Prime Minister delivers an address at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
My dear friends. Hello.
What a pleasure to be back here. What a pleasure to see you all. What a pleasure to be welcomed by so many friends in this place. I know Canadians, not just me, are deeply honoured to be able to be welcomed here, in this place. And, because in Canada we have both official languages, I will be speaking in both English and French, so, use your headsets. But it is an incredible pleasure to be here amongst you.
Members of the Verkhovna Rada, it is an honour to address you today.
As I stand here, in the seat of your democracy, my first thought is for the Ukrainian people that you represent and serve. I think of the courageous soldiers on the front lines. I think of the young scouts selling baked goods to raise money for drones. I think of the farmers who are continuing to till their fields of wheat for their neighbours, for the world, under the threat of Russian shelling. I think of the nurses and doctors who continue their heroic work even when hospitals are being bombed. I think of everyone who is mobilizing because they believe in one simple ideal: that Ukrainians should be free to choose their own future.
Back home, I often point out that democracy doesn’t happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort. Well, Ukraine knows that better than anyone else.
And in your case, effort means incredible courage and sacrifice. Courage and sacrifice when you declared your independence more than 30 years ago. And I’m proud that Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in December 1991.
Courage and sacrifice 10 years ago, during the Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity, after the president of the time refused to sign an agreement with the European Union, an agreement that had been overwhelmingly approved here by the Rada.
Courage and sacrifice more than a year after Putin launched his brutal invasion, as you continue to stand strong and fight.
Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine is not only illegal, but also appalling. I do not need to list all the crimes the Russian invaders have committed; you are very familiar with them. By invading Ukraine, Russia violated the basic principles of a rules-based international order. It scorned the foundational elements of the Charter of the United Nations.
The peace, stability, and prosperity that much of the world has known for more than 75 years has now ended because of Putin’s brutal choice. My friends, you’re not just fighting for your survival: you’re fighting for the survival of everything. You’re fighting for freedom, for democracy, for the right of self-determination. You’re fighting for borders to mean something, even when a neighbour has a bigger armoury, especially when a neighbour has a bigger army. The world cannot overstate the gravity of this moment.
The world cannot overstate the existential importance of your fight. In fighting for Ukraine, you’re fighting for your homes, your culture, your language, your identity; but you’re also fighting for the future of us all. The brave people of Ukraine have reminded the world that democracy is both important enough to die for and strong enough to win.
30, 50, 80 years from now, kids will learn about your victory in history books. Your heroes will be revered, like we still revere our grandparents who saved us from fascism on the beaches of Normandy and across Europe. You are the tip of the spear that is determining the future of the 21st century.
That is what is at stake. Nothing less. And this is why Canada will continue to stand with you, whatever it takes for as long as it takes. Vladimir Putin made serious miscalculations with his unprovoked and unjustified invasion.
Putin underestimated the tremendous courage of the Ukrainian people. He also underestimated the determination and unity of democratic partners and allies in the face of authoritarianism and brutality. Three weeks ago, I took part in the G7 Summit and I can tell you that President Zelenskyy’s presence at that summit and in the world has a huge impact. Your friends’ support is stronger than ever. Under Operation UNIFIER, Canada has trained 36,000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Earlier today, I announced that we would be extending Operation UNIFER until 2026. Since the beginning of Putin’s brutal invasion, Canada has provided over $8 billion in assistance to Ukraine, including over $1 billion in military assistance.
A couple of months ago, we extended an almost-$2.5-billion loan to the government of Ukraine for this year with the aim of supporting Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. And earlier today, I announced we’ll provide a further $500 million in new funding for military assistance.
In addition, Canada will be part of the multinational efforts to train fighter pilots and to maintain and support Ukraine’s fighter jet program. We’re here to support you now, and we’ll be here to support you in the future.
And it must be Ukraine’s choice as to how it defends itself and its people. That is why Canada supports increased cooperation with NATO through the NATO-Ukraine Council. And we will continue to support Ukraine becoming a NATO member as soon as conditions allow.
We all want Ukraine to be victorious and for this war to end as soon as possible. We all want peace, peace on Ukrainian terms. Russia must immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all military forces from Ukraine.
Canada, of course, supports Ukraine’s initiative for a just and sustainable peace based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Last week, I read the story of a Ukrainian soldier. The name he goes by is Cadet. He joined the army the day after he turned 18, the fourth day after Russia invaded. He hopes his girlfriend comes back from Germany soon, and he plays video games on his phone, in the quiet moments in the trenches. Even if he can’t grow a beard yet, Cadet is a hero fighting for his country. My eldest son is 15, and even though he’s already taller than me, I couldn’t imagine him going off to war in just a couple of years. What kids and families are living across Ukraine right now is difficult to even comprehend.
But it is all very, very real. Both what you are doing and why you are doing it. Every time I hear from Volodymyr about how it’s going, every time I hear from Chrystia about her family members here in Ukraine, every conversation I have with people in Canada, with relatives they’re worried about: it makes it all so real.
Canada will continue to provide refuge to your people. You can count on it. Since last year, Canada has welcomed a quarter of a million Ukrainians. As I said, these are people who did not want to leave Ukraine; they all love their country and hope to be able to return to it soon. But while they are with us, we, Canadians, we are helping them. We are providing jobs, safe places to stay, language courses, and everything they need to get through this difficult time.
I visited Saint Demetrius a few months ago, a school in Toronto where more than a hundred Ukrainian children go to class now. Fellow students and teachers have collected books, clothes, toiletries, and food to give to their new friends and neighbours. Now, this sort of thing is happening at schools, community centres, church basements, places of worship, and libraries across the country.
In Saskatchewan, for example, people who came through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel will pay the same university tuition as the local kids. This means students like Victoria, whose parents are dentists, will be able to follow her dream and afford to study dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan. We are building your future, even as you fight for your own.
And as you know, the special bond between our two countries isn’t new. Canadians and Ukrainians have had close people-to-people ties for a very long time. In 1891, Ivan Pylypow and Wasyl Eleniak were the first Ukrainian immigrants to arrive in Canada. Like so many others after them, they settled in the Canadian prairies. Over the years, Ukrainian Canadians worked the land. They built churches distinguished by their beautiful domes. In many ways, the Canadian prairies are very similar to the landscape in Ukraine, with fields of golden wheat under the bluest skies, just like your flag. Canadians of Ukrainian origin have shaped and enriched Canada in significant ways as artists, athletes, farmers, scientists, or parliamentarians. Like my friend and Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland.
Ukrainians have helped us build our country over the past generations, so, it is as right as rain that Canadians will be there to rebuild your country for future generations. When I saw that Ukraine’s central bank issued a commemorative banknote earlier this year featuring the Canadian flag, amongst others, I was deeply honoured. Thank you for that. But of course, we’re not doing it for thanks. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.
As you know, Canada became the first country in the G7 to pass a law allowing us to pursue the seizure and forfeiture of frozen Russian assets. I can think of no better way to pay for the rebuilding of Ukraine than with the seized assets of Putin’s elites and enablers.
So, last spring, a Russian-owned Antonov 124 cargo aircraft landed at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. As soon as it landed, we immediately grounded it. And today, I can announce that we are seizing this massive Russian aircraft to forfeit this asset to Ukraine and make sure it can never be used to support Russia’s war.
This is a moment of immeasurable consequence for Ukraine, and it’s a moment of immense consequence for the world. Putin and the pandemic have revealed to democracies the risks of economic reliance on dictatorships. Antagonistic states are using our economic interdependence for their own geopolitical advantage. The democratic world must no longer be at the mercy of any country that can just turn off the taps to hurt our citizens.
This is why, with partners and allies, we’re working to forge a new consensus, investing in the supply of energy and resources across trusted, reliable partners. It’s not only about safeguarding our energy security and our economy; it’s about building a world where undemocratic, brutal regimes cannot benefit from the energy and supply chain crises that their own crimes create. It’s about strengthening countries that respect rules-based trade and rules-based order.
Putin has acted with unbelievable cruelty and weaponized both energy and food, causing hardship around the world. Food insecurity has been felt most acutely by the most vulnerable, especially in the Global South.
World hunger, which had been declining steadily for a decade, is again increasing because of Vladimir Putin’s war. Before the war, Ukraine supplied around 45 million tons of cereals annually to the global market. Today, Russia limits cereal exports from Ukraine. The attacks on your electricity grid compromise the grain terminals where wheat and corn are shipped. It’s barbaric and unacceptable.
To those who think that “might makes right”; to those that think that the only way to win is to conquer others; to those who consider geopolitics to be a zero-sum game, we have to say: “No more.” That is the choice that the world is facing right now.
The choice is clear: democracy where the rule of law prevails, where growth is shared across nations, where diversity is celebrated as a strength, where the middle class is empowered, where citizens can choose their own destiny; or else autocracy, where the rule of the ruler dominates, where human rights are trampled upon, where tyrants enjoy unchecked power. Authoritarian regimes don’t care for others. They only care about themselves. Well, that choice is increasingly clear every single day. Our collective success is intertwined with the success of others. International law and fundamental principles are about building a world that’s fairer for everyone with a framework shielding us from chaos.
The stability of the rules-based order creates prosperity and opportunity around the globe. Emerging economies in Africa and Asia that fought long and hard for their independence and sovereignty against colonialism. Your fight, our fight, is now for them, too. This is the message that Canada shares with our friends and allies around the world every day. And in terms of friends and allies, well, Canada is one of the most connected countries in the world.
Whether it’s the 7 members of the G7, the 21 members of APEC, the 24 members of the G20, the 31 members of NATO, the 35 members of the Organization of American States, the 56 members of the Commonwealth or the 88 states and governments of La Francophonie, we share the same message with all of them: we will never stop defending Ukraine’s interests and our common values, because Canadians understand what’s at stake.
My friends, I am consistently astounded by your courage and resilience. You have stared down Putin’s threats since before the invasion. You have rallied support from around the world and you’re not giving up, and nor will we. Last year, before President Zelenskyy addressed our Canadian parliament, I said that democracies around the world are lucky to have him as their champion.
I still strongly stand by those words. And today I get to say the same about all of you here in this place, in person, face to face. Thank you for being champions and defenders of democracy every day. Thank you.
As parliamentarians, your work here is essential. Democracy needs strong institutions like the Rada. Trust me, I might be Canada’s head of government, but I also have, in our system, the incredible privilege of being a member of Parliament among 337 others. So, I know how the work you do day in and day out to serve people, to fight for them, to represent them is so essential.
Thank you, my friends, for all of it.
Democracy is our chosen way of life. As I said, it didn’t happen by accident and won’t continue without effort. But let us be clear: no dictator gets to take that choice away from us.
Citizens should be free to choose their own leaders and their own future. People all around the world should be free to express their opinions without being arbitrarily imprisoned. Governments must be transparent and responsible, and they must treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve. These are the values that are at stake and this is what you defend every day, on the front line and in this place.
Today, visiting your country once again during this horrific war, allows me to see your grief and your resilience with my own eyes, but I also see extraordinary courage and hope. Here behind me and above this building, the house of the Ukrainian people, your blue and yellow flag still stands, still flies. Ukraine stands and will continue to stand. In the great words of the great Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine will always be the family of the free because no bombs, no bullets, and no bullies will ever take away your drive for freedom and your pride in your culture, your language, your history, and your future as Ukrainians.