The measures are the latest in a growing pile of decisions made by Canada and its allies over Russia’s invasion of its democratic neighbour, which began Feb. 24.
More than one million Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began, and despite peace talks resuming Thursday, there appears to be no end in sight to the bloody conflict.
“There is every reason to believe it’s going to get worse and a lot more people are going to die, and we as Canadians need to brace ourselves for that,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland at a news conference in Ottawa.
“We have some terrible nights ahead, and we need to also really remember the human tragedy here even as we celebrate the incredible strength and resilience of the people of Ukraine.”
Canada slaps goods from Russia, Belarus with 35% tariffs
Ottawa and its allies have promised to continue to impose sanctions on Russia and its confidants for the invasion of Ukraine in order to deter it from escalating the conflict even further.
On Thursday, Freeland announced Canada is imposing a 35 per cent tariff on goods from Russia and Belarus.
Furthermore, the federal government is revoking Russia’s and Belarus’ status as a most-favoured-nation trade partner under World Trade Organization (WTO) provisions; North Korea is the only other nation that does not enjoy that status with Canada.
“Simply put, this means that Russia and Belarus will no longer receive the benefits, particularly low tariffs that Canada offers to other countries that are fellow members of the WTO,” Freeland said.
Canada’s trade relationship with Belarus — a Moscow ally that was sanctioned by the European Union on Wednesday — mainly consists of imports of petroleum based products and wood furniture. Canada brought in roughly $23-million worth of imports from Belarus in 2020.
That same year, Ottawa brought in just over $1-billion worth of imports from Russia, with chemical and mineral products being the most valuable. Canada is not a major trading partner with Russia. In comparison, Canada brought in roughly $264-billion worth of imports from the United States in 2020.
Since the war began, the federal government has moved to punish Russia and its wealthy oligarchs. Ottawa announced Wednesday night it was going after Russia’s energy sector by introducing restrictions on 10 individuals from two energy giants: Rosneft and Gazprom.
Furthermore, Canada is planning to ban imports of Russian crude oil, and is barring Canadian financial institutions from doing any transactions with Russia’s central bank.
“I do want the Russian leadership to understand, Russian oligarchs to understand, we’re going to keep on going,” Freeland said Thursday.
“We are using tools which no one would even have imagined deploying just a week ago, and there’s more to come.”
Canada sending more lethal aid to Ukraine
In addition to sanctions, Canada is upping its supply of lethal aid to Ukraine, National Defence Minister Anita Anand announced Thursday.
Ottawa will now supply up to 4,500 M72 rocket launchers and up to 7,500 hand grenades that will come from the Canadian Armed Forces’ existing stockpile. Also, Canada will be providing Ukraine with $1 million toward the purchase of high resolution modern satellite imagery.
“This capability will provide Ukraine’s military with a strengthened ability to monitor the movement of Russian forces in and around their territory,” Anand said.
Earlier this week, Canada committed to send anti-tank weapons and upgraded ammunition to Ukrainian forces. Ottawa previously sent $7.8-million worth of lethal aid to Ukraine, and has been pressed over whether the government would do more amid the bloody Russian push into the country.
“As we see the horrific impacts of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression, we must continue to remember that our allies and partners are united and that we are going to keep adding to the measures to support Ukraine’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” Anand said.
Hundreds of Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have died since Putin sent his troops over the border.
Ukrainian forces have slowed Russia’s advance in the country, putting up a resistance against Moscow’s war machine that has rallied support from across the world.
New immigration programs created for fleeing Ukrainians
Finally, Ottawa is launching two special programs for Ukrainians fleeing the war, whose number sits north of one million since the invasion began, the United Nations said.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the programs will be designed for both Ukrainians wanting to stay temporarily, and for those wanting to stay permanently.
The temporary program will have no limit for applications accepted under the stream, Fraser said, adding it will allow Ukrainians to stay in the country for up to two years.
“The primary motivation for this new program is that it provides the fastest way for us to start welcoming as many Ukrainians as possible,” Fraser said.
He added Canada is waving most of the requirements that exist under a traditional visa. To qualify, applicants must fill out an application form and submit biometrics for security and background screening.
Fraser said Canada has the equipment and staff in Europe to process many applications.
“Everyone who arrives under this stream will be eligible for an open-work permit or study permit that will allow them to take a job with any Canadian employer or enroll in an education program,” he said.
The permanent pathway meanwhile will allow for a wider circle of family members to be resettled in Canada than is allowed under traditional family reunification strains, Fraser said. The details of the program will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory, but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
In the weeks leading up to the war, Moscow had built up roughly 150,000 troops near the border, and continuously denied Western accusations it was planning an invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron the goals of Russia’s operation in Ukraine — its demilitarization and neutral status — will be achieved in any case, the Kremlin said.
A second round of ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia were held on Thursday after no breakthroughs were produced on Monday.
— with files from Saba Aziz and Reuters.