Some MPs worried about waning enthusiasm among their constituents for supporting Ukraine’s defence say they hope President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit changes some hearts and minds.
“It’s important that we continue to stay unified as Canadians … and advocate for the aid necessary to ensure Ukraine wins the war,” said Toronto-area Liberal MP Yvan Baker, chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Baker’s mother and grandparents immigrated from Ukraine to Canada after the Second World War and many of his constituents in his riding of Etobicoke-Centre are of Ukrainian descent.
But despite the appearance of widespread Canadian public support on the surface, Baker and several other MPs have told CBC News they fear that war fatigue is beginning to take hold in their ridings as headlines about the war are trumped by pocketbook issues.
Baker said he doesn’t want to see support drop to the level it has in the U.S., where some Republicans are openly opposing ongoing materiel and financial support for the Ukrainian war effort. He said that prospect makes Zelenskyy’s two-day visit to Canada especially important.
“If we recognize that this is a fight for not just Ukraine’s sovereignty, but the international rules-based order … it is obvious that we should be doing everything possible to support Ukrainians until they decisively win the war,” Baker said.
On Friday, during his first visit to Canada since Russia launched its all-out invasion, Zelenskyy delivered an impassioned speech to Parliament urging Canada and other Western allies to maintain their support until Russia is defeated.
Canadians currently questioning Ottawa’s financial and military aid to Ukraine should watch Zelenskyy’s address to Parliament, said Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
“Just watch the sacrifice of these people,” said Champagne, who represents the riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain in Quebec.
“They’re paying with their lives for democracy, for all of us. So if there’s any people still doubting, just watch the speech.”
Conservative Sen. Denise Batters of Saskatchewan listened to Zelenskyy speak in the House of Commons while wearing a vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian blouse embroidered by her grandmother just before she sailed to Canada from Ukraine a century ago.
“It was quite the momentous day, a lifetime memory,” said Batters, who said she got the chance to speak to Zelenskyy about her Ukrainian heritage and the history of her blouse.
“I’m hearing very positive things from Canadians across the country, that they want to help Ukraine.”
‘The minimum we can do’
Following Zelenskyy’s address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $650 million in new military aid over three years to allow Ukraine to acquire 50 armoured vehicles, including vehicles for medical evacuation that will be built in London, Ont.
The federal government also announced new sanctions against 63 Russian individuals and entities that Trudeau said were complicit in kidnapping Ukrainian children and spreading disinformation and propaganda.
Friday’s announcement brings Canada’s total committed support to Ukraine since 2022 to more than $9.5 billion, said the Prime Minister’s Office.
Tom Kmiec, Conservative MP for Calgary Shepard, said he’s heard concerns from some constituents about the level of ongoing Ukrainian aid.
“I do hear it and then we sit down and then we have a good conversation, [a] good explanation that this is an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation,” Kmiec said.
“We have to keep supporting them. It’s the minimum we can do.”
Ron McKinnon, Liberal MP for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, said he’s also heard occasional gripes but believes most voters support the cause.
“It is an incredibly important fight,” he said.
Mike Kelloway, Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso, said he believes Ukraine is one issue that should unite Canadians.
“If you think the war in Ukraine doesn’t impact us, look at inflation,” he said. “If something happens in one part of the world, if we ignore it, we do it at our own peril.”
Yaroslav Baran, co-founder of Cafe Ukraine, a resource centre in Ottawa for Ukrainian refugees, said he does worry about Ukraine fatigue sinking in.
“That’s what keeps me up,” said Baran, who watched Zelenskyy’s address to Parliament.
“The longer any war goes on, the more it slips off the headlines … You’ve got to fight to maintain attention and, by extension, political support.”
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