As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Canada’s Parliament on Sept. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged an additional $650 million in military aid for Ukraine’s defence against Russia.
“President Zelenskyy, you and the Ukrainian people are holding the rules-based order in the balance,” Mr. Trudeau told the Ukrainian president in the House of Commons.
“You are on the front lines, not just of the fight for Ukraine, but in the fight for the kind of future we are all going to be living in.”
Mr. Trudeau also called Mr. Zelenskyy a “great champion of democracy,” and said an eventual resolution with Russia “can't be a false peace based on a compromise imposed by the aggressor.”
Mr. Zelenskyy in his speech thanked Canada for supporting its military efforts and NATO ambitions. He started by noting that the first memorial for the Holodomor, a Soviet-made famine in the 1930s that caused the death of millions of Ukrainians, was built in Edmonton in 1983.
“One of the most sterling qualities of your country is that justice is not an empty word for Canada,” he said. “Another extremely important fact about you is that you never, never, ever make a political bet on hatred and enmity, and you're always on the bright side of history.”
This was Mr. Zelenskyy’s second address to the Canadian Parliament, with the first taking place virtually in March 2022. Since then, Canada has been steadily providing military, financial, and humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Trudeau made a surprise visit to Ukraine in June, where he pledged $500 million more in military aid. He also regularly keeps in touch with Mr. Zelenskyy.
The latest announcement pertains to a $650 million commitment over three years, to provide 50 armoured vehicles. Mr. Trudeau said those include medical evacuation vehicles to be built in London, Ontario. The manufacturer was not immediately disclosed, but General Dynamics has a plant in London and already has a contract to build light armoured vehicles for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) says that since January 2022, the Canadian government has provided over $8.9 billion in assistance to Ukraine. This includes $4.95 billion in direct financial support and $1.8 billion in military aid.
"Today’s announcements bring Canada’s total committed support to more than $9.5 billion in multifaceted assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of 2022," the PMO said in a statement.
The PMO says Canada has provided the highest per-capita direct financial support to Ukraine of all the G7 countries. In non-relativized contributions, the United States has been by far the largest individual supporter of Ukraine and its war efforts.
Mr. Zelenskyy visited Washington before coming to Canada, and U.S. President Joe Biden approved a US$325 million security assistance package for Ukraine. The package includes air defence and anti-tank systems, with the weapons coming from existing U.S. stockpiles.
Mr. Biden asked Congress last month to authorize US$24 billion in additional aid for Ukraine as part of a supplemental budget proposal.
Long Term AgreementCanada, like other Western countries, has pledged to support Ukraine “as long as it takes” against the Russian invasion and its consequences.
The government announced in late August it was launching negotiations with Ukraine over a bilateral security agreement. Ottawa framed its approach as “pairing Canadian capabilities with Ukrainian needs.”
Other G7 countries also seek to reach similar bilateral agreements, which impose certain conditions on Ukraine.
The G7 Joint Declaration following the July NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, announced the initiative and said that, in return for Western assistance, Ukraine would have to commit to strengthening “transparency and accountability measures with regard to partner assistance.”
G7 countries want to see reforms in Ukraine in terms of improving the rule of law, respect for human rights, and freedom of the press. Mr. Zelenskyy has also been under pressure from some U.S. politicians to hold elections, which have been suspended given the state of martial law. Parliamentary polls would normally be due in October and the presidential election in March 2024.
Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian president has taken steps to stamp out Russian influence in the country and other forms of dissidence. This includes consolidating TV outlets and banning rival parties.
Ukraine is currently attempting a counteroffensive against Russian forces. After Russia failed to reach the Ukrainian capital in the initial weeks of the invasion, fighting has been concentrated closer to the Russian border and in areas that have been under lower intensity armed conflict since 2014 between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists.
Katabella Roberts and Reuters contributed to this report.