On Nov. 14, Stephen Harper told Vladimir Putin to “get out” of Ukraine at the annual G20 summit. As Canada shows it will not tolerate Russian military action, this could be a positive step for international relations between Canada and other countries.
Canada’s newfound boldness is a good move that could result in it being seen as assertive on the world stage — putting up with other countries’ negative actions is not a way to be respected in an increasingly globalized world. However, there is a risk that Canada’s stance against Putin’s actions could threaten relations with Russia because countries do not like to be confronted with issues pertaining to their actions or sovereignty.
While Canada is a world leader in human rights, protecting these rights can and should include protecting the rights of people in other countries. With Putin commissioning violence against the people of Ukraine, it is inevitable that civilians will be hurt or killed in the conflict. These civilians are unrelated to Russia’s political agenda and are innocent casualties in its continuing military actions. In August, the death toll of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict was approximately 2,953 and is presumably rising with time.
There are also reports of Russia’s human rights abuses including physical and psychological torture and forced labour. Armed groups are wreaking havoc in Ukraine, torturing people and holding them captive. A United Nations report from August stated that various groups involved in the conflict are expected to be holding at least 468 people in captivity. These are all human rights violations and Canada is right to not idly stand by.
However, Canada’s previous actions seem to have made little impact so far. Despite imposing sanctions on Russia for months, the violence has not subsided. This continued violence is not only a threat to the people of Ukraine, but it also affects the economy of both countries.
War is an expensive business, as weapons and military vehicles do not come cheap and it costs to send troops into other countries. The economic growth of Russia is being dragged down and the people of Ukraine cannot attempt to rebuild their country when fighting is tearing it apart.
The people of Ukraine have the right to live in peace and as long as they are living in a war-ravaged country, they cannot do this. War and violence leave psychological scars on survivors that take time to heal. Although the conflict may not be in our own backyard, Canadians should care because we are all human and the plight of other people affects us.
Canada’s history of aiding countries in crisis makes me think that Harper is passionate about helping Ukraine. If Canada puts enough pressure on Putin, then Russian troops could be pulled out of Ukraine. Infighting and war are not helping either country, nor their people, to grow and thrive. Attempting to destroy each other is not a way to solve conflict. If Canada can be influential in making peace, we should put in as much effort as possible — it’s the least we can do.
Graphic: Pascal Dimnik