Address of His Excellency Victor Yushchenko President of Ukraine to both Houses of Parliament in the House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa on Monday, May 26, 2008
His Excellency Victor Yushchenko
President of Ukraine
to both Houses of Parliament
in the House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa
Monday, May 26, 2008
His Excellency Victor Yushchenko was welcomed by the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, by the Honourable Noël Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, and by the Honourable Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons.
Hon. Peter Milliken (Speaker of the House of Commons):
Order. I call upon the Right Honourable Prime Minister to address the joint session.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Speaker of the House, colleagues from both Houses of Parliament, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, we have the immense privilege today to welcome the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, to this joint session of our Parliament.
Mr. President, on behalf of my fellow parliamentarians and all Canadians, thank you for accepting our invitation to speak to us here in this great symbol of our democracy, and welcome to Canada.
This may be an historic day, but it has been a long time coming.
Many Ukrainians have preceded you here. Roughly 100 years ago, there began the mass migration of tens of thousands of your countrymen and countrywomen to Canada. “The men in sheepskin coats”, they were called.
They were hardy, hard-working and hopeful people, who saw in our young and largely untouched country a land of great opportunity. Many were attracted to the vast open grasslands of the Canadian Prairies, which, while unsheltered from the harsher elements, reminded them of the steppes back home.
We often now forget how difficult those pioneering days really were. Many of these settlers endured terrible hardships, but they prevailed and built the farms, families and fraternities that were vital to the social and economic development of rural western Canada.
Today, more than a million people of Ukrainian origin call Canada home.
They include: Ed Stelmach, premier of my home province of Alberta; our former Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn; a great number of my parliamentary colleagues from both chambers and all parties, many of whom of course are here today; famed Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar; the great painter, William Kurelek; the late Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka; and more great NHL hockey players than I could possibly name.
In fact, Canadians of Ukrainian origin have made a name for themselves in all the regions of Canada and in every field of activity. Our country is indeed fortunate that so many of them have chosen to settle in Canada.
Yet, Mr. President, for all that Ukrainians had achieved in this country, when I was a boy there remained a certain sadness in the Ukrainian Canadian community. Because, despite sharing with us the opportunity and prosperity that freedom and democracy had brought them here, Ukrainian Canadians understood that the bondage and repression of their ancestral land remained as strong as ever before.
Indeed, I think some doubted whether that would ever change, but change it did.
In 1991 when it finally broke free of Soviet tyranny, it was Prime Minister Mulroney and the Government of Canada that stood first among the great democracies of the west to recognize the independence of Ukraine.
We celebrated Ukraine`s hard-won freedom. Since then, we have supported its efforts to establish democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and we uphold those values to this day.
As you know, Mr. President, when those who would turn back the clock in Ukraine tried to stop the Orange Revolution, all the parties of both houses of this Parliament and all the people of this nation joined with your country and with your courageous leadership to say, “Never again will Ukraine lose her freedom”.
After decades of Soviet oppression, it takes time to develop democratic institutions and the spirit of a free people. However, progress is being made, and the world is taking notice.
Mr. President, I want to congratulate you on Ukraine`s official accession to the World Trade Organization earlier this month. There have been challenges to face and there will be others, but it is clear that Ukraine is on the way to a better future for its people.
That is why, as you know, Mr. President, the Government of Canada strongly supported Ukraine`s request to join NATO`s membership action plan at the Bucharest summit this year. This is, we understand, part of your design to see Ukraine embrace the transatlantic community and our shared democratic and free market values.
Moreover, Ukraine has always demonstrated its commitment to our NATO allies.
Your country is also part of the UN mission in Kosovo and is supporting a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan. In fact, Ukraine is the only non-NATO country supporting every NATO mission in some way or other.
It is for these and many other reasons that Canada called upon our partners to endorse Ukraine`s eventual membership in NATO and, perhaps even more importantly, to understand that the decision to seek alliance with others is a decision for, and only for, the sovereign nation of Ukraine itself.
If any further reason were needed to justify Ukraine`s welcome into the western security partnership, it can be found in the darkest chapter of the country`s history.
Of course, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor.
A law advanced by my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake, James Bezan, and now being debated in this Parliament, would provide legal recognition to what happened in Ukraine under the brutal communist dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.
That is why, in communities all across Canada, events are taking place to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor. That is why Canada co-sponsored the Government of Ukraine`s motion at UNESCO honouring the millions who perished in the terrible famine orchestrated by Stalin in the pursuit of his evil ideology.
In Canada, we are not afraid of history or the truth. That is why our government has acknowledged the injustice done to the Ukrainians interned during the first world war.
This month, we announced a grant to the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, to create a fund to promote the historic recognition of this sad chapter in Canada`s history.
If we know our history, we will not repeat its mistakes.
Nor will we forget its bonds: the shared values and aspirations between our two countries, built and embodied most clearly by Ukrainian Canadians themselves.
And on these we will continue to build our friendship and solidarity long into the future.
It now gives me great pleasure to introduce a man who embodies not only that friendship, but also our shared values of freedom and democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of free Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko.
His Excellency Victor Yushchenko (President of Ukraine):
[President Yushchenko spoke in Ukrainian, interpreted as follows:]
Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellency Madam Chief Justice, honourable senators, honourable members of the House of Commons, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to speak today at this honorary meeting.
It is a great honour for me to speak today at the Parliament of Canada. Right now I am filled with very tender feelings for your country, for this land. For me, as for millions of Ukrainians, this country, this land, is sacred. This is due to many reasons, which I will be speaking about.
I have come here to express words of gratitude to the land of Canada, for it became a motherland for millions of Ukrainians and many generations of my native people who at different times came to seek their destiny in Canada.
We are very grateful for the support that our country has always had from Canada. First, it was of great importance that Canada was the first country out of all the countries of the west to recognize Ukraine`s independence. Every Ukrainian will always remember that.
This decision was the first step in our close partnership in the modern age. We highly appreciate our modern relations, which have exceptional ties, the ties of brotherhood.
In my speech I would like to introduce today`s Ukraine and our vision of its future, as well as share our opinions regarding the progress of and the prospects for our relations.
First, and probably most important, Ukraine is a country of full democracy. The leading international organizations recognize Ukraine as a free democratic state. This conclusion includes such key aspects as election processes, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and human rights and freedoms.
That was a time when our old dreams were about strengthening our statehood. That was the reason for immense changes. The breaking point for this was the Orange Revolution in 2004. It witnessed the maturity of the Ukrainian nation, which in critical times stood up for its independence and for fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The Orange Revolution awoke our society and made irreversible and positive changes in human minds. Ukrainians believed in their own strengths and in their ability to stand up for their rights and for their own destiny. We are very grateful to the international community for it impartial attitude to those important days for Ukraine.
I would like to express the most gratitude to Canada, which sent the largest number of international observers in the course of the dramatic election of 2004. The pace of that development, which required centuries for many countries to do, was covered in several years by us. We were facing many challenges and, of course, certain obstacles.
However, the recent years have shown that the most complicated problems and challenges, including the social problems have been resolved in a very democratic and civilized way. We are speaking frankly about our problems.
We need to improve the public administration in our country to settle all the disparities in the system of relations between the three fundamental power institutions. We have to determine their responsibilities and authorities and that is what we are working on. This is our key target and content of the constitutional reform that we are working on now. That way we will provide long lasting political stability essential for the future progress of the country.
As the president and head of state, I have initiated different measures to combat corruption. Of course, this is a big problem for my country, but I would like to say that this problem is not a problem of last year or the last three years. This problem was not brought in by the Orange Revolution.
Unfortunately, this is a very heavy heritage that we inherited from the previous system. That is why the president today introduced six draft laws on fighting corruption and they are now in parliament. Last year they already passed first reading and I am sure that in the near future we will finalize the enhancement of Ukraine`s legislation on fighting corruption.
We also plan to reform the entire system and sector of national security. Very important changes will happen to the system of justice. These are the tasks that I have put as priorities in front of the government and I would like to say that you should not have any doubts that could put our democratic course under threat. I will do everything possible for no political ambition to stop our democratic pace.
My words are clear and affirming. Our movement will obviously give very productive results and this will be a very important message to all the democratic forces in Ukraine. This is the goal of every step in everything I do.
Dear friends, I would like to now speak about several aspects that characterize practical accomplishments and prospects for our country. For several years now we are marking out the stable economic evolution and development of our country. For the last three years the GDP growth has been estimated at 7.8% annually. Only last year, GDP grew at 6.7% and this is the high evolution level that we are keeping up every year. Incomes for the population are growing as well.
Every single year, after the Orange Revolution, the incomes of the population grew 30% every year. Foreign direct investment has increased immensely. The investment that came to the Ukrainian economy in the last three years constituted 80% of the total investment that Ukraine managed to acquire in the course of its independence.
When I was the chief of the central bank, I had only one dream and that was that investment in Ukraine could reach the level of that in Poland. Poland, at that time, received around $4.5 billion to $5 billion annually. Beginning in 2005, the Ukrainian economy has received from $7.5 billion to $8 billion of foreign direct investment.
I am sure this is a manifestation that the Ukrainian government has managed to find the right formula in the dialogue, which is very important. I am referring to the dialogue with businesses since a lot has been done to create fruitful and favourable conditions which would be attractive for businesses.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to invite all Canadian investors to be more active in the Ukrainian market. We have a number of big and even international occasions. One of them is hosting the Euro 2012 football championship final in Ukraine. Only within this project, with this event, we plan to invest in sport, tourism and infrastructure, including roads and hotels. The total cost of the project will be $25 billion U.S.
The investment in roads will be $10 billion. This is a big challenge for us. It is the first time in European football history, that is respected all over the world, that the cup final will be hosted in eastern Europe. I am sure that this is a big responsibility for the executive committee of UEFA and a colossal honour for my own country. It is a great examination and I clearly understand that the cup final would have been a lot easier to have been hosted by Spain, Italy or some other country because they have ready-made infrastructures, but I am sure that this is a genuine policy to the east where we have to get out of the traditional framework and traditional system of coordinates.
I was present at that very important decision, and I am very grateful to all the friends from UEFA who took this positive decision for Ukraine.
Once again I want to remind everybody, and I am speaking to Canadian investors now, that I want them to more actively come to our potential because our potential is very promising and strong. It triggers positive changes in different spheres of our lives.
On May 16, Ukraine became a valid member of the WTO and therefore today the Ukrainian system is equal within planetary economic competition. This will open new prospects to enhance our foreign economic activities and broad integration of our economy into the global state.
The second thing, which is also very important, Ukraine has firmly chosen its course for full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. This pact has been approved by our national legislation and all the defining laws have also been approved. We worked out the logic of the internal reforms and attained the values that the Ukrainian society wants to address.
Ukraine`s accession to the European Union is our main target and the reason is written in the middle term reform. This is the foundation of our strategy. We want to approach this membership through political association and economic integration. Today we are working on fixing that formula in the new, enhanced agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.
On February 17, we started official negotiations with the European Union on establishing a free trade area between the Ukraine and the European Union.
In the future, we expect to create such free trade areas with our key partners and with our remarkable partners, and primarily Canada. We have already spoken about this with your Prime Minister, and we spent a considerable amount of time on that very matter.
I also expect that one of the main constituents of the integration process will be in energy, which will make us closer to Europe.
I would like to say that Ukraine already signed a memorandum on harmonization of the Ukrainian energy system with the European energy system. This and other steps are considered to be a direct integration of the Ukrainian economy to that of the European economy.
Together with Lithuania, Poland, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Ukraine initiated the Baltic-Black Sea-Caspian Energy Transit Commonwealth, founded on clear and transparent rules for everyone.
Our main target is to introduce Ukraine`s capabilities, especially energy transiting capabilities. Ukraine possesses one of the biggest chains of oil and natural gas transportation routes. Our goal is to integrate these routes, along with the entire transiting potential of Ukraine into the common European energy market.
This is a brilliant initiative that has been put down in the declaration of the Kiev Energy Summit on May 23 and the initiative goes in line with the common European energy strategy. This is our contribution to building the common European market.
We also appreciate the results of the recent summit in Bucharest, which affirmed Ukraine`s prospect for membership in NATO. We hope that in December of this year, we will join the membership action plan for NATO.
When speaking to European aspirations in Ukraine, I want to point out that this policy is not aimed at forming any plans against anybody. A single challenge that would not be comfortable for anyone regarding Ukraine`s accession to NATO is not appropriate.
We are only governed by the national interest of the state. In order to understand why Ukraine`s position is so insistent on EU and NATO membership, it is worth recalling our history, at least of the 20th century. Just pay attention to the fact that for the last 90 years, Ukraine has declared its independence six times, starting with Hetman Skoropadsky in 1918.
Hetman only managed to keep the country`s sovereignty for a little more than six months. The same thing happened to the independence of the Ukrainian People`s Republic and the Western Ukrainian People`s Republic.
I do not want this range of historic tragedies to be repeated in today`s history of Ukraine. The only non-alternative decision and solution to making Ukraine eternal is Ukraine`s accession to the system of collective security. This, apparently, will be the first time in our history that Ukraine sovereignty will be approved by almost 30 countries in the world. Therefore, when we are speaking to Ukraine`s NATO membership, we are speaking about genuine Ukrainian sovereignty.
That is the reason such a strong and insistent policy is being carried out by the Ukrainian government. In this very context, Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to thank you very much for the position you expressed during the Bucharest summit. It was a proven, clear opinion of a country that fully supports this very place of my country. In my opinion, this is one of the examples of how very firm approvals of our partnership between our two countries is manifested.
Of course, a very important supporting pillar for this cooperation is about one million Ukrainian Canadians who have become an integral part of Canadian society. I am very grateful to Canada for its support of our Ukrainian community and its spiritual and cultural needs. As a very good indication of our friendship, we are grateful that Canada commemorates about 10 million innocent victims of the great famine in Ukraine in 1932-33.
I would like to express my biggest gratitude to the Canadian Senate for approving a resolution that calls on the Canadian government to recognize the Holodomor in Ukraine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation caused by Stalin`s regime. That happened in 2003.
I am confident, ladies and gentlemen, that this address will be supported by the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament.
In taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to thank Latvia and its chairman, who is present today in this room, for their recognition at the beginning of 2008 of the Holodomor in Ukraine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation.
The partnership between Ukraine and Canada has considerable advantages and its impetus is felt in many ways. We are united by a clear political position on many challenges of international life. We have felt the efficiency of our partnership in recovering from the Chernobyl catastrophe. Ukraine will always remember the invaluable support provided by Canada to recover after the Chernobyl tragedy.
We are soldier partners in promoting democracy in the world and actively cooperating in international missions, supporting peace and stability throughout the world.
Invariably, a very important part of our partnership is the cooperation between the parliamentarians of our countries. I welcome the activities by the Ukrainian and Canadian interparliamentary group. I am sure it will make many further contributions to cementing relations between our countries.
Your Excellencies, the key target of my visit to Canada is to give more impetus to our cooperation. We are ready to act very efficiently and in a systematic way. I call upon our Canadian friends and partners to accomplish this cooperation with new ideas throughout the whole spectrum, starting from nuclear energy to the participation in projects related to Euro 2012 Cup that will be hosted by Ukraine.
Dear friends, we highly appreciate our friendship and we believe in it. I thank Canada for its support. I thank your nation and your people for all the warm and dear feelings addressed to the Ukrainian hearts. From the heart of Ukraine to the heart of Canada, I want to state words of gratitude and respect. We are going forward and we want to go forward together as true, frank and dear friends.
Thank you for your attention. God bless Ukraine and God bless Canada.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Speaker of the Senate):
Mr. Speaker, Your Excellency, President Yushchenko, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, hon. senators and members of the House of Commons, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of all parliamentarians and all of us gathered here today, I have the honour, Your Excellency, to thank you for being here and for addressing this joint session of the Parliament of Canada. Your clear and elegant address stresses that you are among friends.
President Yushchenko, all those present at today`s joint session of the House of Commons and Senate of Canada have listened carefully to your important address and we thank you for sharing your analysis with us.
We have taken note of your insight on today`s Ukraine, including the reform process, which you have underlined and have underway, the economic development, significant new investment and the building of the infrastructure, including that associated with the hosting of the World Cup. We take note of your insight associated with your work on the Euro-Atlantic Integration, together with the single energy system and, of course, NATO.
Mr. President, your assessment of the special relations existing between the people of Ukraine and Canada is especially appreciated. As you have indicated, the bonds that unite our peoples are deep and distinct. You have reminded us that we share the values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the growth of peace throughout the world.
Indeed, our people to people relation is a part of a very special common heritage, to which you, Your Excellency, have alluded.
St. Andrew the Apostle, Patron Saint of the Ukraine, prophesied in the year 55 A.D. that a great people would build a successful civilization along the banks of the Dnipro River. He might well have predicted the contributions of these same people who settled along the banks of the Saskatchewan River and in other places of Canada.
So it is, Mr. President, that the people of Ukraine and Canada share in the patronage of the great apostle whose distinctive diagonal cross is particularly well-known in the province of Nova Scotia. I might also add that your patron St. Andrew is situated in high relief above the Speaker`s chair in the Senate chamber.
Once again, Mr. President, thank you for your address.
Thank you for being with us in Parliament today and for your thoughtful and excellent address. As you continue your leadership and stewardship of the Ukraine, we wish you Godspeed.
Hon. Peter Milliken (Speaker of the House of Commons):
President Yushchenko, Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Chief Justice, Mr. Speaker, hon. senators, hon. members, mesdames et messieurs.
Mr. President, on behalf of all the members and all of us here in the House of Commons, I would like to welcome you and thank you for addressing us today.
[The Speaker spoke in Ukrainian.]
Over the last three years, Canadians have watched with hope and admiration as your nation has, under your stewardship, taken its destiny into its own hands with impressive results. You yourself have called Ukraine`s independence the nation`s greatest creation and affirmed that freedom is the Alpha and Omega of democracy. I believe all Canadians would share that view.
Indeed, you have always had an ambitious vision for Ukraine and since your election as President in December 2004, you have worked diligently to make that vision a reality, to create new jobs, encourage economic growth, make quality education and medical care accessible and secure the rights of your people, to name only a few of your initiatives.
Coming from a family of teachers, it is not surprising that you have made learning and advancement the main priorities for Ukraine and its people.
It is also not surprising that the former president of Poland, Alexander Kwasniewski, once said of you, “he also strengthened people`s faith in the power of civil society both in his own country and around the world”.
Clearly, Ukraine is becoming a success story, a country of many and varied achievements. Your country has a rapidly growing economy and has just become a full member of the World Trade Organization.
As well, in the last 15 years, it has become an active participant in scientific space exploration and remote sensing missions, as well as continuing to design spacecraft.
But Ukraine is not merely looking inward. It is an active and concerned member of the international community, playing an increasingly larger role in peacekeeping operations throughout the world. I congratulate you on the World Cup event as well, another major international event.
Mr. President, I trust you know that you are among friends here and, indeed, I hope you consider Canada your home away from home, given that our country has more than 1.2 million persons of Ukrainian descent, the world`s third largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine and Russia. Many of them settled in western Canada and brought with them their language and culture, which continues to thrive here. I am not sure why it is so, perhaps it is the influence of the wide open spaces in the west, but you will find the world`s largest pysanka, or painted Easter egg, perogy and kielbasa all in the province of Alberta.
Perhaps you might some day return to Canada for a holiday. I understand you are an avid mountain climber, even scaling the heights of Ukraine`s highest mountain not once or twice, but once every year. Therefore, we can certainly offer you some mountaineering challenges. For those quieter times, you can put your well-known painting skills to good use by capturing some of Canada`s natural attractions on a board.
Mr. President, on behalf of all of us here and, indeed, on behalf of all Canadians, I thank you for honouring us with your visit today, and I invite you to return to see us soon. I wish you a pleasant stay in Canada and a safe journey back to your other home.
Hon. Peter Milliken (Speaker of the House of Commons): I declare the joint session adjourned.
By the courtesy of Taras Lys, Halya Lipska Wilson, and Professor Luciuk, who is the new national president of UCCLA and a professor at "rmc" (Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario)