Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Parliament as Russian forces edge toward Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a powerful, personal appeal to Canada to do more to help his embattled country withstand the invasion by Russia.

Trudeau to attend emergency NATO meeting in Brussels next week

Members of the House of Commons and Senate listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Canadian Parliament on March 15, 2022. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a powerful, personal appeal to Canada today to do more to help his embattled country withstand the invasion by Russia.

He spoke via video link on Tuesday to Parliament, where he received sustained standing ovations from members of Parliament and senators.

Zelensky spoke about the suffering experienced by the Ukrainian people and said that 97 children have been killed in the 20 days since the beginning of the war.

In his speech, which was laced with references to Canadian cities and landmarks, Zelensky asked rhetorically how Canadians would feel if Russia laid siege to Vancouver or targeted the CN Tower in Toronto. He listed off some of the historic sites in Ukraine that have come under bombardment.

"Imagine that Canadian facilities have been bombed similarly as our buildings and memorial places are being bombed," Zelensky said. "A number of families have died. Every night is a horrible night."

WATCH | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Parliament:

Zelensky makes powerful, personal appeal to Canada to do more

2 years ago
Duration 3:14
Speaking to a packed House of Commons, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky painted a vivid picture of the war and asked Canada to do more to support him by closing the skies above Ukraine.

Trudeau to attend emergency NATO summit

He repeated his call for western nations to establish a no-fly zone over his country to block the Russian airstrikes that have been killing civilians.

"We want to live and we want to be victorious. We want to prevail for the sake of life," Zelenksy said from an undisclosed location. "Can you imagine when you call your friends and nations and you ask to please close the sky, close the air space, please stop the bombing? How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?"

NATO has steadfastly refused to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, arguing that it could draw western air forces into direct confrontation with Russia.

In the only hint of frustration Zelensky offered during his address, the Ukrainian leader said the West expresses its "deep concerns about the situation when we talk to our partners and they say, 'Please hold on, hold on a little longer.' "

He called on Canada to do more.

A senior government source told CBC News on Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend an emergency NATO summit in Brussels scheduled for Thursday, March 24.

"At this critical time, North America and Europe must continue to stand together in NATO," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement announcing what he called the "extraordinary" meeting.

'They are destroying everything'

"You imposed severe sanctions. At the same time, we see that unfortunately this did not bring the end to the war," Zelensky said.

"Basically what I am trying to say is that you will need to do more to stop Russia, to protect Ukraine, and by doing that to protect Europe from Russian threats. They are destroying everything: memorial complexes, schools, hospitals, housing complexes."

His remarks came as Canada directed another round of sanctions at Russia. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced new restrictions on 15 Russian officials she said "enabled and supported President [Vladimir] Putin's choice to invade a peaceful and sovereign country."

As Zelensky addressed Canadian parliamentarians, Moscow was announcing its own round of sanctions targeting the West — including one round that bans Trudeau, Defence Minister Anita Anand, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and a host of MPs from entering Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was banned following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

WATCH | Federal leaders welcome Zelensky's address to House of Commons:

Federal leaders welcome President Volodymir Zelensky's address to the House of Commons

2 years ago
Duration 5:34
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Interim Conservative Leader Candace Bergen, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet addressed Zelensky in the House of Commons and pledged Canada's support to Ukraine.

Leaders praise Zelensky, Ukrainians

In introducing Zelensky to Parliament, Trudeau spoke about what the Ukrainian president's leadership has meant to the world.

"Volodymyr, in the years I have known you, I have always thought of you as a champion for democracy and now democracies around the world are lucky to have you as our champion," Trudeau said.

"Your courage and the courage of your people inspires us all. You are defending the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future and in doing so, you are defending the values that form the pillars of all free democratic countries."

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said that while the images coming out of Ukraine are "heartbreaking and painful," the courage shown by ordinary Ukrainians defending their homeland is inspiring.

"Putin's brutal attack on Ukraine is an attack on all of us," Bergen said. "That is the lesson history has taught us and one we cannot ignore."

Canadian Members of Parliament and invited guests applaud as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is shown on a giant video screen before addressing the Canadian parliament, Tuesday, March 15, 2022 in Ottawa.
Canadian members of Parliament and invited guests applaud as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is shown on a giant video screen before addressing the Canadian Parliament on Tuesday, March 15, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conservatives, she said, support Canada doing more along with allies "to secure Ukraine's airspace." At minimum, the skies over humanitarian corridors need to be protected, she added.

After Zelensky's speech, the Speakers of the Senate and the House and the leaders of the NDP and Bloc Québécois delivered remarks.

May urges creative thinking

Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May was emotional during her speech, citing a letter she had received from a Green supporter in Ukraine who pleaded with her to urge Canada to back a no-fly zone. She said it "broke my heart" to write back and say that such a move would risk a wider war, including the possibility of a nuclear confrontation.

"We must [use] every tool in front of us and I fear the tools we have are inadequate" to help Ukraine, May said before delivering a heart-rending appeal.

"President Zelensky, we do not want to let you down," May said. "We fear we may inevitably let you down, but we will find every tool we can find and where there are not adequate tools, by God, let's invent them."

She pointed out that during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, then-Canadian foreign minister Lester B. Pearson invented modern peacekeeping. It's that kind of creative thinking that is needed now, she said. 

Parliament is not scheduled to sit until March 21, but House Speaker Anthony Rota approved a special request to host Zelensky's address.

The United States and NATO showed no sign Tuesday of budging from their refusal to establish in a no-fly zone.

"The feeling is that if we were to consider something like a no-fly zone, that would take us in in the wrong direction," Julianne Smith, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, told a conference call with reporters.

She said the weekend missile strikes on a military base in western Ukraine further demonstrated the limits of a no-fly zone in this crisis.

"What we learned from that was that Russia actually was able to instigate that attack from a Russian bomber in Russian airspace, begging the question about whether or not a no-fly zone in Ukrainian airspace would actually have a major impact on Russia's ability to attack Ukrainian territories," Smith said.

WATCH | Former Ukrainian president invites Trudeau to Kyiv:

Former Ukrainian president invites Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit Kyiv

2 years ago
Duration 9:52
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit Kyiv both to better understand what Russia's war on Ukraine feels like and "to demonstrate to the whole world - Putin we are not afraid of you."

Loss in Ukraine a 'profound threat' to democracy

Dominque Arel, chair of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa, said Zelensky effectively illustrated to Canadians the consequences of Ukraine losing this war.

"If Ukraine falls, it's not just a tragedy for the Ukrainian people," Arel said. "It is a profound threat to the international order and to democracy."

That's something NATO leaders will have to grapple with when they meet for an emergency session next week in Brussels.

Zelensky addressed the British House of Commons earlier this month and is scheduled to speak to members of the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday.

His speech today came as Russia's offensive in Ukraine edged closer to central Kyiv Tuesday morning. Shortly before dawn, large explosions were reported across Kyiv from what Ukrainian authorities said were artillery strikes.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators also planned to resume talks Tuesday after they were paused on Monday.

Push for full trade embargo

Speaking to northern European leaders earlier Tuesday, Zelensky pushed for a full trade embargo on Russia, saying the sanctions imposed to date have not been enough to counter the Russian advance.

"We have to acknowledge Russia as a rogue state and there has to be a trade embargo with Russia," Zelensky said to the Joint Expeditionary Force.

"This is something that we need and you need as well, just like the rest of the world, to make sure there is peace in Europe and Ukraine."

Canada's government says that since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has sanctioned over 900 individuals and entities.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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