POLITICS

Ukraine violence to be debated in House of Commons

01/27/2014 01:53 EST | Updated 03/29/2014 05:59 EDT
The crisis in Ukraine is set to take centre stage in Ottawa as Parliament reconvenes after the winter break and MPs consider whether to hold an emergency debate on the issue, possibly as soon as tonight.

The government supports the idea and Conservative MP Ted Opitz is expected to formally request the debate early this afternoon.

The NDP is also seeking a debate, and it's possible there could be a footrace between parties to see which gets its request for a debate adopted first. 

New Democratic Party MP Paul Dewar will seek unanimous consent for a motion today calling on the government to condemn the killing and injuring of protesters in Ukraine.

The motion also calls for travel and economic sanctions to be imposed on some Ukrainian government officials, echoing remarks made Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Monday.

Trudeau said some 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

Over the weekend, Harper told reporters on his plane returning from Jordan that his government shares the concerns of Ukrainian protesters.

"We understand that this violence is occurring because the majority of the population is very worried about the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past," Harper said.

"We will continue to work with our allies and partners to determine what the necessary and the appropriate response to all this should be."

The government 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 the 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."