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Canada announces trade action against Russia, more lethal aid and new immigration streams for Ukrainians

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Canada will be opening new ways for Ukrainians to seek refuge in this country and is sending additional lethal aid for Ukraine to use in the ongoing Russian-launched war. The government is also taking major trade action against Russia and is calling for the country to be suspended from international criminal policing organization Interpol.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that in his latest conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he told him that “Canada would continue to be there for them.”

The latest example of this, he said, is Canada joining other nations in calling for Russia to be suspended from Interpol.

“We're supporting this because we believe that international law enforcement co-operation depends on a collective commitment to the universal declaration of human rights and mutual respect between Interpol members.”

As a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unjustified attack on Ukraine, an estimated one million people have fled Ukraine. In response, Canada is opening up two new immigration streams.

One will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians to come to this country on a temporary basis with expedited emergency visas, and the other is a new family reunification pathway for those looking to stay permanently in Canada.

For those looking to come to Canada while the attack continues, this stream will allow Ukrainians to stay for up to two years. Most visa requirements will be waived, including fees and language assessments, and in order to qualify individuals will need to complete a “simple” application form and provide biometrics for security and background screening.

Everyone who arrives under this new stream will also be eligible for a work permit or study permit that will allow them to take a job with any Canadian employer or enroll in an education program, said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser on Thursday, encouraging businesses to “step up” and hire those who arrive.

He said that over the last week he’s heard from numerous people and community groups, including his mother, who have offered to welcome Ukrainians.

Fraser said his main motivation in using a processing system with the “greatest horsepower and the fewest administrative requirements,” comparable to the program that handles two million temporary visa applications a year, was to expedite the processing of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have fled to neighbouring countries, prompting a refugee crisis.

However, it will take approximately two weeks before the application process opens. He noted the existing temporary residence visa application form is open and requests are being processed on a priority basis, with 6,131 Ukrainians already arriving in Canada since Jan. 19.

“Canada is ready to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Vladimir Putin’s war, and there is no limit to the number of applications that we are going to be willing to accept,” Fraser said.

For those looking to make Canada their home, the government is also introducing an expedited path to permanent residency for Ukrainians seeking to reunite with family members who are already in Canada, through a new family sponsorship program with the details to be finalized in collaboration with Ukrainian-Canadian community groups in the coming weeks.

“The reason for our commitment goes beyond the historic ties between Canada and Ukraine… I can't help but think that centuries from now historians will be writing of the courage on display in Ukraine today,” Fraser said. “From the fearless leadership of President Zelensky, to the young fathers with tears in their eyes delivering their children to safety before they return to the frontlines… to the unarmed grandmothers confronting Russian soldiers.”

CANADA SLAPS HEFTY TARIFF ON RUSSIAN TRADE

Canada is also revoking Russia and Belarus’ “most-favoured nation status” as trading partners, meaning they will be subjected to a 35 per cent tariff on their exports to Canada.

Canada is the first country to take this step, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday, adding that the only other nation that Canada subjects to this high tariff and deprives of other associated benefits is North Korea.

“We are working closely with our partners and allies to encourage them to take the same step,” Freeland said.

Referencing the latest round of sanctions levied on 10 Russian executives, Freeland said that the total number of people and entities sanctioned by Canada since Russia's occupation of Crimea in 2014, has now risen to more than 1,000.

“The G7 has already imposed the strongest sanctions ever inflicted on a major economy, on Russia, and more will follow in the days to come. The ruble has been down by as much as 30 per cent this week… The Russian stock market is closed today for the fourth consecutive day,” said the finance minister. “The economic costs of the Kremlin's barbaric war are already high, and they will continue to rise.”

Freeland told reporters that she feels there has been a “tipping point” in the international community and there’s widespread agreement that allied countries will only keep ratcheting up the pressure. She said the sanctions—particularly on Putin’s “sycophants” and “enablers” who have “enjoyed a pretty fabulous lifestyle in the West,”—are working.

“We are using tools which no one would even have imagined deploying just a week ago, and there's more to come,” Freeland said.

CANADA SENDING ROCKET LAUNCHERS, GRENADES

Defence Minister Anita Anand also announced Thursday that adding to their cadre of lethal aid shipments to Ukraine, the Canadian Armed Forces will be sending from their stockpile up to 4,500 rocket launchers, and up to 7,500 hand grenades.

“These weapons… will be transported to the region as quickly and safely as possible,” Anand said.

Canada is also sending Ukraine $1 million to go towards the purchase of high-resolution modern satellite imagery, providing Ukraine's military to better monitor the movement of Russian forces.

“As we see the horrific impacts of 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. "Only Putin knows what Putin will do, and it is our job to do everything we can to protect as many lives as possible together with our NATO allies.”

Asked about Canadians who may be looking to go to Ukraine to join their foreign legion, Anand said that the government is not facilitating this, but the Canadian Armed Forces is currently recruiting and would welcome applications. Anand noted the military has trained over 33,000 Ukrainian soldiers since 2015, with 3,400 troops currently on high-readiness alert in Europe should NATO’s posture evolve.

Meanwhile in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, MPs unanimously agreed to a motion from NDP MP Charlie Angus calling on the City of Ottawa to consider renaming the portion of Charlotte Street, which houses the Russian embassy, in honor of Zelensky. The city has already installed new blue and yellow "Free Ukraine" street sign blades in front of embassy.

Later in the day, MPs gave a standing ovation to the Charge d'Affaires at Ukraine’s embassy in Ottawa Andrii Bukvych, who was in the viewing gallery for question period.

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