Good morning, colleagues.
Eid Moubarak to everyone celebrating this day in Canada and around the world.
Welcome to meeting No. 17 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Pursuant to the motion adopted on January 31, the committee is meeting on its study of the current situation in Ukraine.
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For members participating in person, please do keep in mind the Board of Internal Economy's guidelines for mask use and health protocols.
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A reminder that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair.
Colleagues, just before we welcome our witnesses, I want to raise with you the fact that we have a number of housekeeping items before us. My proposal is that we discuss them with the vice-chairs and Ms. McPherson through email in preparation for Thursday and that we adopt these decisions on Thursday.
We're dealing with a number of requests to appear. We are dealing with a motion that proposed that we reinvite the witnesses who were not heard at our last session. There is an opportunity to do so on May 9. We are dealing, importantly, with two proposals for committee travel, which we should adopt unanimously and well before Friday so that the opportunity exists for the committee to travel during the period of June to October.
If that's amenable with colleagues, I will work closely with your vice-chairs and Ms. McPherson so that these decisions are ready for quick approval on Thursday.
I would now like to welcome our first panel of witnesses before the committee, and thank them for agreeing to take the time to share their views with us.
With us today are two representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Leslie Scanlon, Ambassador of Canada to Poland and Belarus, and Heidi Kutz, Senior Arctic Official and Director General, Arctic, Eurasian and European Affairs.
From the Joint Delegation of Canada to NATO, we have with us David Angell, ambassador and permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council.
Welcome to our witnesses.
Ambassador Angell, I understand you'll be making the remarks on behalf of Global Affairs today. With that, I will give you the floor for five minutes of opening remarks.
Please go ahead, sir.
I too want to wish everyone Eid Moubarak.
I'm pleased to be here before the committee today.
I'll make some brief introductory comments, and then my colleagues and I will happily answer your questions.
On the 68th day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we are still witnessing an enormous amount of human suffering, destruction of cities and infrastructures, widespread sexual violence being used as a weapon of terror, indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, forced displacements and in some instances, as in Bucha, what appears to be the deliberate massacre of civilians.
This is President Putin's war, a war he wanted and planned, and which he is continuing to pursue against a peaceful and democratic country.
Putin's actions are an attack against the rule-based international order. They have shaken Euro-Atlantic security and represent the most serious threat to Europe in decades.
The consequences of President Putin's careless actions go beyond Ukraine and Europe's borders. Russia is challenging the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the sovereign equality of states. And yet these principles are the very foundation of our international order.
The invasion has also injected a new level of uncertainty into the world trade system, at the very moment it was just beginning to emerge from the COVID‑19 pandemic. The war has led directly to an increase in the price of food and energy. Food and energy security have accordingly been seriously upset around the world. Developing countries that are highly dependent on Ukraine's agricultural output are particularly hard hit.
Russia's initial plan, a rapid military operation aimed at regime change, has failed. Russia overestimated the capacity of its own armed forces and underestimated the determination and professionalism of the Ukrainian armed forces, not to mention the heroism of the Ukrainian people. Russia is now focusing on the Donbas region, where most of its forces are now concentrated.
In this second phase of the war, the Ukrainian armed forces are still doing relatively well, but the war of attrition is likely to drag on.
NATO allies and partners have responded in three critical ways. First, individual allies and partners have supported Ukraine with substantial amounts of military assistance. The solidarity of allies and partners has been remarkable.
The first phase of assistance focused on providing Ukrainians with light weapons and Soviet-era heavy systems they could quickly integrate and deploy to the battlefield. Individual allies such as the Baltic countries, Poland and Slovakia transferred significant amounts of their legacy Soviet systems, but the Soviet-era stocks are dwindling. Individual allies and partners are now transitioning towards providing western heavy weaponry, on which Ukrainians will have to be trained. This is a complex operation in which Canada is very much a participant. Last week's conference in Ramstein, Germany, of more than 40 allies and partners demonstrated a collective willingness to ensure that we succeed in supporting Ukraine in the exercise of its right to self-defence in the face of Russian aggression, as provided for under the United Nations charter.
Second, NATO, as a defensive alliance, has reinforced its eastern flank to ensure that the conflict does not spread to allied territory.
Allies, including Canada, deployed additional troops, and NATO activated its graduated response plans. Four new multinational forward presence battle groups were established, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. As we speak, there are now more than 40,000 military personnel under direct NATO command on the eastern flank and allies have over 100 ships and over 100 aircraft patrolling the skies and seas of Europe.
At the Madrid summit in June, NATO leaders will update NATO's capstone strategic concept and will adjust NATO's longer-term force posture over the medium and long term to respond to a fundamentally changed security environment in Europe.
Third, individual allies and partners and the European Union have responded with unprecedentedly robust and far-reaching sanctions, which were tightly coordinated, including through the G7. Again, the solidarity amongst like-minded has been remarkable.
NATO and EU countries were joined by partners such as Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland. One of the objectives of sanctions has been to degrade Russia's military capabilities by cutting access of its defence sector to western technology.
The war has led many countries to re-evaluate their security environment, including Finland and Sweden, which are key partners of NATO. Application for NATO membership is a sovereign decision and we fully respect every country's right to decide its own security arrangements, which of course applies equally to Finland and Sweden. Canada has always been a champion of NATO's open-door policy and will continue to support that open door despite Russia's threats. has stated that Canada would support Finland and Sweden, should they choose to apply to join NATO.
In the meantime, Canada continues to engage the broader international community to uphold global norms, to condemn Russia's aggression, and to maintain pressure on President Putin.
We will continue to work with our NATO allies, with the EU, within the G7, the OSCE, the UN and other international fora, and bilaterally to support Ukraine as it fights for its independence and for democracy and freedom.
Dear ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me and the chargé d'affaires as witnesses today to the committee meeting. A heartfelt thank you for Canada's cross-party and nationwide full support of Ukraine. We can feel the sincere support here in Canada.
We are grateful for Canada's military aid, financial and humanitarian support, sanctions and pressure on Russia and efforts to isolate it globally, and for Canada's hosting of displaced Ukrainians in Canada. We are grateful for Canada's permanent support of Ukraine in international organizations. The financial support of Canada to Ukraine within the last three months is unprecedented. The latest supply of heavy weapons and armed vehicles is vital for the defence of our territory and our sovereignty. Very recently, in openly calling things by their names, Canada's Parliament recognized Russian crimes in Ukraine as genocide against Ukrainian people. History books will commend Canada for its strong stance with Ukraine against Russia's barbaric war. Ukrainians will never forget that Canada was shoulder to shoulder with us in these dramatic times in our modern history.
Let me briefly inform you of the developments in Ukraine on the ground. We've already gone through two months of full-scale war in Ukraine. Russia is continuing its unprovoked war, but Ukrainians are bravely withstanding due to our courage, wise military tactics and the weapons provided by our allies. As President Zelenskyy mentioned, courage is now our Ukrainian brand, and we are spreading this brand worldwide.
Russia regrouped its major forces to the eastern part of Ukraine. Now it aims to occupy the entire territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk region and to try to secure the land corridor to Crimea and across Mariupol. In the meantime, it continues to launch missile strikes on military and civilian infrastructure throughout all of the country. The territory of Belarus has been actively used by Russians for its military purposes. A lot of missile attacks in support of the Russian army are coming from that territory.
Several cities and towns are temporarily occupied, like Kherson, Berdyansk and Melitopol. Some are continuously attacked or besieged: Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and the huge disaster in Mariupol. In the temporarily occupied cities and towns, Ukrainians are actively protesting against Russian invaders despite significant threats to their lives. A number of mayors, members of local parliaments and civil activists have been abducted. Some of them were tortured and even murdered.
It's estimated that around a half-million Ukrainians were forcibly deported to Russia. Agreed humanitarian corridors are regularly violated by Russian troops. Just half of them have been successfully done.
Yesterday, evacuation of Mariupol finally started. More than 100 civilians were evacuated from Azovstal. It is a big Mariupol steel mill controlled by Russian forces. It was a shelter to civilians in Mariupol. Just imagine, Mariupol was a city with a population of 400,000, and 95% of the city has been totally destroyed.
Thirteen million Ukrainians fled their homes. Around 5.4 million of them left the country to find a safer place.
Russian soldiers have proved themselves to be shameless looters. Occupiers are now stealing millions of dollars' worth of grain in storage from the Kherson region and are trying to transport it to occupied Crimea. That is a shocking reminder for all of us of Stalin's practice of the 1930s.
Extensive environmental damage is also present as water supplies, sewage systems and communications are also being targeted. According to the latest from Unicef, this situation has already led to 1.4 million people having no access to clean water and another 4.6 million people having only limited access to water. This is in the middle of Europe in the 21st century.
In addition to the crime of aggression, Russia is progressively extending the list of its war crimes under numerous international conventions.
To name but a few, there are deliberate attacks against civilian objects; wilful killing of civilians; using prohibited weapons; sexual violence, including to children; torture; forceable deportation. Russian troops have stolen the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. This is the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe. Russian cruise missiles have been recorded flying at low altitude over the Zaporizhzhya and two other nuclear power plants. Russia is permanently neglecting international law and rules-based order.
On Friday, Russian missiles hit residential buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, just two kilometres from the location where UN Secretary-General António Guterres, while visiting Kyiv, Bucha and Irpin, had the meeting with President Zelenskyy. Thus, the UN Security Council permanent member explicitly demonstrated to the UN Secretary-General its attitude to UN international law and the rules-based order.
I would like to underscore that it's not a one-man show. The entire Russian society, not only Putin and his proxies, should bear responsibility for Russia's war against Ukraine. Just imagine, 74% of Russians support this war.
The Ukrainian economy, due to the full scale of the Russian invasion, will shrink this year at least 35%, according to IMF. The active war could increase this up to 50%. The monthly budget deficit is $5 billion, not including military expenditures. In such a challenging time, Ukraine continues to serve its sovereign debt on time and in full. The national banking system is fully operational.
Being a global leader of food supply, Ukraine expects that over 70% of our agriculture land will be planted. The mining of the fields, affected by the war, is an urgent issue. The logistics of the previous year's harvest and next year's harvest remain the biggest challenge, as the major export routes, which are the seaports of the Black Sea, are being blocked by Russia. Four and a half million tonnes of harvest from the previous season are now blocked in Ukraine seaports. That could lead to further food price increases globally.
Let me reiterate that in this hard and tragic situation in Ukraine, we are very grateful for Canada's comprehensive and indeed robust backing. We highly appreciate that the draft budget for 2022-23 envisions significant support for Ukrainian military, financial and humanitarian needs. However, I would like for all of us to have a common understanding: Financial and military aid must increasingly and urgently flow to Ukraine as the war unfolds.
In terms of the military support, we appreciate the support of the Canadian government with the supply of heavy weapons. You can see it makes a difference on the ground. But we need also to keep in mind that the war is going on, and the further prompt supply of needed weapons is essential. Each day, Russians are trying to penetrate and break our defence, but we hold the line. Hence, it's time for brave and quick decisions, synchronized with our allies in terms of timing for delivery of needed weapons.
We are here and in close contact and permanent contact with the government agencies. First of all, it was GAC and DND on the critically needed supply list.
The estimated damages to the Ukrainian economy are now counted in hundreds of billions of dollars. Hence, we need a recovery strategy that is similar to the Marshall plan after World War II. With Russia's property and assets frozen, sites abroad have to become a major part of these rebuilding plans. In this regard, we welcome the government's initiatives to establish a mechanism of seizure and fortitude of Russia's frozen assets in Canada being further transferred to Ukraine.
We appreciate the Canadian government's efforts to work with us on the future rebuilding of Ukraine.
The increase in trade relations, including further expansion of our free trade agreement, CUFTA, on services and cancellation of all tariff and non-tariff barriers for Ukrainian export, like we have with the decision with the U.K. and the ongoing decision to be made by the European Union, is envisioned to be an additional instrument to support the Ukrainian economy.
On the sanctions, you can imagine that with two months of the war and significant losses to the Ukrainian economy, Russia received 62 billion euros for its oil and gas supply mainly to Europe. Therefore, the full ban of oil and gas supply from Russia is essential to not allow Russia to finance this bloody war. We do believe that Canada can help the EU to support its energy security both in facilitating the transition to renewable sources of energy and in an urgent shortage of hydrocarbon supply.
We also ask Canada to strictly enforce and monitor the implementation of the sanctions and to work with their allies to eliminate existing loopholes that can provide the chance for Russia and Russian oligarchs to evade the sanctions.
We do hope that Canada will follow the other partners and substantially decrease Russian diplomatic presence in Canada.
We rely also on Canadian leadership, and we're grateful for that, in isolating Russia worldwide from a lot of international organizations, including the G20 and ICAO, and putting Russia on a fat blacklist. That is also an important diplomatic tool and we appreciate Canada's leadership role in that.
On humanitarian support, we are also working closely with the Government of Canada. We appreciate the funding that was committed and partly disbursed to humanitarian support. It would be very helpful to establish quick and flexible tools for disbursement of the funding for humanitarian needs. The needs in humanitarian support are quite broad, starting with essential food and medicine, to temporary housing units, bombs used for mining, movable bridges, and so on.
We also call that all the funding or goods supplied should go directly to Ukraine, because there are still the cities, especially those that have been encircled by Russian forces and that have been recently liberated where people still feel the shortage of food. That is one of the crucial points.
In the first days of the Russian invasion, we also witnessed that the well-developed international humanitarian channels were not quick enough to respond to a crisis of such big scale and magnitude.
We look forward to and also appreciate the work that Canada is doing in supporting Ukraine and supporting Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to bring Russian war crimes to justice.
The Russians a few days ago killed a young mother, taped her living child to her body and attached a mine between them. While unwinding, the mine detonated.
To have a feeling for and sense of the ongoing situation on the ground, we also invite you to visit Ukraine and show solidarity with the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people in the darkest times of our modern history.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Glory to Ukraine.
Thank you very much, Your Excellency, for being here today. It is truly an honour to welcome you to our committee. I think it speaks to the importance of the work that the foreign affairs committee has been doing for some time now. The situation was indeed a priority for our government members well before the invasion. As you may know, we put forward a motion as a matter of urgency and began studying this matter in this committee in early February.
I don't believe it's trite to once again repeat that Ukraine is fighting not only for its own sovereignty and democracy but indeed for the democracy of all countries, and that includes Canada. I would also like to thank you for recognizing, as you did in your introduction a few moments ago, Canada's unwavering support to Ukraine. You mentioned in particular our economic support but also the shipments of lethal and non-lethal weapons. I think that's important to highlight along with the recent announcement for the provision of howitzers and additional ammunition, and the $500 million that was included in our government's budget, which, to your point just now, will also go for the provision of weapons. I do hope, given your call to action to us today, that this budget will pass very quickly.
I also believe that it's important to underscore the extraordinary community work being done on the ground across Canada, including in my riding. I'd like to tell everyone here that Sandra Ezril, who runs the Terrasse Royale hotel in Montreal, recently opened the doors of her establishment to Ukrainians, absolutely free of charge, to help these newcomers.
In your presence, Your Excellency, I would also like to recognize Katherine Smolynec from my community. She is the president of the Ukrainian National Federation in Montreal. Just this weekend, she welcomed Ukrainians seeking safety in our country.
On this topic of civilians trying to reach safety through humanitarian corridors, I would like you to comment on the situation at the moment. It is my understanding that Russia is repeatedly bombing and attacking the safety of our humanitarian corridors in Ukraine. How would you describe the current situation of these humanitarian corridors, speaking in particular, as you just did, of the situation that is absolutely devastating in Mariupol?