‘Horrifying’: Freeland promises justice for sexual violence victims in Ukraine

CALGARY – Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is committed to seeking justice for Ukrainian women and children as allegations mount of sexual violence by Russian soldiers.

Freeland was asked Thursday about war crimes that Russia has been accused of committing on Ukrainian citizens and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

“War crimes have been committed in Ukraine, they are being committed in Ukraine. The evidence that we’ve seen in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine that have been under Russian occupation is absolutely horrifying,” Freeland said after a tour of a carbon capture facility in Calgary.

“I do want to take a moment to underscore that one of the things that is happening is the systematic rape of Ukrainian women and children.”

Freeland said Canada would work with its democratic allies to prosecute those responsible.

“Rape is being used as a weapon in this war and I want the women of Ukraine to know that we see them, we are not going to forget and we will work with Ukraine and with our democratic allies around the world to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Freeland, who also serves as finance minister, said she spoke with her Ukrainian counterpart Thursday to voice Canada’s support.

She also said it’s appropriate to declare Russia’s occupation a genocide — as U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said — since thousands of Ukrainians have been killed and brutalized.

Freeland pointed to a “chilling document” on a Russian website published 10 days ago “that effectively laid out a plan for genocide in Ukraine, that called for the suffering, the punishment of people who chose, in the view of this document, wrongly and mistakenly to describe themselves as Ukrainian.”

“That called for the word Ukraine to be erased.”

Freeland said the Russian occupation signals a fight between democracy and dictatorship and it’s in Canada’s interest to back Ukraine.

“Frankly, we are really lucky that the Ukrainians are prepared so bravely to fight that fight for us, that they are prepared to stand there and die in this fight.”

Up to 150 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are deploying to Poland to help with the care, co-ordination and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.

— With files from Alanna Smith in Calgary and The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2022.

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