OTTAWA – Canada will petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Russia “for crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters in Geneva on March 1 after joining a walkout in protest of Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov’s virtual speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In a statement issued by Global Affairs Canada, the federal department she heads, Ms. Joly said that Canada has “repeatedly called on Russia to cease its unprovoked and completely unjustifiable attacks on Ukraine and engage in meaningful dialogue.”
“However, as the horrific events in Ukraine unfold before our eyes, it is now clear that more must be done,” she said, calling on Russia to cooperate with the ICC, whose prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced on February 28 that he would open an investigation into the situation in Ukraine.
“Ukraine is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, so cannot itself refer the situation to my office. But it has twice exercised its prerogatives to legally accept the court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes under the Rome Statute occurring on its territory, should the court choose to exercise it,” he said in a statement, referring to the Ukrainian government’s first declaration filed with the ICC over the events of the Euro-Maidan, which began on November 21, 2013, and lasted until Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office on February 22, 2014.
Ukraine’s second petition to the court extended the time period on an open-ended basis to capture alleged crimes committed in Ukraine beginning on February 20, 2014, when over 100 people were killed during mass protests against the Russian-friendly Yanukovych administration.
Canada has also set its sights on “the holdings of all Russian oligarchs and Russian companies inside Canada,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a March 1 news conference.
“We are very aware of the Russian interests in Canada. These, of course, are much less significant than Russian interests in most of our partner countries, but we’re looking at those closely,” said Ms. Freeland, a Ukrainian Canadian, who also serves as Canada’s finance minister. “We will have additional economic measures that will be taken in the days to come.”
Jason Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister who is now premier of the oil-rich province of Alberta, has called on Ottawa to be “relentless in freezing the assets of and making life impossible for the billionaire plutocrats of Putin’s Russia – [they are]his enablers.”
Mr. Kenney said that Alberta’s investment arm, AIMCo, will begin liquidating its $125 million in direct and indirect exposure to Russian securities.
One of Mr. Putin’s allies, Roman Abramovich, who helped the Russian president choose his cabinet, has a strong business presence in Canada’s energy industry.
Mr. Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea Football Club, holds a 28.6 percent stake in London-based Evraz plc, which is providing more than half the steel used for the 609-mile Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project between Alberta and British Columbia, and has been involved in other major natural gas and oil pipelines in Canada.
Ms. Freeland was asked at her news conference about Evraz and said the company provided the steel for Trans Mountain “when sanctions were not in place and the war had not yet begun.”
But she also emphasized that “everything is on the table and we are looking carefully at the holdings of oligarchs in Canada.”
“Something I learned during our trade wars with the United States, and it feels almost quaint to recall a time when that was our concern, but something that I learned, something that Canada learned is tariffs and retaliation and sanctions are the most effective when you can devise policies that have the maximum impact on the counterparty whose attention you are seeking to get and do the minimal damage to yourself,” said Ms. Freeland in reference to the lead role she played in responding to tariffs former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration placed on Canadian steel and aluminum. Canada then placed countermeasures on American products.
On March 1, the Canadian government also announced that it would ban Russian-owned or registered ships and fishing vessels in Canadians ports and internal waters.
More relief for Ukrainians was also unveiled on March 1.
Canadian International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said that Canada would contribute an additional $79 million in relief for Ukraine as part of the newly launched United Nations’ Humanitarian Flash Appeal and the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine, which will help provide emergency health services (including trauma care), protection, support to displaced populations and essential life-saving services such as shelter, water, sanitation and food, according to a news release from Global Affairs Canada.
The new contribution is in addition to about $20 million in humanitarian aid provided to Ukraine this year.
At the March 1 news conference with Ms. Freeland, Mr. Sajjan recalled attending – as Canadian defense minister at the time – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inauguration in 2019 and remembers a poignant point the newly installed head of state made in his address.
“He said I really do not want my pictures in your offices, for the president is not an icon, an idol or a portrait,” recalled Mr. Sajjan. “Hang your kids’ photos instead and look at them each time you’re making a decision.”
“In the last week, I can’t stop thinking about the impact this unjustifiable aggression has had on his children and the children of Ukraine, whose lives have been thrown into chaos, classrooms have been replaced by bomb shelters, playgrounds have become battlefields, beds have become the hard ground,” Mr. Sajjan said.
“It is why as Canadians we have and will continue to step up to show that we will stand on the right side of history,” Mr. Sajjan said.
Canadian Governor General Mary Simon, Canada’s de facto head of state as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in the country, also issued a statement on March 1 on Ukraine’s crisis.
“Like all Canadians, I have watched the events in Ukraine unfold, wondering exactly how to respond, not only to the heartbreaking loss of life, but also to the courage and resilience of those affected by this conflict,” she said.
“Our country has a large Ukrainian Canadian community of more than a million people, many of them with friends and family fighting in Ukraine to preserve their country’s freedom, democracy and independence. Canadians are worried for their future, for the future of Ukraine,” Ms. Simon said.
“Images of the senseless violence in the region flood our screens. Yet the citizenry’s response is encouraging,” Ms. Simon said. “We see hope and kindness, brave actions, words of defiance, borders opening up to shield refugees, people helping each other and protecting each other.”
“I join the global community as we stand united, together for defenders of democracy and freedom, together for peace and security,” she said. “Together, we stand with Ukraine and its people.”