TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 3, 2010) - This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper earned praise from a number of Canadian non-governmental organizations during a community town hall held at the KUMF art gallery in Toronto.
The audience of journalists, human rights activists, community leaders, parliamentarians, researchers, and technical assistance project volunteers were briefed on the details of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's official meetings and public appearances during his recent two-day visit to Ukraine.
"The Prime Minister could have chosen a business-as-usual itinerary with the standard state lunches and photo ops", said Lisa Shymko, Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Centre. "Instead, Harper's well thought-out itinerary sent a clear message — Canada is willing to expand economic ties with Ukraine but only if democracy continues to flourish there."
In recent months, Ukrainian journalists have faced harassment and censorship while historians researching communist-era crimes have been threatened by the new government's security services. "Since many Ukrainians feel that civil liberties have come under fire recently, the PM's visit to the infamous Lontsky prison in Lviv, where countless people were executed by both the Nazis and the Soviets, was a profoundly symbolic gesture," said Borys Potapenko of the League of Ukrainian Canadians.
"When Harper told an audience of students at the Ukrainian Catholic University to remember that in Canada you have friends—friends who respect and admire Ukraine's heart for freedom and its spirit for national self-determination, the response from the students was overwhelming", said Margareta Shpir, President of Canadian Friends of Ukraine.
According to Chrystyna Bidiak, President of the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, "Canadian NGO's who have worked in Ukraine for years want the new Ukrainian government to heed the concerns voiced by the PM, so that human rights and democracy will not continue to be eroded in Ukraine."