Local MPs unfazed by Russia’s ‘black-listing’

On Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022, local MPs Mark Gerretsen and Shelby Kramp-Neuman were among those placed on a “black list” and banned from entering Russia.

Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament Mark Gerretsen and Hastings-Lennox & Addington Member of Parliament Shelby Kramp-Neuman are among the 313 Canadians now being sanctioned by Russia over Canada’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The “black list” was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website in a declaration titled “Statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry on personal sanctions against top officials, parliamentarians and anti-Russian figures in Canada” on Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022. The sanctions came, the statement said, “in response to all the new sanctions that were extended to the top leaders of Russia and almost the entire Russian deputies since March 15 of this year.”

The “black list” of persons prohibited from entering Russia includes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joli, Minister of National Defense Anita Anand, and most members of the House of Commons. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, missing from the new list, had been already barred from Russia due to sanctions the Kremlin had imposed on some Canadian politicians in 2014, following Canada’s denunciation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The Russian statement claims that “this step is forced and taken in response to the outrageous hostility of the current Canadian regime, which has tested our patience for so long. Every Russophobic attack, be it attacks on Russian diplomatic missions, airspace closures, or Ottawa’s actual severing of bilateral economic ties to the detriment of Canadian interests, will inevitably receive a decisive and not necessarily symmetrical rebuff.”

In an interview, Gerretsen appeared unconcerned about the sanctions and said that they didn’t come as a surprise to him. “I know that Russia has been doing this with international players and parliamentarians and leaders throughout the world, so it’s not a surprise. I’m more than happy to stand amongst those that have been banned from Russia….I’m not interested in visiting a part of the world that is under such harsh authoritarianism and a dictator like Vladimir Putin. After this war is over and Ukraine comes out victorious, I would much rather visit Ukraine, to be completely honest.”

Gerretsen noted that he believes this is a political tactic designed in an attempt to deflect global attention from more pressing issues related to the current war. “I think that why they [published this “black list”] is just to distract from the real narrative. We know that Russian propaganda operates this way; they look to find ways to distract and to create their own narrative. And if they think that they can do that by banning parliamentarians and other leaders in Canada, I think that they grossly misunderstand what they’re up against, because the world will not be distracted that easily from what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine.”

Parliamentarians and guests react to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022.

Kramp-Neuman was also unfazed by being named on the list. “The Russian regime is grasping on to anything they can, and have banned Canadian lawmakers, including myself, from entering Russia. For me, this changes nothing…What we are witnessing in Ukraine is nothing more than textbook irredentism on the part of a neurotic psychopath hell-bent on restoring Russia to her former Soviet glory, itself a romanticized misapprehension of a failed state. The free world found herself in a similar situation before, and we made the wrong choice. Ukraine, and Europe, need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain.”

Russia’s release of the “black list” came on the day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the Canadian House of Commons, in a moving address which earned a prolonged standing ovation from both sides of the House.

“Today was a moving and historic day,” Kramp-Neuman said. “We witnessed a powerful address by a brave man and leader. The Ukranian President, His Excellency Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed Parliament…The bravery, tenacity, and determination shown by every Ukrainian in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression is both heartwarming and gut wrenching. This speaks to the love they have not only for each other, but for their homeland, a homeland that was built through centuries of struggle and strife. We, as the free world, must not allow that to be for naught…Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a threat to global peace and security. I will continue to work alongside my Conservative colleagues and urge our government to take decisive action to protect the people of Ukraine and increase sanctions against the Putin regime.”

Gerretsen was equally impressed by Zelenskyy and his speech. “The sheer fact that President Zelenskyy was speaking to Canadian parliamentarians, senators, and others in the House of Commons yesterday, the fact that he was doing this from the middle of a war zone, I think should not be lost on anybody, in terms of how desperate Ukrainian people are for ensuring that they to get to join, permanently, the forces that represent democracy throughout the world. It was a very emotional experience for me, to be sitting in the Chamber that I go to to debate on a regular basis, to have a representative from a country who is seeking the exact same thing that we have in that Chamber, but in his country. And it was a stark reminder for me that despite the freedoms that come with democracy in Canada, those are not enjoyed throughout the world. And it is very important for us to be part of this conversation, and for us to be part of the movement to help Ukraine on its way to to realizing that full democracy.”

Parliamentarians and guests react to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022.

“I, like most of us in the Western world, am inspired on a daily basis by the tenacity and the determination and the sheer grit that Ukrainians are putting up in their fight against this unprovoked Russian aggression,” Gerretsen stated. “And I think it says an incredible amount about their desire for freedom, their desire for democracy and that desire to be independent of any other jurisdiction, as they they rightfully are.”

Gerretsen pointed out that Canada was the first country in the world to officially recognize Ukraine as a independent country in the early 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union. “What inspires me the most about what we’re seeing in Ukraine, is that there’s a deep connection amongst this opposition to Russia that is coming from younger generations. I had the opportunity when I was on the Defense Committee, back in 2017, to visit Ukraine, and to study Operation Unifier and Operation Reassurance that Canada was heavily involved in. One of the things that I really took away from it was that this entire movement away from the former Soviet Union’s ways is being pushed and led by younger generations…It is very clear to me based on what I saw during my time in Ukraine that Ukrainians will prevail, because they have an unwavering determination that, quite frankly, Russian troops won’t have because they just don’t come from the same place of seeking independence.”

“My biggest fear,” Gerretsen concluded, “is that the Western world will forget about this in a few weeks. We need to stay focused on this, because I think this is not just important for Ukraine, but indeed, it’s important for Western civilization, for democratic parliaments, for democracy as a whole, and for ruling by the people instead of being ruled by one person.”

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