Hill Times | 22Oct2012 | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn
Canada takes lead to keep
It is critical
for democracies to work together and follow Canada's
lead in keeping out criminals especially those in high places and shame
them as the United States has done. When the terrorist is the state,
other states of goodwill must take action.
Canada is taking a decisive step towards keeping undesirables out of
the country. The proposed Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act will,
among others, make it harder for those who abuse human rights to enter
"We want an immigration system that is open to genuine visitors, while
at the same time prevents the entry of foreign criminals," says Jason
Kenney, minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism about
the proposed legislation.
This is manna for democratically-minded Canadians including members of
the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine (I'm one) who have been
seeking entry restrictions for individuals connected with the
violations of human rights in Ukraine. There, selective application of
the rule of law is standard practice in arrests and incarcerations of
opponents to the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. The most
notable examples are the seven-year sentence handed to ex-prime
minister Yulia Tymoshenko and four years to former minister of internal
security, Yurij Lutsenko.
Canada's proposed legislation follows months of warnings by Canada and
other Western democracies about "serious consequences" should the
president fail to live up to Ukraine's Constitution and meet
international democratic standards. Now the pussy-footing has stopped.
With less than a week left to the Oct. 28, 2012 Parliamentary
Canada's legislation puts Ukraine's regime on notice.
Canada is not acting alone. The United States' Senate passed a
resolution last month calling on its Department of State "to institute
a visa ban against those responsible for the imprisonment and
mistreatment of Tymoshenko and the more than dozen political leaders
associated with the 2004 Orange Revolution."
Such restrictions are much needed to prod deviant rulers around the
globe -- not just in Ukraine -- to abide by their constitutions, and
move from warning to naming and shaming. The Senate Resolution
specifically names Viktor Pshonka, prosecutor general of Ukraine, and
deputy prosecutor General Renat Kuzminsky figures in the demise of
Ukraine's independent judicial system.
When passed by Parliament, the proposed legislation will make foreign
nationals, who have been playing loose and fast with the rule of law,
"inadmissible" to Canada. It specifically cites those dangerous to
security, human or international rights violators, or organized
criminality. It provides ministerial authority "to refuse entry."
Kenney says, "Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but they
have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters abusing our generosity."
Most Canadians agree.
Certainly, the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine does. In a
of Sept. 18, 2012, addressed to Conservative MP Laurie Hawn and a
the Treasury Board Cabinet Committee -- copied to the Prime Minister,
Minister of Foreign Affairs and others -- the group urges the
of names subject to visa restrictions.
However, the group fears that such public shaming may not be enough:
criminals world-wide are using Western states to safe-keep their ill
begotten gains. Restricting them does not prevent their money from
leaving rogue states and entering safe havens. In Ukraine, publicized
information shows that billions of dollars were moved to Cyprus and the
British Virgin Islands in 2011. This occurred as Ukraine's 2011 per
capita GDP languished around US$ 3,600 -- placing this largest, and one
the richest in natural resources European states near the bottom of the
World Bank's scale -- far below its much smaller neighbours Poland, at
$13,000 and tiny Slovakia pushing $18,000. Canada's was above $50,000.
Despite pressures to move forward, Ukraine's government is not
relenting; rather the opposite.
Late last month, the Cabinet of ministers took measures to control
opposition, dissent and the media even further. Prime Minister Nikolaj
Azarov signed an order increasing the authority of security and defence
entities to deal with "terrorism"acts designed to bring down the state
"vlada." A few days later, to underscore the point that it "will
it can", the president's Party of Regions announced its draft
legislation calling for up to five years imprisonment of journalists
for slander. The media called it a "war on journalists." Due to an
media strike and swift and forceful reaction worldwide, the draft has
been withdrawn. Many fear that should the regions return to power,
restrictions on freedoms, including speech, will continue to be
The concerns with the crack-down are three-fold: the harshness of the
measures; that they happened on the eve of the elections for maximum
curtailment of freedoms; and, very significantly, there is no recourse
to false accusations or apprehensions as Ukraine's judicial system has
shown itself over and over again to be corrupt and beholden to the
president and his party -- the best evidence of that being the
of the former minister of internal security, Yurij Lutsenko. The
overarching fear is that the latest steps to suppress hark back to the
1930s when Nikolaj Yezhov, Stalin's head of the NKVD, began an era of
purges known as the Great Terror.
Unless there is a regime change, the political situation in Ukraine,
dire as it is, may deteriorate even further without intervention from
friends. It is therefore critical for democracies to work together and
follow Canada's lead in keeping out criminals -- especially those in
places and shame them as the United States has done. When the terrorist
is the state, other states of goodwill must take action.
Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is an international commentator and a
the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.
The Hill Times