November 23, 2001
Honorable John Manley
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Parliament Hill, Ottawa
Dear Minister Manley,
Having learned of your upcoming visit to Ukraine, December 4, 2001, allow us to applaud the initiative and wish you much success.
Canadians are very mindful of the important role an independent and prosperous Ukraine can play in international relations. The bold steps that it has already taken, in concert with the West, augur well for the future. Ties with NATO, the de-commissioning of land mines, facilitation of family links, are but a few examples. Given recent world events and recognizing that terrorism is bred in poverty and political discontentment, visits, like yours, offer opportunities to encourage Ukraine's government to be bolder: to escalate the tempo of reforms to ensure a prosperous populace; and to provide access to influence and power to its various political interests.
The latter is particularly important given the Verkhovna Rada elections in March, 2002. We are quite certain that you will be raising this matter in your meetings with President Kuchma, the Head of the Verkhovna Rada, Ivan Pliusch, and other key Ministers. On that occasion you might wish to underscore the need for transparent elections. We are pleased to note, in that regard, that Ukraine has stated that it is open to the monitoring of its elections. We are sure that Canada will lend appropriate support.
There is also a need for freedom of the media to ensure that all political messages reach the electorate. Currently, there is concern about the limits of free expression by the press; concern of reprisals. There is fear that the situation may deteriorate further during the elections. In our view, it would be well regarded at home and abroad if the President of Ukraine were to send a message about the right of free speech of both candidates and journalists. It would be significant if President Kuchma were to state publicly his personal commitment to these values and his intent to hold accountable any who violate them.
Another matter we wish to bring to your attention is Mr. Kuchma's call for a convention of all religious leaders in Ukraine with the exclusion of one critical player, Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The commonly held principle of the separation of church and state makes this most surprising. More troubling is the conviction of many Ukrainians, and Canadians of the Eastern Rite, that the exclusion of Patriarch Filaret is a direct attack on the Ukrainian Orthodox church. It appears that this omission responds to the wishes of the Moscow Patriarch and, more importantly, to Russia's keen interest to dominate Ukraine's political and religious agenda and undermine its independence. Both the Communist and Nazi occupiers of Ukraine played the card of religious discord very effectively causing considerable internal strife. An invitation from Mr. Kuchma to the Ukrainian Patriarch would be seen as an appropriate statesman like move. Your intervention in this very important matter would be appreciated.
Mr. Manley, special relations between Canada and Ukraine call for frank and open exchanges on difficult issues between friends in order to ensure a common good. Thank you for taking the time to consider these views. It would be very good of you to advise us on progress.
With warm regards and best wishes for a successful visit,
Oksana Bashuk Hepburn
President, U.CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc.
Contributor - MSNBC/Forbes
Evhen Harasymiw LLB
Edmonton , AB
Dr. Taras Kuzio
Research Associate, Centre for Russian and East
European Studies, University of Toronto
Dr. Roman Serbyn
Professor of History
Université du Québec à Montréal