January 26, 2014 – Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today concluded a successful visit to Ukraine, during which he expressed Canada’s ongoing concern about violations of basic freedoms and reinforced Canada’s commitment to the Ukrainian people.
This visit comes after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird requested that Ambassador Bennett visit Kyiv following threats to the religious freedom of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the intimidation of members of its institutions.
“The new laws passed by President Viktor Yanukovych give the Ukrainian government, police and security services harsh new powers that severely limit individual rights and freedoms,” said Bennett. “This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic practice and of grave concern to all who are committed to a free and democratic Ukraine.”
“As Minister Baird has made clear, Canada strongly condemns the deplorable use of violence against protesters by Ukrainian authorities,” said Bennett. “Canada strongly supports the Ukrainian people, who have spoken out courageously in support of a free and democratic Ukraine.”
While in Kyiv, Ambassador Bennett met with various clergy, including with His Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Patriarch Filaret of the Orthodox Church (Kyivan Patriarchate).
“Canada notes the important and crucial role played by the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and many other religious leaders during the past weeks in encouraging dialogue between all parties and praying for peace in Ukraine,” Bennett added. “Canada will consider all options going forward to make clear that we stand with those who seek to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for Ukrainians.”
– 30 –
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @FreedomReligion and @DFATDCanada