognizes that such a law undermines freedom and democracy in Ukraine;

Condemns the Ukrainian government’s use of violence and threats of legal action against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for helping peaceful protesters;

Expresses condolences to the friends and families of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Ukrainian security forces on Jan. 21, 2014;

Calls upon the Ukrainian government to bring those responsible for these acts of violence and repression to justice;

Continues to call for Ukrainian security forces and government to refrain from the use of violence and respect the people of Ukraine’s right of peaceful protest;

Urges the Government of Canada, in collaboration with like-minded nations, to consider all options, including sanctions, to ensure that the democratic space in Ukraine is protected;

And that this House stands united with the Ukrainian people, who believe in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

The call for the consideration of sanctions echoes language proposed by NDP MPs and in a statement made by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Monday.

Trudeau said some Ukrainian officials have committed human rights abuses and crimes against their own citizenry.

“The Canadian government has an obligation to work with its allies and immediately apply pressure on the Ukrainian government to negotiate with the opposition," Trudeau said in a statement. 

"This indefensible, state-sanctioned violence must be condemned and should end immediately. Unless real dialogue begins between the government and the opposition, we are likely to see more senseless deaths."

Harper addresses violence

In question period Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to work with Ukrainian Canadians and Canada's allies to "encourage the government of Ukraine to move in a positive direction."

"This government has been very outspoken with many around the international community in condemning some of the actions of the Ukrainian government," Harper said, in response to a question from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

"We are very concerned that these actions speak of not moving towards a free and democratic Euro-Atlantic future, but an anti-democratic Soviet past.

"The government is signalling its strong desire to play a positive role and we encourage them in that regard," he said.

Battle lines in place

Outside the House, Mulcair appeared to praise the government's efforts so far, and offered his party's support for more.

Mulcair suggested the conflict in Kyiv represented a battle line that had been anticipated by some since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"We've always suspected there would come one case where the pull to the East and the pull to the West would come to one determining battle. That is taking place in the streets of Ukraine right now," Mulcair said. "Ukraine needs and deserves our support."

Canada has demonstrated its concern over the Ukrainian situation by using more than just words.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was pictured in the middle of a throng of protesters in Kyiv in December and just last week he promised his government was considering all options.

The government's religious freedom ambassador, Andrew Bennett, was dispatched to Ukraine and yesterday reported his concern for members of the minority Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Bennett also condemned the actions of the Ukrainian government.

“The new laws passed by President Viktor Yanukovych give the Ukrainian government, police and security services harsh new powers that severely limit individual rights and freedoms,” said Bennett. “This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic practice and of grave concern to all who are committed to a free and democratic Ukraine."

But in question period Monday, Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale urged the government to move "beyond general statements about considering options."

Goodale suggested the government could send observers and offer expedited visas to protesters in urgent need of sanctuary from the abuses of the Ukrainian government.

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      About the Author

      James Cudmore covered politics and military affairs for CBC News until Jan. 8, 2016.