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Foreign Affairs Minister MacKay Meets with
Canadian Friends of Ukraine

Ottawa - Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Peter MacKay, met with representatives of Canadian Friends of Ukraine in Ottawa on November 10, 2006. Canadian Friends of Ukraine were represented by Margareta Shpir (Vice-President) and Lisa Shymko (CFU Executive Director and Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Centre).

A delegation from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, headed by UCC President Orysia Sushko, was also present at the meeting and presented the Minister with a brief on behalf of the Congress.

In his opening remarks, Minister MacKay underscored the importance that the Canadian government places on Canada's relationship with Ukraine. The Minister drew specific attention to the activities of Canadian Friends of Ukraine and commended the CFU for its commitment to strengthening Canada-Ukraine cooperation and democracy-building in Ukraine.

The representatives of Canadian Friends of Ukraine thanked Minister MacKay for his support during Ukraine's 2004 third-round presidential elections, during which time Canadian Friends of Ukraine successfully carried out the "Orange Ribbon Campaign" on Parliament Hill in support of free and transparent elections in Ukraine.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine presented the Minister with a written submission containing recommendations on Canada's policy options for Ukraine. During the meeting, the representatives of the CFU highlighted several aspects of the submission.

Attention was drawn to the new political reality in Ukraine, which has seen an erosion of presidential powers, with power shifting to the Prime Minister's office and the parliament of Ukraine. Consequently, both the Canadian government and NGO's such as Canadian Friends of Ukraine must adjust their approach to Canada-Ukraine relations and democracy-building endeavours in Ukraine to address the new political reality in Ukraine.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine urged the Canadian government to review the current process by which the government develops foreign policy toward Ukraine, so as to enable consultations with and input from informed Canadian NGO's, such as Canadian Friends of Ukraine.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine have a solid track-record in democracy-building and Canada-Ukraine cooperation. Six years ago, in November 2000, Canadian Friends of Ukraine, in cooperation with the Canadian government, established the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Centre in Kyiv at the National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine. Using Canada as a model, this state-of-the-art facility continues to serve the information needs of Ukraine's legislators and parliamentary committees, playing a vital role in strengthening the legislative process in Ukraine.

The Minister's attention was drawn to the inter-parliamentary activities undertaken by Canadian Friends of Ukraine. CFU have hosted public forums and roundtables in Toronto, Ottawa and Kyiv with the participation of over sixty of Ukraine's leading political figures and their Canadian counterparts. Focusing on issues such as the WTO, NATO expansion, media censorship, corruption and electoral reform, Ukraine's participants have included Presidents, Prime Ministers, cabinet ministers, and parliamentarians, such as Leonid Kravchuk, Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Oleh Bilorus, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Borys Tarasyuk, Yulia Tymoshenko to name just a few.

The Minister also acknowledged that the CFU had undertaken several pre-election media monitoring projects and in 2004 it produced the only documentary film featuring the principal presidential candidates and their political platforms.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine presented several recommendations on re-vamping the current approach to technical cooperation projects in Ukraine.

In addition to these recommendations, the CFU submission also raised a number of other issues affecting the Canada-Ukraine political dynamic. The brief addressed proposed changes to Canada's current immigration policy, the urgency for robust policy on human trafficking as it relates to the victimization of women from Ukraine and other East European countries, and the desirability of establishing a Canadian Consulate General in Lviv, with the expectation that Canada will, in the future, likewise expand its presence in urban centres in eastern Ukraine.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine urged the Government of Canada to rectify the failures of previous Canadian governments by introducing a motion in the House of Commons recognizing the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as a Genocide, as was done by the Canadian Senate in 2003. Ten countries, including the US, Australia, and Italy, have officially recognized this tragedy as a Genocide.

Canadian Friends of Ukraine look forward to working with Canada's new Foreign Affairs Minister so as to strengthen Canada-Ukraine cooperation and enhance Canada's commitment to democracy-building in Ukraine.

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November 13, 2006

Canadian Friends of Ukraine
620 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2H4
Tel: (416) 964-6644 Fax: (416) 964-6085

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