Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander delivers a troubling speech on Ukraine

Posted on March 16, 2015, 12:25 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander begins his address to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Toronto on Feb. 22 (Screenshot from Youtube video). Below: Andriy Parubiy, deputy chairperson of the Ukrainian parliament, meets Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson in Ottawa; retired Canadian diplomats Paul Heinbecker and Jeremy Kinsman.

One of the principal talking points of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his supporters in the federal election campaign that is now for all intents and purposes under way is that the Conservatives are statesmanlike and mature, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is a crazy kid who could do or say anything and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is an angry old man.

But when the media’s not around, nobody can match our Conservatives for recklessly immature and angry rhetoric.PWITHN-R

Indeed, listening to a recent speech to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress by Chris Alexander, Canada’s minister of citizenship and immigration, one gets the feeling that the grownups are no longer in charge in Ottawa, and that the people who are running things are in the middle of a tantrum with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Mr. Alexander spoke to the group on Feb. 22 in Toronto, apparently with no reporters in the room. Leastways, there seems to have been no mainstream media coverage. From a video of his remarks posted by the Congress on Youtube.com, which at this writing has been viewed only about 100 times, he spoke without notes, and without the restraint one might expect from a former diplomat.

Even given the degree of hyperbole associated with politicians speaking privately to groups of potential wedge voters, Mr. Alexander’s remarks are surprisingly unbalanced for a rising young star in the Harper Cabinet. Moreover, there is at least one apparent gap in the video, and one wonders what might have been said during that gap – which we can’t know, of course.

Heinbecker-LMr. Alexander begins with an over-the-top broadside at Russian President Vladimir Putin: “We know as you know that Vladimir Putin is only going to face his comeuppance, that his whole mad nightmare is only going to come apart at the seams, when the whole world is standing against him, with every option on the table, denouncing his illegal action and standing with Ukraine, with military assistance, and every other form of assistance.”

Now, you may have thought global warming was the preeminent issue facing the world today, or the danger of terrorist attacks on Canadians, or missing and murdered Aboriginal women, or any of a plethora of other important things. But this is apparently not the view of the Harper Government, at least when one of its ministers is addressing a venue like this:

“This is the biggest issue facing the world today. In my view. I think in the view of our prime minister, and our team. Yes, there is terrorism. Vladimir Putin is behaving like a terrorist. … But the buck stops in Ukraine. There is absolutely no scenario going into the future that leads to secure peace and security for this world, that leads to prosperity in Europe, globally, that does not include a full international effort to give Ukraine the tools it needs to drive Russian forces from their borders and to secure its borders for good.”

Needless to say, this is not the view of the German and French governments, which rightly fear a major war, whatever its causes, in their neighbourhood. Not so the new cold warriors in the Harper Government, though. And you can’t have much doubt that what Mr. Alexander, at least, was talking about is war.

“What is happening in Eastern Ukraine has roots that go back as far back … to the Second World War. But it really has to do with the incomplete process of ending the existence of the Soviet Union for good. Ending the oppression and the Faustian bargain that had been made in the Second World War with Stalin’s Soviet Union for good.”Kinsman-R

Certainly, at least to this listener, it sounds as if Mr. Alexander, 47 and apparently nostalgic for the Cold War, is conflating Russia under Mr. Putin with the Soviet Union, which is a surprising reading of history for someone who served briefly in Russia as a diplomat. At any rate, he argues to this sympathetic crowd that Mr. Putin’s goal is to recreate the Soviet Union.

Of course, if it turns out this week that Mr. Putin has already faced his comeuppance – and, say, has been under arrest rather than merely under the weather these past few days – I expect that Mr. Alexander’s overheated rhetoric will turn on a dime to accuse some new Russian leader of trying to resuscitate the old Soviet Union.

As for those, like former Canadian diplomats Jeremy Kinsman and Paul Heinbecker, who have criticized Canada’s Ukraine policy, not to mention citizens who might think Russia has interests on its borders without necessarily being fans of the Russian government, whoever leads it, Mr. Alexander equated them to the people in Russia he claims want to restore the Soviet era.

“They are a menace to Russia. They are a menace to Ukraine. They are a menace to the whole world, ladies and gentlemen, and we must speak out against this dangerous ideology. Which is present in our own city of Toronto! Which is present across Canada. Which comes to us through state-sponsored Russian channels that are preaching absolute poison.”

I don’t know that the Russia Today Youtube channel really has that many viewers in Canada, but you can’t be too careful about alternative views, I guess, at least before Bill C-51 has been duly passed into law to allow the Canadian organs of state security to watch and disrupt RT’s domestic fellow-travellers.

Mr. Alexander then moved into a long discourse hotly denying the argument modern Ukraine has a problem with neo-Nazis. While the influence of far-right groups and militias has been credibly covered by such generally conservative news organizations as the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and even the normally politically reliable New York Times, Mr. Alexander blamed “Russian language television” for what he called “one of the greatest perversions of history that I have seen in my lifetime,” the suggestion far-right groups are influencing the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Alexander was followed as speaker by Andriy Parubiy, deputy chairperson of the Ukrainian parliament and founder in 1991 of that country’s evocatively named Social-National Party, which the Wikipedia describes as having “combined radical nationalism and neo-Nazi features” before changing its name to Svoboda (“Freedom”) in 2004.

Mr. Parubiy recently returned home from a Canadian tour, during which he met privately with Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson and James Bezan, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s minister of defence.

Mr. Alexander wound up his remarks with a stirring call for Canada to take the lead “in fighting and supporting those who are fighting.” He concludes with a cry of Slava Ukraine! (Glory to Ukraine!) A transcript of his remarks on the video may be read here.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

21 Comments to: Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander delivers a troubling speech on Ukraine

  1. Keith

    March 16th, 2015

    You could include a pic of John Baird with Oleh Tyahnybok:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Mfi7gddQwi8/Uqd443BLEmI/AAAAAAAADLk/6EmGSfBuiJE/s1600/618bf_131204_861ty_baird-kiev-ukraine1_sn635.jpg

    who, according to his Wikipedia page:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oleh_Tyahnybok

    is a fan of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_Ukrainian_Nationalists

    led by Stepan Bandera:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepan_Bandera
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stepan_Bandera_in_high-ranking_German_officer_uniform.jpg

    Reply
    • Davemondone

      March 17th, 2015

      thanks – I will spread these links

      Reply
  2. Douglas Meggison

    March 16th, 2015

    The Harperites are actually threatening war with Russia with nothing in their quiver. Harper is a foreign affairs psychopath and Alexander is just as rotten. But it is hard to find other perspectives in Canada… US academic Stephen Cohen IS a credible voice of reason against this neo-nazi supporting drivel from the Harper government.

    Reply
  3. ryan

    March 16th, 2015

    I’m definitely voting Harper this election after seeing this common-sense approach to diplomacy. This coupled with the market fundamentalist economic policies will make Canada a global leader.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 16th, 2015

      Troll alert!

      “Ryan’s” comments don’t even warrant a response beyond the one above.

      Reply
      • Skip Intro

        March 16th, 2015

        I assumed it was Onion/Colbert-esque satire. So difficult to know the difference.

        Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        March 16th, 2015

        I have a feeling Ryan’s IP address leads directly to the PMO. Your tax dollars at “work”.

        Reply
        • stepan

          March 27th, 2015

          Thank you, Chris, for your encouraging speech. We in Ukraine highly appreciate Canada’s brotherly support. If God is willing, with the help of our Canadian brothers we will drive those Russian dogs out of Ukraine soon. Let the pro-Russian dogs in this page bark louder – they are nothing for the people of Ukraine.

          Reply
  4. TC

    March 16th, 2015

    To quote British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. More importantly, while Churchill detested communism, he sat with the leader of the Soviet Union in Tehran and Moscow. I understand that Ukrainian neo-Nazis are no angels, sometimes one needs to make unsavoury allies to win.

    I happen to support the Canadian Government in taking a tough stance on Russia. At the same time, I also think that “the West” should first attempt to settle the conflict in Ukraine diplomatically. I think individuals like you, and many others who criticize the Harper Government on the Ukrainian conflict, need to consider is this: at what point do we say to ourselves that this isn’t going to be settled diplomatically, and an international conflict is unavoidable? I’ve been thinking about this ever since a Malaysian airplane (a country that has nothing to do with the conflict) was shot down last year.

    Reply
    • CF

      March 16th, 2015

      We are certainly hearing from the “crackpot realists” today. In any east west military confrontation Canada, to quote a famous phrase, “would be reduced to a radioactive ashtray.” There is a reason Canadian diplomacy once focused on peace, a selfish one no doubt, but important none the less.

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      March 16th, 2015

      I think we can (and should) be cautious about the Ukrainian situation without in any way being supportive of Putin and being suspicious of his goals. However, the other glaring factor is how the Harper government is using this situation for pure partisan politics (ppp) at home. In fact, I would expect a intelligent supporter of Ukraine to be taken aback about the brazen opportunism of Harper on this issue. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to think he would be cheering hard for Putin/Russia if there were votes to be had (or at least keeping silent if there were votes to be lost). We certainly see this in action with his “principled foreign policy” when it comes to selling arms to the Saudis (the better to use against their own population).

      Reply
    • Peter

      March 16th, 2015

      It goes back to the issue of freedom by market fundamentalism or state control. Putin wants to create a bloc with, not coincidentally, the same borders as the former USSR. It is time for Canada to play a big part in spreading the free market gospel and ensuring the apple doesn’t get into the garden of eden, near paradise, on which our economy is formed.

      Reply
  5. ronmac

    March 16th, 2015

    Given the fact there seems to be quite a few batchelors in Harper’s inner circle maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Alexander is looking to import a Ukranian wife since there seems to be an excess of the female gender in that fair land -which is bound to get worse due to the ongoing conflict there.

    But to their credit the Ukrainian authorities are working on that to address the situation, passing a law now drafting women up to the age of 50 into the military.

    Meanwhile there seems to be an “lively” debate taking place in Kiev’s parliamnet these days.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Fj6haiGjA

    Reply
  6. Davemondone

    March 17th, 2015

    Remember- this neocon Rat, Alexander, is the same repulsive warmonger who laughed while claiming Canada’s military was blowing up Libya to ‘spread Canadian values’….. the Conservatives have not mentioned anything about Libya in the past couple of years because the barbaric Conservatives have destroyed Libya which is now in anarchy.

    Reply
  7. Dave Turchynsky

    March 17th, 2015

    War seldom works out well for the warriors and all dictators die with tragic outcomes in their wake.

    Containment or conflagration? It’s Ukraine’s choice. Putin won’t live forever.

    Reply
  8. Wingpilot

    March 17th, 2015

    It feels so good to find some people valuing common sense… Thank you for your position!

    Reply
  9. Mike Kostelny

    March 27th, 2015

    Thank God for someone like Chris Alexander, a man who speaks like a man and thinks like a man, not a mouse! All this jibber-jabber about possibly offending V.V. Putin is the epitome of yellow-belly cowardice, in my view, as the only way to halt a bully (whether a schoolyard delinquent or a Dictator like Putin) is to stand up to him! To appease Hitler (as France and England did in 1938 over Czechoslovakia) rightly deserved Hitler’s boastful comment that his enemies were only ‘little worms’! And so Putin thinks that the West is nothing more than decadent dribble too dastardly to dare take him to task! Thank God for Chris Alexander who tells it like it is and puts Putin in his place! Thank God for the United States of America House of Representatives who voted 348 to 48 on 23 March 2015 in favor of providing Ukraine with LETHAL military weapons ASAP! Slavo Ukrainy! [Glory to Ukraine!]

    Reply
    • Sergey Yermolayev

      March 27th, 2015

      Mike, try to turn off your TV and use your brain. Sometimes it helps. You look funny repeating all those propaganda slogans.

      Reply

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