Sajjan calls on Russia to ensure humanitarian access to Ukraine as Canada pledges $100 million to UN aid efforts
Canada is providing $100 million to the United Nations to support aid operations in Ukraine and refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan announced as he called on Russia to ensure the humanitarian access to Ukraine.
Sajjan spoke about the new Canadian funding during a virtual address to the UN on Tuesday, shortly after the multilateral agency issued an urgent flash appeal for the Ukraine crisis. The UN is asking for $1.7 billion to help meet urgent humanitarian needs in Ukraine and neighboring countries, as hundreds of thousands of refugees cross the border.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Sajjan said Russia is obligated under international humanitarian law to provide aid to Ukraine.
“International law requires any nation to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the civilian population. So I hope that Russia will respect international law. The images we have seen in terms of indiscriminate shelling are obviously deeply concerning,” Mr Sajjan said.
Speaking at the UN, Sajjan said Canada stands “neck to neck” with Ukraine in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “naked territorial aggression.” He said the decisions the world makes in the weeks and months to come will shape the world for future generations.
About 677,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled the violence in the past five days, according to the UN, which predicts that more than four million Ukrainians may need protection as refugees in the coming months. It estimates that an additional 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection.
The UN appeal requests two amounts, including $1.1 billion to help six million people inside Ukraine for three months. This will provide cash assistance, food, water, sanitation, support for health care and education services, and housing assistance to rebuild damaged homes. It also aims to maintain and establish transit and reception centers for displaced persons and to prevent gender-based violence in Ukraine.
For Donald Trump, Putin deserves praise and Trudeau is a tyrant. This puts Canada’s Conservatives and Pierre Poilievre in a difficult situation
Canadians should prepare for economic collateral damage as sanctions increase, says Chrystia Freeland
UN is asking for an additional $550.6 million to help Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and other countries in the region provide shelter, emergency relief items, aid cash and psychosocial support to Ukrainian refugees, including unaccompanied children.
Rema Jamous, the Canadian representative of the UN refugee agency, hailed the government’s “quick and very generous” contribution to the UN. She said UN teams had no problem providing humanitarian aid in border regions, but faced challenges in Ukraine.
“You still have active hostilities going on and our colleagues are in places where the military offensive continues and they are therefore subject to movement restrictions. They also have to take shelter in bomb shelters and observe curfews, so we’re not able to go out there and do what we want to do, which is say assess immediately what the humanitarian needs are and then be able to respond very quickly,” Ms. Jamous said.
Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said the community is grateful to Canada for its commitment.
“The Russian regime’s systematic war crimes and crimes against humanity are causing a humanitarian crisis unparalleled in Europe since World War II,” Chyczij said.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, spoke about her recent visit to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where she said she saw mostly women and children fleeing violence in Ukraine. She said it was “extremely urgent” that humanitarian aid could be delivered to Ukraine as food stocks were running out in places like Kiev.
“With the population on one side of the border, people and goods have to be moved in both directions. And so getting this all together in hours, not days, is critical,” Ms Power said.
Mr Sajjan said he was planning a visit to the region soon to visit “many” border countries, but did not provide any details for security reasons. Canada is sending an international humanitarian team to the region to assess needs on the ground, he said.
Last week, the federal government announced it would match donations to the Canadian Red Cross appeal for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine between February 24 and March 18, up to a maximum of $10 million. . The funds will support Red Cross relief efforts and other essential humanitarian activities in Ukraine and neighboring countries. Sajjan said Canadians donated $9.5 million to the matching fund on Monday.
Canada has provided Ukraine with nearly $1 billion in various forms of assistance since the crisis began in 2014, including more than $250 million in bilateral development assistance and more than $164 million in humanitarian aid. The government also announced $620 million in sovereign loans for Ukraine so far this year.
For Subscribers: Get exclusive political news and analysis by subscribing to the Political Briefing.