Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is facing criticism after not apologizing for comments she made about Russia’s war in Ukraine earlier this year.
During an April live stream on far-right website Locals, Smith said the only way to resolve the war is if Ukraine remains “neutral.”
“I think the only answer for Ukraine is neutrality. There are thriving nations that have managed with neutrality,” Smith said in the live stream.
Smith issued a statement clarifying her comments on Sunday but did not apologize, nor did she show support for Ukraine or Ukrainians fleeing the war. This is in stark contrast to former premier Jason Kenney, who repeatedly affirmed his support for Ukraine at multiple news conferences.
Instead, she accused Opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley of “politicizing” the conflict and virtue-signalling. Notley tweeted on Sunday that Smith’s comments demonstrated “horrendous judgement” by showing sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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“I hope and pray that all world leaders, including those involved directly in the conflict, will do everything possible to de-escalate and spare millions of Ukrainian lives. Achieving peace is my greatest concern for Ukraine,” Smith’s statement read.
“The people of Ukraine are suffering indescribable horrors and loss at the hands of an invading power. Further, the unthinkable prospect of nuclear weapons being utilized in this dispute is growing.”
Smith also did not answer questions about her stance. In an interview with Shaye Ganam on Monday morning, Smith told the radio show host to focus on her present actions and not the past.
“I do find when I talk to the public, what they’re interested in knowing is what I’m going to do going forward,” she said.
“Remember, I respect federal jurisdiction. It’s up to them to weigh in on international relations and negotiations. It’s our job as a province to lend a hand in a heart of help so that we can repatriate anyone who wants to come here and help them find work.
“So I put it back on (the mainstream media) that I would just prefer that we talk about real and substantive issues that matter to Albertans.”
Orysia Boychuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Alberta provincial council, said she is disappointed in Smith’s comments about the Ukraine-Russia war.
Boychuk said the UCC is open to meeting with Smith as soon as possible.
“The comments were misinformed. Russia invaded Ukraine, not because of NATO and what Ukraine did or didn’t do… Russia invaded Ukraine because it seeks the destruction of the Ukrainian state and the annihilation of the Ukrainian people,” Boychuk told Global News.
“We do seek Premier Smith’s clarification that she does stand with the Ukrainian people here and that Ukrainian people are welcome. We do welcome that she said Alberta could be doing more to help Ukrainians.
“We look forward to meeting with Premier Smith to discuss these important issues and to get clarification for these statements.”
Global News also reached out to the Alberta Ukraine Chamber of Commerce (AUCC) with a request for comment. AUCC president Vitaliy Milentyev said the chamber wants to have a conversation with Smith before providing a statement.
NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said Smith must apologize for her “disrespectful” and “cruel” comments because Smith’s comments were made on the day Russia was attacking Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
“So you tell Kyiv and the people of Ukraine to be neutral at the same time people are fighting for their lives and fleeing for their lives trying to defend themselves, their sovereignty and their families… It’s incredibly disrespectful, inaccurate and cruel and it’s so wrongheaded,” Hoffman said at a news conference on Monday.
“Anytime you make a huge mistake and anytime you harm people, you have to apologize… It’s a huge failure and it’s important to tell the truth when you harm someone and make a mistake.
“The current premier doesn’t seem to want to take responsibility for what she says and does, and that’s a harmful quality in a leader.”