Marcus Powlowski MP – “Let Us Not Forget the Human Tragedy”

Ukrainian flags in front of the House with Chimaeras, Kyiv. Photo: UNDP Kyiv
Ukrainian flags in front of the House with Chimaeras, Kyiv. Photo: UNDP Kyiv

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Like many of you, I am watching the events unfold in Ukraine with dismay. Thunder Bay- Rainy River has one of the highest percentages of Canadian-Ukrainians of any ridings in Canada. Many people in Northwestern Ontario have family members and friends in Ukraine. I, too, have relatives in Ukraine, and my thoughts are with them as well.

Stalin (who himself was one of the greatest mass murderers of all time) once commented, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

As we watch the news come in, let us not forget the human tragedy that every death represents. Having spent a few years working as a doctor on the edge of a war zone (I worked in Swaziland close to the border of Mozambique when there was a civil war in that country), I have seen with my own eyes what happens in war.

Make no mistake, despite Putin’s claims of targeting only military installations, there will be many innocent Ukrainians, including children who will die or suffer horrendous injuries due to Russia’s attack. Bombs are neither smart enough nor their targeting so precise that this can be avoided. As I write this, people are losing their children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters—all of this evil knowingly perpetrated by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government leadership.

At this time, we need to urgently take what actions are possible to minimize the loss of life in Ukraine. We also have to seriously contemplate what aggression means for the rest of the world. We have, in recent years, grown accustomed to peace. We thought the kind of thing we are seeing now was something of the past. We are horrified that it is not. I, like many of you, worry that Russia’s gross contempt for the international legal norms in some ways parallels Hitler’s behaviour in the early days of the Second World War.

The Russian attack violates Article 2 of the UN Charter [prohibiting aggression against an independent state] and the most fundamental principles the United Nations is based on (Article 1). Furthermore, to have Russia continuing to sit on the highest decision-making body of the UN, and to have veto powers over the Security Council’s decisions, totally undermines the ability of the other members of the UN to make decisions that are in our collective interests. Indeed, the ongoing presence of Russia on the Security Council, I would suggest, makes on-going collective action, and any actual international legal order, impossible.

As western countries, and those of us who believe in the international legal order, contemplate what further steps to take to counter this aggression, all options ought to be on the table.

Including but not limited to:

1. The suspension of Russia’s membership on the Security Council until Russia decides to adhere to the international legal order. I acknowledge this is an exceedingly dangerous move, given the whole idea of the UN is that whatever differences countries have, it is better to have a forum where governments can have dialogue than to have no such forum. The attack on Ukraine, however, is, I would suggest, an unprecedented assault on the international legal order. Exceptional in terms of the scale (and probability of massive numbers of casualties) but also remarkable in terms of Russia’s willingness to openly flaunt the rules of the international legal order.

2. Expulsion of all Russian diplomatic staff from Canada. I am not sure there is any purpose for dialogue with Russian diplomats at this time. Putin’s people are not welcome in this country.

3. Complete economic isolation of Russia.

• Globalization has brought significant economic benefits to Putin, his oligarchs, and the Russian people. Putin does not, and will not, set the rules for how the world of nations interact, i.e., the globalization rules.

• Russia has clearly proclaimed both its disdain for the international rules-based system as well as its willingness to kill thousands of innocent people to further its political ambitions. The benefits of globalization are a result of international cooperation. Why should we in the rest of the world continue to cooperate with Putin and allow Putin, and his friends, to continue to reap the benefits of globalization without also respecting the obligations that come with being part of the global community of nations? I would suggest we seriously consider ending all economic interactions with Russia, all exports, all imports, and freezing any assets held by the Russian government, Russian companies, and any individuals with significant connections with the Russian government.

4. Canada and its allies to ship further lethal weapons to Ukraine to properly defend themselves. Most importantly, the surface-to-air missiles. Russian aerial superiority is what gives the Russians an immense military advantage.

In addition to these measures, we need to allow refugees from Ukraine into Canada rapidly. We have been extremely generous in our assistance to those people fleeing Afghanistan. We have been very liberal in allowing Afghan’s extended family to join family members admitted into Canada.

We need to show this same generosity to Ukrainian refugees. We also need to open a sponsorship program allowing Canadians to sponsor people fleeing Ukraine. I would be the first to sign up to sponsor my family and others to come here.

Lastly, let us remember who the villain is here. It is Vladimir Putin and the present Russian leadership. The Russian people are not our enemy, nor are Russian people living in Canada. Many (if not most) of them left Russia for a reason. Be nice to them. Many of them have family in Russia, and undoubtedly the Russian people will also suffer significantly because of Putin’s madness. This war and all the needless death and injuries will rest solely on the shoulders of one man, Vladimir Putin.


Marcus Powlowski
Member of Parliament
Thunder Bay-Rainy River

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