Ottawa – Ukrainian Parliamentarian and human rights activist Mustafa Dzhemiliev appealed to Canada for support for the indigenous Tatar people of Crimea at a meeting chaired by Edmonton East Member of Parliament Peter Goldring, who assured him of Canada’s support for Ukraine.
Mr. Dzhemiliev, a member of the “Our Ukraine” party in the Ukrainian Parliament, is also the Chairman of the Mejlis, the representative body of Crimean Tatars. He came to Canada to explain the concerns of his people at some of the current trends in Ukraine, especially increasing Russification.
“We are not prepared to live in Russia,” he told the members of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, of which Peter Goldring has been a member for more than six years. He explained that he understood the wish of those of Russian background to desire closer ties with that country, but he doesn’t want any part of Ukraine to become part of Russia. Considering the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sebastopol and Russian military actions in Georgia in 2008, he has concerns that there might be a similar conflict in Crimea at some point in the future.
The entire Crimean Tatar population was deported by the Soviets in 1944 and only returned to Crimea following Ukraine’s 1991 independence.
Mr. Dzhemiliev said while Crimea may only be four per cent of Ukraine’s territory with five per cent of its population it receives the most news coverage due to its strategic location.
Peter Goldring pointed out that Canada has close ties to Ukraine and can raise issues internationally on Ukraine’s behalf, as he himself had done at the 2008 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Kazakhstan. At that gathering Mr. Goldring took the lead and prevented a Ukrainian resolution on the Holodomor from being amended. The amendment would have described the Holodomor as a natural occurrence as opposed to the man-made famine of historical record.
“That is exactly the kind of support we are seeking,” Mr. Dzhemiliev responded.