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Speech - Canada and the Ukraine War

Maxime Bernier, Leader of the Peoples’ Party of Canada

(This speech was delivered at the Rebel News LIVE 2022 Conference on November 19, 2022, in Toronto)

(Words of introduction) 

I wish to speak to you today about the Ukraine war, and what Canada’s position regarding it should be. 

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO

At the outset, let me express my deepest sympathy for the innocent Ukrainian and Russian men, women, and children caught in the middle of this terrible conflict that could and should have been avoided. 

It is said that about a hundred thousand soldiers have been killed on both sides, a number that will unfortunately very likely continue to climb. 

As with wars of the past, the justifications and motivations are countless but the results are nevertheless tragic.

What I would like to explain today is the larger geopolitical context in which this war is taking place. Even though one country, Russia, clearly invaded another country, Ukraine, the situation is more complex than “Russia bad, Ukraine good”. Something the general public fails to understand, due in large part to the slanted and dishonest coverage from the corporate media.

But whatever you think about who the good and the bad guys are, I believe Canada should not have gotten involved in this war. We should have remained neutral and worked with our allies to help establish a peace process. 

That’s what I have been saying since the beginning of the conflict. On the contrary, as you all know, Justin Trudeau’s government, with the support of the NDP and Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, has been sending weapons and aid worth about 4 billion dollars to the Zelensky regime. 

There are a few basic reasons why we should never have been involved. 

First, Ukraine is not a NATO member. We have no responsibility to defend it. There are dozens of conflicts taking place around the world at any given time. Ask yourself: “Why don’t we ever hear about these conflicts from the corporate media? Why is the globalist political establishment so intent on escalating the conflict in Ukraine?”

We have no responsibility to intervene in foreign conflicts involving countries that are not part of an alliance with us, and where we have no fundamental interest. Our first responsibility is to defend Canada, ensure our security, and protect Canadian interests. That’s it. 

We can’t solve the whole world’s problems. We need to solve our problems first, and use our limited resources to take care of our own citizens first. Clean our proverbial room, before we save the world.

And frankly, what difference does it make to us if the corrupt Ukrainian government, or the corrupt Russian government, controls the Donbass and Crimea? No difference at all. These regions have been under various jurisdictions over the past decades and centuries. 

Some people say that Putin is the new Hitler, and that if we don’t stop him in Ukraine, he will invade the rest of Europe and possibly even Canada. They accuse me of being a contemporary Neville Chamberlain, who naively thought he could appease Hitler. 

This is nonsense. The Russian economy is about the same size as the Canadian economy. Russia is barely able to keep control of the few territories populated mostly by ethnic Russians that it conquered. It has no ability whatsoever to invade and occupy NATO countries, and its army would be quickly destroyed if it tried. 

Are we defending democracy? Not really. Ukraine is an unstable country and far from a model of democracy. There was a coup in 2014 that ousted a pro-Russian president. Zelensky banned all pro-Russian opposition parties just earlier this year. 

Some people have been telling me that I should actively support Ukraine because there are 1.4 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent. What kind of argument is that? There are Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds. Does it mean we should get involved in every conflict in the world and support the side that has the largest representation among ethnic groups in Canada? 

Canada’s foreign policy should be based on Canada's national interests, not on the loyalty of some Canadians for the country where they or their ancestors came from.

So, how did we get here? How did we become a co-belligerent in this war against Russia?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his minority Liberal government, with no dissent from the Opposition benches, have indicted Russia as the aggressor for invading Ukraine on February 24. They have made Russia an enemy of Canada despite ample evidence by independent observers in the United States and Europe that Moscow is not solely responsible for the outbreak of this war.

This is reckless, irresponsible, and has undermined Canada’s long-standing reputation as a peacemaking and peacekeeping middle power on the international stage.

Peacemaking requires considering the real concerns, threats, and security interests of the parties in conflict without prejudging the issues or demonizing one party while supporting the other.

Let’s take a moment to look at this from the Russian perspective. First, I want to make it clear that I have no sympathy at all for Vladimir Putin. He is a brutal tyrant, who has imprisoned and very likely killed some of his political opponents, and censored his country’s media. His values are not mine. But that doesn’t mean he is crazy and that his arguments should be entirely dismissed. 

According to him, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the “special military operation” as he calls it, was in response to Russia’s worsening security situation. This resulted from the eastward expansion of NATO and the fact that NATO troops and missiles were moving ever closer to the Russian border.

This eastward expansion was described as an existential threat to the Russian Federation on numerous occasions, as in the 2007 Munich Security Conference, when President Putin expressed his concern to the Western World.

Let me quote the words of George Kennan, who warned us against NATO expansion.

Kennan was a diplomat, historian, and served as US Ambassador in Moscow during the Soviet era. He was also the father of the containment policy the West adopted directed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. 

In response to the vote in the US Senate in May 1998 approving Nato’s eastward expansion following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kennan said this: 

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war… it is a tragic mistake. No one was threatening anybody else. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. Of course, there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [those who support NATO’s expansion] will say that we always told you that is how Russians are – but this is just wrong.” (End of quote)

That was George Kennan nearly a quarter-century ago predicting what might happen. 

We know what happened since then. In 2014, a coup took place in Kiev that ousted an elected pro-Russian president from office with the support of the Obama administration. In response, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula, which by the way had been given to Ukraine by the Soviet government only in 1954 and was populated mainly by Russians.

Since then, there have also been conflicts in the Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern region also populated mainly by ethnic Russians. 

It’s very hard to have an objective description of the situation. 

But I read that Ukraine adopted laws that discriminated against ethnic Russians. That some of these Russian Ukrainians, perhaps encouraged by Russia, wanted to separate from Ukraine and join Russia. That neonazi Ukrainian military units persecuted ethnic Russians, and that the region was bombarded, killing many people.

According to independent observers in Ukraine, such as the Swiss military intelligence officer Colonel Jacques Baud, “Ukrainian shelling of the Donbass was increased 40-fold” in mid-February 2022, while some 50,000 Ukrainian troops by the end of 2021 were deployed in the southern part of the country in preparation for a spring offensive. 

I’m sure if we had a debate here between a pro-Ukraine and a pro-Russia expert, we could add many more reasons to blame one side or the other. But my point is that we almost never hear the Russian side of the story, since all western governments, and almost all western media, explicitly support Ukraine. 

We hear a lot in the Western press about Putin’s speeches where he says Ukraine is not a real country, that the fall of the Soviet Union was a disaster for Russia, and that he wants to bring back Russia’s former glory as a world superpower. These are probably part of his motivations to attack Ukraine. 

But why do we never hear about the shelling of the Donbass by Ukraine? And about the Russian perspective that they had to assist the ethnic Russians in that region? And about the Russian fear of being encircled by NATO? 

Are we absolutely sure that Russia is entirely to blame, and that Ukraine is only a victim? I’m not. 

This past October marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the United States and the former Soviet Union to the brink of a nuclear confrontation. 

It was avoided and a de-escalation followed because the leaders of both countries, President Kennedy and Premier Krushchev, recognized the heavy burden placed upon them in the nuclear age. 

They understood that war between nuclear powers is insanity, that there cannot be any excuse for a “just war” in the age of nuclear weapons.

No American president then, or since, would accept such a threat to American security as the missiles in Cuba posed, and President Kennedy was driven to take measures to have those missiles removed immediately. 

Similarly, no Russian leader would accept, or allow, that a country on its borders, as close as Cuba or Mexico are to the US, be turned into a NATO platform for conventional and nuclear weapons pointed at Russia. 

How is it that our first and most urgent responsibility in securing peace in the nuclear age has been put aside, and instead we are witnessing how recklessly the West has raised the stakes over Ukraine by disregarding the warnings from Moscow? 

The West deliberately disregarded Russia’s redline, as the former Soviet Union did in disregarding the American redline by installing missiles in Cuba.

In the 1990s, there was talk that Russia might one day become a member of NATO. President Putin himself did not rule out this possibility in 2000.  

But instead of listening to the other side and taking steps to reassure the Russians, we blew it and made enemies of them. And we pushed them in the arms of the Chinese. 

The drastic financial sanctions against Russia have also encouraged many countries from the emerging South to distrust the West even more. The organization of BRICS countries is expanding, and these countries, including Russia, India, and China, are working on the launch of a new world reserve currency, probably backed by gold, that will make them more financially independent from the U.S. and its dollar. 

These countries represent 80% of the world’s population. When the dollar collapses as the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. will lose its status as the sole superpower. 

The West is not the whole world. On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly isolated. We are moving from a unipolar world, dominated by the U.S., to a multipolar world, with other emerging powers. Supporting Ukraine is not helping the West. It is pushing the rest of the world into a coalition against us. 

We are neighbours to the U.S., completely dependent on them to defend our continent, and our economies are closely inter-related. Realistically, we have no choice but to be in their camp. But we don’t need to follow them in every one of their reckless foreign military interventions. 

Here let me recall the words of Lester Pearson, as Secretary of State for External Affairs in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent. At the signing ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on April 4, 1949, he said:

“This Treaty is not a pact of war, but a pledge for peace and progress.”

The North Atlantic Treaty, according to the Canadian government at the founding of NATO, was designed to meet the security challenges of the Cold War in a divided Europe at the end of World War Two. 

But after the end of the Cold War, the Treaty became twisted into bringing together NATO members under US command in supporting regime changes and wars in the Balkans, in Serbia over Kosovo, in Iraq, Libya and Syria, in Georgia and Ukraine.

Canadian governments, under both Liberal and Conservative prime ministers, however, have demonstrated on occasions reluctance or opposition to joining such coalitions when it was unclear whether the proposed missions were based on UN Security Council resolutions and, therefore, lawful under international law.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien rejected Canada’s participation in the Iraq war of 2003, because there was no Security Council authorization given for use of military force against Iraq. 

Similarly, Prime Ministers Pearson and Pierre Trudeau never entertained any notion of lending military support to the United States in the Vietnam war during the height of the Cold War era.

Canadian leadership helped defuse the Suez crisis in the 1950s, instead of pouring fuel on the fire as the government of Canada has been doing in the present crisis in Ukraine.

At the end of the Cold War, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney withdrew Canada’s military presence entirely from Europe. On July 10, 1993, the last batch of Canadian Armed Forces personnel left Europe.

It is evident that the current government in Ottawa and all members of our parliament have forgotten our history and tradition of peacemaking and peacekeeping through the Cold War period and after.

Our role right from the outset of the Ukraine war should have been that of a peacemaker. We should have remained faithful to our tradition of peacemaking and helped de-escalate the conflict, even with the little influence we have, instead of helping keep the war going and being partly responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

It’s not too late to change direction if more Canadians understand what is at stake. But there is work to be done to make sure Canadians understand! In Canada today our political discourse is very narrow. The corporate media smears and discredits anyone that offers a dissident perspective to the mainstream narrative. There’s no opposition in Parliament.

But there are independent journalists with a different voice. There is the People’s Party of Canada, myself and our candidates around the country. We are willing to tell the other side of the story. Share and debate ideas that the establishment has deemed forbidden. We will not be silenced. We will never be afraid to advocate for common sense ideas on behalf of Canadians. 

Thank you. Stay strong and free.