Canadian Ambassador Warns

of Religious Oppression in Ukraine

OTTAWA - With MPs likely to hold an emergency Commons debate this week on the crisis in Ukraine, Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom charged that the Ukrainian government is actively oppressing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Ambassador Andrew Bennett said Ukraine’s culture ministry has threatened to delist the denomination as a legal body if its priests continue to publicly pray with protesters.

It should be noted that the last time the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was declared an illegal entity in the country was in 1946, I believe, under (Russian dictator Joseph) Stalin,” Bennett told reporters Sunday during a conference call from the capital Kyiv.

Bennett admits the repression of Catholics could also spread to other Christian denominations and faiths there.

That’s certainly the concern,” he said.

Bennett’s warnings come as governments around the world watch Ukraine hurtle toward a possible civil war, with protests spreading beyond Kyiv.

The protests were sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to strengthen ties with Russia instead of the European Union.

Yanukovych has responded with new restrictions on protesters and brutal police crackdowns.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Saturday for an emergency debate in the Commons, with the majority of Ukrainians “very worried by the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau issued a statement Sunday calling for sanctions against Ukrainian government leaders, demanding they “immediately repeal the new anti-democratic laws that prohibit peaceful demonstrations and opposition.”

The NDP called last week for the feds to explore imposing sanctions against Ukrainian leaders.