The federal government is planning to match donations individuals make to the Canadian Red Cross to help bring humanitarian relief to Ukraine, as invading Russian forces close in on the country’s capital.
The campaign, which is slated to begin Friday and run until March 18, would see the government match donations by Canadians dollar for dollar to a maximum of $10 million, said a senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet public.
International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan spoke Thursday with his American counterpart, Samantha Power, to discuss co-operation for battered Ukrainians, said a spokeswoman for the United States Agency for International Development on Friday.
Power told Sajjan that the U.S. is deploying its Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, to the region, said spokeswoman Rebecca Chalif.
Power also told Sajjan that USAID has shifted its development programming “to ramp up responses to cyber attacks, disinformation, threats to the energy sector, essential health needs and the continued functioning of local and national government entities,” Chalif said in a statement.
Sajjan was to join Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and other cabinet ministers for a briefing midday Friday but it was postponed as the fast-moving situation in Ukraine developed.
Russian forces are advancing on the capital of Kyiv, after invading the country on Thursday in a three-pronged attack that included ground forces, aerial bombardment and a maritime assault from the Sea of Azov.
The head of Save the Children Canada also urged Canadians to donate funds as part a US$19-million global appeal to help the humanitarian efforts on the ground as the fighting continued across Ukraine.
Danny Glenwright, the organization’s president, said at least three children have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is calling on both sides to cease their fighting.
“We can certainly be supporting people in Ukraine right now. We should not look away from what we’re seeing,” Glenwright said in an interview.
“We know that any war is a war against children.”
Glenwright said his organization has verified the deaths of two children in shelling in eastern Ukraine, while a 17-year-old boy was killed in an attack on a village in the country’s southern region. But he added the death toll of children is likely higher.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said its workers have verified 25 civilian deaths and 102 people injured from mostly shelling and airstrikes.
Save the Children also said two teachers were reported killed when a missile struck a school in eastern Ukraine.
Canada joined its allies on Thursday in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the most intense ground fighting in Europe since the Second World War – with a barrage of new sanctions targeting the Russian economy and its leaders that they hoped would avert an all-out war.
But there were calls for deeper sanctions, including to ban Russia from the international banking system known as SWIFT, a digital payment and messaging network that connects thousands of banks worldwide.
Independent Canadian Sen. Ratna Omidvar said the “self-interest” of some European countries was preventing any co-ordinated action on SWIFT because some are too economically dependent on Russia, including for energy.
Omidvar has introduced a bill in the Senate that calls for not only the freezing of assets, which is the common practice for international sanctions regimes, but for them to be seized and repurposed to help support the victims of violent conflict and rights violations.
With tens of thousands, if not more, refugees expected to flee Ukraine to Europe, she said, “those people will need shelter, they will need medicine, they will need food. And where’s the money for this going to come from? We know that the UN is already overstressed.”
The legislation proposed by Omidvar would be similar to the executive powers of the U.S. president to seize and repurpose the funds of dictators and their supporters. But unlike the U.S. executive authority that gives that power to the president, Omidvar said her legislation would leave that decision in the hands of Superior Court judges.
“The Ukrainian context speaks to the need for not just sanctions, but sanctions with sharper teeth and a sharper bite,” she said.
“One, it will provide relief to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. And two, it will hurt the oligarchs, because it will mean a permanent confiscation of their assets as opposed to simply freezing them and holding them in account,” she said. “These oligarchs have so much money that they can afford to wait it out.”
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