Drastic actions call for drastic measures, according to James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake.
Bezan made the following statement after learning that Ukraine’s former defence minister Valeriy Ivashchenko was sentenced to five years in prison:
“The conviction of Mr. Valeriy Ivashchenko, the third political opponent of President Yanukovych to be imprisoned without due process, is a sad reminder that democracy is under attack in Ukraine and judicial independence in Ukraine has completely eroded. I am deeply troubled by President Yanukovych’s continued disregard for human rights and democracy in Ukraine.”
“Canada must send a clear message to the Yanukovych administration that the Ukrainian government’s direct assault on their political opposition is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. In my opinion, it is now clear that a strong signal must be sent from Canada, and hopefully the international community, or the Ukrainian government’s blatant disregard for democracy, the rule of law and human rights will not end nor be reversed."
“In order to stop the Ukrainian government’s attack on democracy, I am asking the Government of Canada to freeze foreign assets held by Ukraine’s leadership and cancel their travel Visas as well. Canada must send a robust delegation of election monitors for this fall's Ukrainian Parliamentary elections. I also believe we need implement economic sanctions, and suspend talks on the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. Diplomacy to date has not worked and we must pressure President Yanukovych to change course from what appears to be draconian Soviet-era policies.”
Here are a couple of brief video clips of Bezan condemning the Ukrainian government's ongoing assault on democracy under the current president:
I personally agree with the idea of sanctions against Ukraine, or any country for that matter, whose rulers violate human rights. It's the most practical and effective method of dealing with thugs and mercenaries who take over the reins of power from the people.
In private conversations, I have been shot down for suggesting sanctions against Ukraine. The primary argument given to me is that by restricting trade, economic sanctions will just end up hurting "ordinary" Ukrainians.
But in reality, how many tickle-down benefits of foreign trade do "ordinary" workaday Ukrainian citizens actually enjoy when their corrupt-to-the-core bureaucracy gets first dibs on all the goodies?
Many people think that politics is the route to prosperity and independence in Ukraine, rather than the free rein of free-market capitalism (or the weak facsimile that is the best we have to date). I dunno. Maybe it is. I'm certainly no expert on politics.
But if politics is the answer, then care must be taken to not cross the very fine line between helping a country develop ademocracic system, and meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Let's be careful what we wish for!
The Ukrainian diaspora has a wealth of experience in helping ordinary people in Ukraine survive oppressive governments — and even to triumph personally over them.
So why not support economic sanctions while putting that experience to work even more diligently? IMHO, the best way to undermine corrupt rulers is to empower the grassroots. And today, as in the past, there is no reason it can't be done under the noses of the current corrupt regime running Ukraine ... which is so caught up in its own self-importance that it won't notice until it's too late.
It wasn't long ago that the Ukrainian people defeated a cabal of political thugs under the slogan "разом нас багатою" (razom nas bahato ... there's strength in numbers).
Why not help them to do it again, while the memory is still fresh?