Ukrainian ambassador says Trudeau should apologize for Russia hockey joke
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 12:18PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 24, 2014 5:52PM EST
The Ukrainian ambassador to Canada says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau should apologize for a joke suggesting that Russia may intervene in Ukraine after failing to medal in hockey at the Sochi Olympics.
Vadym Prystaiko said while hockey is important to Russians, its relationship with Ukraine is much more important.
"You have to be extremely careful when you talk about 82 people who died fighting … for their future and everyone's in danger," Prystaiko told CTV's Power Play on Monday. "You're just sitting in a nice room, and talking about things in such a light manner; it's just inappropriate."
On Sunday, Trudeau gave an interview to Radio-Canada’s humour-tinged current events program “Tout Le Monde en Parle” in which he was asked about the current upheaval in Ukraine. The anti-government protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in favour of closer economic ties with Russia, and have since descended into violence and left dozens of police and civilians dead.
Trudeau answered a question about what Canada could do in Ukraine by saying Canada “should do more.” After saying that Yanukovych, who is now in hiding, is “illegitimate,” he joked that Russia could channel its disappointment in finishing out of the medals in men’s hockey by intervening.
"It's very worrisome," Trudeau said." Especially since Russia lost in hockey, they will be in a bad mood. We are afraid of a Russian intervention in Ukraine."
Prystaiko said he didn't believe Trudeau intended for his comments to be offensive, but he hopes the Liberal leader will apologize.
"We hope that he will be able to apologize," Prystaiko said. "He did this simple and funny thing attaching it to hockey. Hockey is good, but Ukraine is much more important to Russians than any hockey game."
The Ukrainian ambassador wasn't the only one offended by Trudeau's comments.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Monday Trudeau’s were “flippant,” “distasteful” and “offensive,” and suggested the Liberal leader is “in over his head” on foreign policy.
“This is another case of the Liberal leader simply showing bad judgment, saying that foreign policy on an important issue like Ukraine, which is critical to the peace and security in Europe and to the peace and stability of the world, could be determined by one country’s mood after losing a hockey game,” Alexander told reporters on Parliament Hill.
“It’s not serious, it shows a deep lack of judgment.”
When asked what he would like Trudeau to do, Alexander said: “Disavow the comments. We shouldn’t be joking about these things.”
Alexander said Monday that the Conservative government wants to help Ukrainians “see a return to freedom, democracy, the rule of law (and) human rights on an enduring basis in Ukraine.
“But what we won’t do is make up our foreign policy on the basis of hockey results.”
Alexander said Trudeau’s comments suggested “a pattern of support for communist dictatorships,” apparently in reference to Trudeau’s comments from months ago in which he praised China’s economic development.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney also suggested as much in a tweet about Trudeau’s comments, saying: "So Justin Trudeau, whose favourite regime is 'the basic dictatorship of China,' thinks the deadly crisis in Ukraine is a laughing matter.”
Industry Minister James Moore also called out Trudeau for his comments.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau criticized both ministers, accusing them of “trying to take advantage of this for cheap, partisan reasons.”
“If you look at the entire transcript, you'll see that Justin Trudeau spoke very seriously about the situation in Ukraine, and anyone who's been on 'Tout Le Monde En Parle' knows what kind of show it is."
Garneau pointed out that over the weekend, Liberals passed an emergency resolution at their biannual policy convention calling for support for Ukraine as it transitions to democracy. The resolution also called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to not allow “any foreign power” to interfere in Ukraine.
Alexander was also asked by reporters about comments he made to CTV’s Question Period that aired Sunday, in which he suggested Canada has “the potential to enact sanctions” against anyone responsible for further violence in Ukraine.
Asked to expand on those comments, Alexander replied that “we’re not going to comment on hypothetical situations.
“We want to keep this door toward a return to legitimate institutions, democratic institutions in Ukraine open. And we know that that has to be done, that work has to be done by the Ukrainian people on the basis of constitutional processes and under the leadership of legitimate leaders, by which we mean those who have not taken part in violence, those who have not taken the lives of Ukrainian civilians using the security forces of their own country.”
With files from The Canadian Press