Wednesday, September 17, 2014—a joint session of Parliament welcomed President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, with a standing ovation. This was Mr. Poroshenko’s first visit to Canada, and after a warm welcome by Canadian parliamentarians and the Ukrainian diaspora, the president reiterated that he felt “at home”.
Parliament opened its doors to the Ukrainian diaspora as well as many notable guests at a reception prior to Poroshenko’s address. The event was co-hosted by the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, and the Honourable Raynell Andreychuk. In her role as Senator, Andreychuk was active in bringing Holodomor—the genocide of 1932-33 that killed millions of Ukrainians—to the attention of the Canadian government. Andreychuk was also one of the thirteen Canadians who received sanctions from the Russian government in 2014. In her words, Canadian parliamentarians wear these sanctions “with great pride”.
The session opened with an address from the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, who has relentlessly supported Ukraine’s fight for democracy in the last 7 months. Harper promised a $200-million stabilization loan to Ukraine with an additional $3-million to go directly to the 3.9 million civilians who have been living amid the conflict or who have been displaced as a result of the pro-Russian rebel activity in the East. In his address, Harper reminded Ukraine of the familial bond that is shared between the two nations.
Following the in-house speeches, Poroshenko, alongside his wife Maryna, greeted the cheerful crowd of Ukrainians who waited for them on the steps of Parliament Hill. Poroshenko shared the news of the ratification of the long-awaited Association Agreement—a step, Poroshenko believes, that marks the end of Soviet rule over his nation.
As the crowd chanted “Heroyam Slava” (Glory to the Heroes), Poroshenko ran down to the demonstrators. The RCMP Detachment of Parliament Hill quickly followed suit, astonished by the President’s spontaneous decision.
Poroshenko’s will to bring peace to his country was evident today in his sincere address to the Canadian Parliament and desire to connect with local Ukrainians in a commanding yet modest way. Poroshenko and his wife are now en route to Washington, D.C. where a similar event is set to take place Thursday, September 18th.