Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at a press conference to announce Canada’s extension of its military training mission in Ukraine, as well as renewal of its military contribution to support stability in the Middle East


March 18, 2019 - Ottawa, Canada

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Before we start, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin. We acknowledge them as the past, present and future caretakers of this land.

Canada has a proud tradition of international leadership.

Whether confronting climate change, terrorism and radicalization, or international conflicts, the need for effective Canadian multilateral leadership has never been greater than it is today.

In a moment, I’ll give the floor to my colleague, Minister Sajjan, to provide details on two important Canadian military operations in Ukraine and Iraq, respectively, Operation UNIFIER and Operation IMPACT.

Before I do that, I’d like to take a few moments to discuss the situations faced by the people of Ukraine and those in Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East—and what Canada is doing to help.

Let’s start with, Ukraine.

Some of you will know that this past Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Since the occupation began, Russian agents have committed severe human rights violations in Crimea including: arbitrary arrests; torture; detentions and forced disappearances; as well as the mistreatment of the Crimean Tatar population and the destruction of their historic sites.

Despite ongoing Russian aggression in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and in the Kerch Strait, the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine have demonstrated a firm commitment to democratic and economic reforms.

I would like to note that we are joined today by the Ukrainian embassy’s Minister-Counsellor, Yurii Nykutiuk, and Defence Attaché, Col. Viktor Siromakha.

 We commend them in their ongoing efforts to implement a broad reform agenda on their path to NATO membership.

That is why Canada will be hosting the third Ukraine Reform Conference this year in Toronto, from the second to the fourth of July. This ministerial-level conference will bring together international friends and partners, to support Ukraine as it moves ahead with these much-needed reforms.

Canada is also taking on a leadership role in the Ukrainian elections, including through the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] elections monitoring mission and through our own bilateral mission comprised of hundreds of short- and long-term Canadian observers.

Last week, we announced that this group will be led by Lloyd Axworthy, an eminent Canadian statesman and long-time friend of Ukraine.

In addition to the support for election observers, Canada’s $24 million commitment will go to combatting misinformation by malign actors in the first elections later this month.

On Friday, in another show of support for Ukraine, Canada, the European Union, and the United States announced new sanctions in response to Russia’s aggressive actions in the Black Sea and Kerch Strait and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine can continue to count on Canada’s unwavering support.

I will now turn to the Middle East and the ongoing crises afflicting Syria and Iraq, which continue to affect the entire region. I would like to acknowledge that we are joined by a diplomat from the Iraqi embassy, Ms. Kauther Alnadawi.

The situation there continues to be of great concern to Canada, but with the help of our allies, we continue to work towards lasting peace and security, including through our command of NATO’s training mission in Iraq.

As Daesh loses more and more of its territory, an on-going commitment to stability in the region, and accountability for those involved in that group’s heinous crimes, will be critical to achieving a better future in the region.  

In addressing this ongoing conflict, we must also continue to promote the role of women in the peace process, as well as in all matters of governance, security and stabilization.

We are committed to responding to the needs of people in Iraq, Syria, and the region, including in Jordan and Lebanon, which have been forced to accommodate a staggering number of refugees over the past few years.

Canada is there, and will be there, helping to build the conditions for longer-term stability and prosperity.

I will now turn to Minister Sajjan, who will speak to the role Canada will continue to play in Ukraine, as well as in Iraq and the surrounding region. Thank you.

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