Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

Kyiv 16:01

Speech of the President at the joint session of the Canadian Parliament

19 September 2014, 15:26

Mr. Prime Minister, 
Speaker Kinsella, 
Speaker Scheer, 
Honorable Members of the Senate and House of Commons,

Honorable Members of the Diplomatic Community,

Distinguished Guests, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

It is a deeply felt honor to address this distinguished legislative body.

I must thank you, Prime Minister, for inviting me to come to Canada, Speaker Kinsella and Speaker Scheer – for giving me such outstanding opportunity to address the Canadian Parliament. I see this as a tribute to my country and the Ukrainian people, and an expression of the unique, distinctive partnership that our nations enjoy.

Let me also just once use the third “official language” of Canada – Ukrainian:

Дякую вам за цю честь, дорогі друзі!

To be frank with you – I feel very much at home with you here today in a country that is very close to Ukraine. Not distantly but through our hearts and common ideas.

Indeed, Canada has become home to so many Ukrainians. The descendants of those early Ukrainian settlers who came here more than a century ago. In 1892, a century before Canada was the first to recognize Ukraine’s independence, the first Ukrainian emigrants Ivan Pylypiv and Vasyl Yelynyak arrived. They launched further numerous Ukrainian emigration to the Pacific Coast settling across the woods and prairies of Canada. The Ukrainian community has easily integrated into the Canadian society. They built railways and towns, schools and churches, heroically fought against the Nazi during the World War Second, contributed to the Canadian economy and culture. Later, the sons and daughters of farmers became prominent members of Canadian society – businessmen, scientists, artists, athletes and politicians. One of them, Ramon Hnatyshyn, became the Governor General of Canada.

The list is long and impressive – Premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba Roy Romanow and Gary Filmon, senators Raynell Andreychuk and David Tkachuk, artist William Kurylyk, hockey superstars Terry Sawchuk and Wayne Gretzky, and woman-astronaut Doctor Roberta Bondar.

We highly praise great Ukrainian-Canadian sculptor Leo Mol who crafted one of the best Taras Shevchenko monuments in the world, in Washington DC.

If I continue with the list, we will run out of time for this session.

Today the Ukrainian Canadian community is over a million people. It is strong, it is consolidated, it preserves the language of their Homeland, faith and traditions. Ukraine has always felt proud of Ukrainian Canadians and is grateful for their lasting support.

On behalf of the people of Ukraine, I would like to express gratitude to you, brothers and sisters, for your lasting support!

However, it is not only history that bonds us, but also the shared values that make Canada and Ukraine integral parts of a global family of democracies.

Today Ukraine pays a very high price for defending what we believe in – democracy and freedom to choose our own future. For more than two decades we proudly stated that Ukraine gained its independence without shedding a single drop of blood.

Today Ukraine is bleeding for its independence and territorial integrity.

Governor General of Canada Ramon Hnatyshyn in his speech at the Ukrainian Parliament in 1992 stated: “We must not forget people’s suffering which we are witnessing”. That day he spoke of brave Ukrainian and Canadian soldiers who kept the peace across the world in conflict and unrest zones. These words remain so true, as never before.

Today thousands of brave Ukrainian men and women are sacrificing their lives for the right to live the way they chose to, on their land, under the blue and golden colors of the Ukrainian flag, colors which are so dear to many Canadian Ukrainians. In these dark days we feel your support.

It is time we see our friends in our need. And there is no other way to put it – Canada is a friend indeed.

As Commander-in-Chief, as a Ukrainian and a father of a soldier, I thank Canada for each life that is being saved today in the Ukrainian Donbas by a bulletproof vest or a helmet you gave us.

Once again I thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, and your Government, to the Opposition, to Canadian parliamentarians and senators, all Canadians and fellow Ukrainians for standing tall and making your voice heard. For helping financially, with technical assistance and non-lethal military aid, for supporting us at the international fora such the UN or NATO or G-7.

I would like to use this great opportunity to thank all Canadian Parliamentarians for their continuous support of Ukraine. I would like to especially thank for the emergency debates in this House of Commons during critical periods of the Maidan Revolution of Human Dignity. We heard your voice and it was important for us. It is also due to your support that we have won. Thank you for that.

I would like to express gratefulness for the work of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee on Ukraine, for the election observation mission which helped ensure that the will of the Ukrainian people was respected. 500 observers were the biggest mission during our elections. It confirmed that the elections were transparent and fair. You helped us establish a new Government in Ukraine. Thank you. We are expecting your mission on October 26 at parliamentary elections in Ukraine for we want to show that they will also be fair and transparent.

Thank you for many visits by Parliamentarians and Ministers, and for your visit to inauguration, Mr. Prime Minister. Canada was one of the first countries to recognize Ukraine’s independence. You also promptly recognized the results of the presidential elections and it was important for us. You are always with us at the most critical junctures.

Also I would like to thank Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for his support of Ukraine during Maidan.

I have a long list of sincere gratitude. I really feel your support. I am confident that we will have peace, we will stop the war with the assistance of the whole world. We will do everything for the world to be united. Canada helps us, it shows that it is with Ukraine. Thank you!

Without this support provided by the Government of Canada, by all parliamentarians and by the Ukrainian Canadian community under the leadership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, it would be much harder for Ukraine to face the challenges of today.

No other leader or nation, no one, I mean it, with the possible exception of Poland was so straightforward and earnest when sending the signal across to Russians and the rest of the World that fighting a nation which is trying to chart its own path is just conceptually wrong. That arming rebels with advanced antiaircraft systems, providing them with operators, intelligence and flight data is wrong. Those who were equipped, trained and financed by Russia executed a terrorist attack shooting down a civilian MH17 flight killing 298 innocent lives of nationals of Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia and others. One Canadian was killed as well.

I think that war in the East of Ukraine is war against terrorism. It is our common war. I am confident of that.

With your support, with the support of global community we will win this struggle. And we will fulfill the dreams of many Ukrainians in our homeland and across the world – Ukraine will be a strong, independent European nation.

Yesterday was one of the most important days in the history of Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada ratified the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. When I was in the Parliament yesterday, it was the last “goodbye” from Ukraine to the Soviet Union.

It was the last Rubicon that we had to cross. We will never return to our awful past. I am confident that our values, our freedom, our democracy, our European future and prospects of participation in various international organizations can be achieved. For Ukrainians passed one of the most difficult tests. We paid the highest price for the desire to be a European country. That’s why we will defend our independence and freedom. We want to become a fully-fledged member of the EU.

This happened simultaneously with the ratification at the European and broadcasted in the two parliaments.

Implementation of the agreement will not only harmonize Ukraine’s trade and customs rules with the EU standards, it will help my country draw closer to democratic norms and market-oriented economy.

At the NATO Wales Summit I’ve declared my country’s desire to move closer with NATO and become the closest non-NATO ally. I hope you will support this.

all Allies strongly condemn Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, illegal annexation of Crimea and stand ready to support territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within the internationally recognized borders.

I am thankful to Canada; your country was one of the soundest supporters of Ukraine at that summit and committed to provide $1 million to the NATO Trust Fund. It will help Ukraine build up its Command, Control, Communications, and Computers capabilities.

Dear friends, let’s look beyond the crisis and war. Let’s think how we enhance the Special Partnership between Ukraine and Canada.

I am convinced that we need to pay more attention to the bilateral cooperation in such spheres as energy, trade, investments, information and air-space technologies.

In cooperation with Canada we hope to accomplish an ambitious project of consolidating Ukraine’s informational space. By launching the telecommunication satellite built by Canadian company MDA we will be finally able to provide all our regions with reliable and trustworthy information as well as to export telecommunication services.

There should be more projects like this.

I hope that both negotiating teams translated our firm signal, Prime Minister’s and mine, and next time we see each other, we will have Ukraine-Canada Free Trade Agreement ready to sign.

Having said that I can’t help but mentioning one particular program that played significant role in enhancing our people-to-people contacts – I talk about Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program (CUPP).

During the years of independence CUPP has hosted over a thousand of students from Ukraine, who were able to work as interns right here at the Canadian Parliament. This program has given birth to some sparkling stars in the Ukrainian social and political universe. Some of the CUPP graduates take high positions in our government; some of them are leaders of the Ukrainian civil society and business community.

I thank the Canadian Parliament and the Ukrainian Diaspora for helping us breed a new generation of Ukrainian leaders.

Mr. Prime Minister,

I remember you mentioning that Canada is probably the most Ukrainian nation outside Ukraine itself. This is true. Let me reciprocate. There are great European nations, which stood at the source of foundation of modern Canada. Canada has friends all over the Globe, and the closest one next to it. However, I doubt that you will find another nation, which could tell, so sincerely, what I am about to tell you. Ukraine is probably the most Canadian nation after Canada itself.

I had this feeling today at the meeting with a lot of Canadians. Thank you for that.

Let me refer to Winston’s Churchill’s words who truly loved your country and visited it 7 times from 1900 to 1954. We recall him as brave leader who confronted the Nazi aggression with courage. In summer 1929 he wrote from Canada to his wife: “Darling, I am greatly attracted to this country…I am profoundly touched and I intend to devote my strength to interpreting Canada to our people”. 

These words resemble my feelings today. I won’t write these words to my wife since she is here with me today. I will simply tell her this.

And again, please let me quote Churchill once again: “I love coming to Canada. God bless your country”.

Thank you! Merci! Дякую! And Glory to Ukraine!

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