Canada has the largest population of Ukrainian ancestry outside of Ukraine and Russia. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian government has been quick to impose sanctions against Russia.
The Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasted no time in imposing sharp economic sanctions soon after Russian forces crossed into Ukraine.
Giving much of the lead to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent and a former journalist, Canada was among the first to close its airspace to Russian civilian aircraft. More recently, Canada removed Russia and Belarus from “most-favored nation status,” which automatically places a mandatory 35% tariff on all imports from the two countries.
Ottawa also placed sanctions on Russian banks and more than 1,000 businesses and individuals, and advocated for booting Russia from the SWIFT international banking system. Additionally, Ottawa is sending military supplies to Ukraine.
Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says the business community across Canada strongly favors the sanctions.
“And they want to make sure that, that they work closely with government to contribute to that process, and to ensure that that as we design sanctions against Vladimir Putin and against his cronies, that they are inflicting the pain where it needs to be as opposed to creating problems for innocent people,” he said.
Beatty says the Chamber is studying what impact the sanctions will have on Canadian businesses. He says Canada may need to ramp up production of wheat as well as potash and other critical minerals to compensate for global supply interruptions because of the sanctions on Russia and the war in Ukraine.
He says the sanctions also mean Canada needs to revisit policies on natural resources like oil and gas to displace energy supplied by Russia or other countries with autocratic governments.
Allen Sens, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia with expertise in war and international security, says the absence of a quick Russian military victory has given time for these sanctions to work.
“They've been unable to achieve a quick military victory over Ukraine. And what that has done is it has given NATO capitals, Washington, and other non-NATO countries time to actually put these sanctions in place, and to have them exert pressure,” Sense said.
Among people in downtown Vancouver on a mild late winter’s evening, the Canadian government’s actions drew praise.
“I mean, it seems the only economic thing you can do, I suppose, right, other than going in there with, with troops. So if they support Ukraine, and I guess that's all you can really do is sanction them other than going in there militarily,” said one respondent.
“I figured the more international economic pressure that we can put on Russia the better, right, to impose some sort of idea that there's consequences for what they're doing. Well, we'll see what happens,” said another.
“I also see that for immigration as well. They have relaxed a lot of things for Ukrainian citizens. So I really like the fact that our country is doing something,” said a third.
In addition to sanctions, the Canadian government is admitting an unlimited number of Ukrainians on a temporary basis and opening up permanent residency and eventual citizenship for those wishing to reunite with family already in Canada. Nearly all visa requirements and fees will be waived. Officials say all new immigrants will be allowed to work immediately.
Ukrainian citizens already in Canada can apply to extend their visas.
In 2016, there was almost 1.4 million people in Canada who identified as being of Ukrainian ancestry.