For the foreseeable future on this blog, there is going to be a bit of a balancing act going on. As may not be shocking to you, I have a fair bit to say about what’s going on in Ukraine. I will be doing my best to share those views, while also talking about political matters here at home in Canada. And to be honest, because things are moving so fast in Ukraine, it’s hard to write about. That being said, I am going to try to focus on some specific items and do my best to offer some constructive voices to what’s happening.
With that in mind, there was a matter that came up over Twitter this morning that I couldn’t resist writing about today. On the weekend across Canada, we saw Canadians take to the streets to protest and show their support for Ukraine. It was a beautiful sight to see people across the political spectrum coming together in common cause. Given everything that we’ve seen here in the past month, it was nourishing for the soul.
In Ottawa, hundreds of citizens marched to the Russian Embassy and protested right in front of the gates. It was a beautiful sight of peaceful, democratic action. People came, shared their views and then peacefully went home afterwards. It was what true democracy was is all about. And yet for the Russians, that clearly was a problem. That became clear when the following was reported this morning:
Okay folks, I must admit that reading that tweet partially had me laughing and partially had me fuming mad. I laughed because there was nothing remotely threatening or hostile about that. Hell, that’s a normal weekend day in Ottawa, where people protest at just about any time of the year. The idea that the Russians would call in our ambassador to “lodge a formal protest” is the snow-flakiest, “Karen-esque” thing they could possibly do. Seriously Russia, that’s some weak tea.
But part of me was fuming mad because of the nerve of these guys. Not only did their state media fan the flames of a group wanting to overthrow our government in the past weeks, they did so openly and brazenly. They actually created a more hostile environment here at home, giving oxygen to what we saw play out. While that upsets me, it was a more specific example that put this over the top for me, from a while back:
I still remember this story from 2001 so well because of how shocking it was to me. Catherine MacLean an Ottawa lawyer, was killed while walking her dog after a car veered onto the sidewalk and hit her. Andrey Knyazev, the third-ranking Russian diplomat in Canada at the time, was the driver and reportedly was drunk. Russia refused Canada’s request to waive his diplomatic immunity, allowing him to escape justice here in Canada. He was sent back to Russia where he was sentenced to four years in a penal colony. Ironically according to CBC at the time, his lawyer said his client didn’t get a fair trial back in Russia, something he would have received here in Canada had he faced the music where he committed his crime.
The reason why I raise this case is because Ottawa is an extremely safe city for most people, but especially for diplomats. There isn’t a much more plum diplomatic posting in the western world than sleepy Ottawa. The idea that any diplomat, let alone a Russian one, would feel “threatened” or any real “hostility” is laughable at best, and deeply ignorant at worst. If I go by the statistics and history, it’s Canadians that need protection from Russian diplomats, not the other way around.
But this story from today shows exactly why doing what we do to protect democracy is so important. These “diplomats” are so scared at the idea of a few hundred people showing up to give speeches outside of their heavily protected compound in the sleepiest G7 capital that they take this step. Look at what’s happening back in Russia, where over 6,000 people have been arrested protesting Putin’s war over the past days, basically being snapped up and beat up by police as soon as they pull out their banners. That is actual oppression, and that’s what the people of Ukraine don’t want to be under the boot of. They want the freedoms that we have here, that we have had all along and continue to enjoy, even if our Russian diplomatic guests are so freaked out at the notion.
My message to the diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa is a pretty simple one; if you don’t like facing natural democratic consequences for your attempt to subjugate a neighbouring nation, then maybe you should just go home. Go back to Russia where your fragile sensibilities will be better protected. If things continue on this route, hopefully soon enough the Canadian government will make their mind up for them and send them home. But in the meantime, I would expect to see more protests outside the gates of the Russian Embassy as this violence is thrown at the people of Ukraine. It’s a natural consequence for invading a sovereign nation, and if the Russian diplomats in Ottawa don’t like that, maybe they should take it up with their leadership instead.