Canada, “which aspires to leadership in supporting human rights around the world,” is called upon to act
On September 18, 2018, Ihor Michalchyshyn, on behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, addressed a letter to members of Canada’s Parliament calling them to take immediate action against Russian officials responsible for the political imprisonment of Ukrainians in Russia.
As stated in the Michalchyshyn’s letter, over 70 Ukrainian citizens are currently illegally detained in Russian prisons, with Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, and Oleksandr Shumkov having been on a hunger strike for more than 100 days standing up for all Ukrainian political prisoners and seeking for their release. “Ukrainian political prisoners are subject to serious violations of their human rights, including documented cases of torture, ill-treatment, and refusal to provide medical care,” writes the Chief Executive Officer of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. According to him, “the names of the Russian officials responsible for these violations are easily identifiable,” which allows Canada, using the tools available in the Magnitsky Act adopted by the Canadian Parliament in October 2017, to implement sanctions against those officials. But Canada hasn’t utilized the Act in this connection so far, which is regarded by the Ukrainian Canadian community as “the continuing inaction of the Government of Canada on this issue.”
“We ask for your support in demanding that Russia immediately release these Ukrainian political prisoners.”
The letter was submitted to the House of Commons together with a briefing note to Members of Parliament from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. In this eight-page document prepared for the fall parliamentary session, the Ukrainian Congress asks the Canadian Parliament to support their five recommendations to the Government “to protect the human rights of Ukrainian citizens as Russia continues its war against Ukraine.” These recommendations include but are not limited to sanctions against Russian officials for the violations of human rights of Ukrainian citizens; designation of the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism; declaration of Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ republics as terrorist organizations; and strengthening of economic sanctions against Russia in order to exert pressure on the country to “end its occupation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine.” Similar appeals have already been sent to the Parliament through a number of e-petitions, with the recent one being initiated by second-generation Ukrainian Canadian theatre actress, Lianna Makuch, on September 4, 2018.
Meantime, an official statement of the Government of Canada urging Russia to free “all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens” was issued only once, on July 28, 2018. Some Canadian officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and parliamentarians, in particular, the Conservative MP James Bezan, have been involved in Twitter diplomacy, regarding the issue.