In Canadian Politics, Human Rights, International, National Security

On January 31, 2023, Green Party leader Elizabeth May gave a press conference in which she revealed that the Green Party under her leadership now supports the transfer of weapons to Ukraine.

As I explained in a post I published several days later, the Green Party unambiguously opposed weapons transfers to Ukraine in three statements it issued in early 2022, under interim leader Amita Kuttner. May’s statements in her January 31 press conference constituted an undeniable reversal of the Green Party’s position. Nevertheless, May denied it. She disingenuously insisted that she had not changed the party’s policy on weapons transfers after all. Under persistent questioning from the CBC’s David Thurton, May attempted to distinguish between ‘defensive’ weapons and ‘offensive’ weapons, but failed to explain why Leopard battle tanks, which Canada had agreed to provide to Ukraine with May’s approval, do not constitute ‘offensive’ weapons.

Then, on February 6, 2023, May offered a fig-leaf to the Green party’s anti-war wing by asking in Parliament what Canada’s government was “doing to press for peace talks, to press for a negotiated solution.” She ended her question by declaring “arms won’t end the war.”

Within hours, the far-right, pro-war Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) erupted in fury at May’s suggestion that Canada should promote negotiations while helping to arm Ukraine to the teeth. It tweeted that May’s comments “showed shocking ignorance by a [leader] of a national political party.”

Within days of the UCC publicly denigrating May for committing the unpardonable sin of calling for negotiations, May sought to placate the UCC by, among other things, participating in a February 14 event co-sponsored by the UCC:



Several days later, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Pedneault gave an interview to CBC Radio’s The House in which he recognized that tanks and fighter jets could be used for offensive purposes, and questioned the wisdom of providing such weapons to Ukraine. This, according to the CBC, made the Greens an “outlier on the Canadian political landscape” – even though a mere 32% of Canadians think that Canada should continue to arm Ukraine.

When Pedneault meekly suggested that Canada should think twice about giving ‘offensive’ weapons to Ukraine, the UCC exploded yet again. It lashed out at Pedneault’s position as a “moral obscenity“.

Predictably, Pedneault swiftly capitulated.

In a statement he published on March 8, he apologized for suggesting that weapons provided to Ukraine might be used for any purpose other than regaining territory it has lost. In so doing, Pedneault swept under the rug the inconvenient fact that Ukraine’s military has repeatedly launched attacks on Russian soil.

In his apology, Pedneault also dismissed the idea that now is the time to negotiate with Russia. Negotiations, he argued, should be undertaken only “when the real prospect of a just settlement for Ukraine manifests itself” (whatever that means).

Then, in April, Pedneault travelled to Ukraine for one week. When he announced his decision to go there, I suggested to him on Twitter that he not confine his visit to areas under Ukrainian control, but that he also visit the city of Donetsk, which is under Russian control. Donetsk has sustained repeated bombardment from Ukrainian military forces, and their shelling of Donetsk pre-dates Russia’s 2022 invasion by many years.



Last week, after returning from Ukraine, Pedneault gave an interview to the Hill Times in which he gave no indication that he had visited Donetsk or any other area that is under Russian control. On the contrary, the Hill Times reported that Pedneault visited Odessa, Kyiv and Kharkiv, all cities under Ukrainian control.

In his comments to the Hill Times, Pedneault expressed no support for negotiations to end the war now, stating:

They [Ukrainians] are not keen on doing that and so it’s perfectly legitimate and normal that Ukraine wants to fight. And Canada has supported that after and we have supported that Canadian action in Parliament.

Rather than advocate for negotiations to end the war, Pedneault talked about post-war reconstruction. He rightly expressed concern about a Ukrainian law against ‘collaboration’ that imposes prison terms of up to 15 years for aiding the Russian military, supporting Russia, or denying Russia’s aggression. According to Pedneault:

“[There are] questions of what to do with people who are suspected of having collaborated with occupying forces. There are some reasonable worries to be had with regards to how the Ukrainian law on collaborators, which was passed in rush right after the invasion, will be applied. I think it will be crucial for the stability for Ukraine and also its long-term prospects to re-engage in transitional justice as much as possible. And that’s something that I hope Canada will be able to support and should start supporting as soon as possible alongside reconstruction… How do you win back some populations that may not necessarily be thrilled with the perspective of the Ukrainian state returning? Those are all questions that need to be discussed. It’s going to be very important that the populations that did live under occupation for a long period of time don’t end up being ostracized or punished because they had to do what they needed to do in order to survive in those circumstances with their homes and villages controlled by the Russian state.”


Moral cowardice masquerading as principled politics

At no point in his comments to the Hill Times did Pedneault mention the right to self-determination.

What if a majority of the people living in the regions now controlled by Russia do not want to live under the rule of the government in Kyiv? Should the international community nonetheless force them to live under Kyiv’s rule?

In 2014, with brazen and aggressive support from the U.S. government and the EU, Ukrainian nationalists violently overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych had sought good relations with Russia.

In Ukraine’s 2010 election, Yanukovych’s support came overwhelmingly from the southeast of Ukraine, most of which is now controlled by Russia:


Ukraine 2010 Election – Distribution of Support for Viktor Yanukovych

When Yanukovych was overthrown, many of those who had voted for him felt that their vote had been stolen from them.

Since then, they have been subjected to repeated attacks by Ukraine’s military. Crimea itself was subjected to collective punishment when its electricity and water supplies were cut off in 2014 and 2015.

Forcing the people from these regions to live under the rule of Kyiv would be unjust and inhumane. If these regions are not ceded to Russia as part of a peace agreement, then at a bare minimum, there should be an internationally supervised plebiscite to determine their future. Yet May and Pedneault appear to have no sympathy for their right to self-determination. By now, they surely have understood that, were they to invoke that right, the UCC would attack them mercilessly.

Quite apart from the right to self-determination, it behooves us to ask whether the government in Kyiv could be deterred from inflicting massive retribution upon the Russian speakers living in the regions now controlled by Russia. If those persons came under the control of the Ukrainian military, who would prevent the Azov Battalion and other heavily armed, far-right Ukrainian groups from committing atrocities against defenceless, pro-Russian civilians? Are we seriously to believe that Western governments will come to their defence after doing nothing for eight years to restrain Ukrainian attacks on Donetsk?

Even worse, May and Pedneault have now acceded to a deranged Western policy that treats Ukrainians as cannon fodder in a proxy war against a geopolitical rival of the United States, the Russia Federation. That proxy war will almost certainly end in Ukraine’s destruction.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, any credible reason to believe that Ukraine can regain its lost territory by military force. In every conceivable sense, Ukraine is vastly outmatched by Russia. Russia has a far larger population to draw upon to replenish its military forces. It has far more industrial capacity than Ukraine. Ukraine’s economy lies in smoking ruins, whereas Russia’s much larger economy has withstood the sanctions and the costs of war reasonably well. Russia has far greater energy resources, which are essential for the sustainment of large-scale warfare. Russia has far larger air and naval forces than Ukraine. It possesses hypersonic missiles, of which Ukraine and NATO have none. Its air defence systems are much more robust than those of Ukraine. Above all else, Russia has nuclear weapons, whereas Ukraine has none.

All policies, whether foreign or domestic, should be grounded in reality. A policy that is based upon a pack of lies is doomed to failure.

Continuing to arm Ukraine despite the inevitability of its defeat is a recipe for unspeakable Ukrainian suffering. It might also turn out to be a recipe for nuclear war.

If Ukraine’s corrupt and incompetent government wishes to orchestrate an act of national suicide, that is, I suppose, its prerogative, but Western governments are under no obligation to facilitate that suicide. Western governments are free to remain militarily neutral in this conflict, as the vast majority of non-Western governments have elected to do.

Moreover, it is intellectually dishonest to argue that negotiations should occur only after Russia has withdrawn its troops from the regions it now controls, because there is no prospect whatsoever that Russia will withdraw all its troops before a mutually satisfactory peace deal is struck. By doing that, Russia’s government would sacrifice its greatest source of leverage in any negotiations with Ukraine and would expose the pro-Russian inhabitants of the regions it controls to severe Ukrainian retribution. Those who say, as Zelensky does, that Russia must withdraw its troops from all Ukrainian territory before negotiations begin are guaranteeing that no negotiations will occur before Ukraine is destroyed. At that point, Russia will have no incentive to negotiate at all. It will simply dictate the terms of a Ukrainian surrender.

Finally, the Green Party is supposed to be green. Where in all of May’s and Pedneault’s public commentary have they expressed concern for the incalculable damage being inflicted on the environment by this incredibly destructive war? As far as I am aware, Pedneault and May have not even uttered a peep about the Biden administration’s destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines – arguably the worst environmental crime of the 21st century.

Ultimately, nature does not care who wins or loses the Ukraine war. Nature will be ravaged by this war regardless of its military outcome. If we Greens are truly committed to protecting Mother Earth, then we should do all that we can to end this war by negotiations now.

The UCC’s agenda is profoundly hostile to the core values of the Green Party of Canada, which include ecological wisdom, sustainability and non-violence. If Elizabeth May and Jonathan Pedneault cannot stand up to the UCC, they are not worthy to serve as co-leaders of the Green Party of Canada.


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Showing 14 comments
  • Peter Bergmanis

    Dimitri, circumstances change. No amount of excuses and rationalization can disregard that Putin is the ultimate agressor and criminal here. Suing for peace will not stop the Ukrainian people from fighting to the death. Russian occupation is death.

    • Matt

      Circumstances change, yet you spout the most stereotypically Cold Warrior type of opinions?

    • David Gutnick

      Exactly, Peter, quite impossible to understand how someone like Dimitri, trained in law, disregards the legal definition of sovereign states, refusing to condemn the invasion of Ukraine. Of course Ukraine and Russia see their independence and their rights differently, Ukraine has the right to choose its friends and join NATO or the EU just as Finland and Sweden do, just as Russia can choose to align itself with Bylorussia and China. That Dimitri refuses to acknowledge this fundamental is not only sad it is frighteningly a sign of his uncritical alignment with Putin.

  • John Dauvergne

    I am curious Dimitri what your take will be if a Ukranian offensive this Spring/summer is successful, suggesting that you might be wrong about the inevitability of a Russian victory in this war. Think Vietnam and the massive military advantage that the aggressor there had.

  • Gregory Gillis

    Thank you Dimitri for calling out the warmongering Green Party Leadership! They deserve exactly what they got under Annamie Paul’s leadership and now are going to crash under May and Pedneault’s. Canada’s political class is utterly shameful for supporting this vile war, the expansion of NATO and all the resulting destruction and death. They all have blood on their hands and I will never support any of these warmongering parties and their minions. Sadly, Canada lost out when you did not become Green Party leader. However, your integrity and honesty remain intact! So grateful for your courageous witness to the truth.

  • Peter Wilson

    If the Ukrainians mount an “offensive” and capture Crimea, site of Russia’s Black Sea Naval Base since the time of Catherine the Great to the present, then it will be a
    “phyrric victory” since the Ukrainian landscape will have been destroyed and Russia will doubtless resort to the use of nuclear weapons against the US, Canada and NATO countries who are encouraging, arming and waging this ethno nationalist civil/proxy war.
    The time when North America was isolated from counter attack, as during the Vietnam War, and all the subsequent conflicts, Grenada, Panama,Libya, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela etc. is over. Adversaries with real power, such as Russia and China, both with resources and great manufacturing capability will not be trifled with.
    Our politicians and military planners are leading Ukraine and us down a path to where there will be no victory, no triumphant fly past over Ottawa as happened after we destroyed Libya. Climate Change writ large with the soot of a Nuclear Winter.

  • Kenneth Sigurdson

    There was a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine (early April 2022) that was sabotaged by the US and Britain. In fact Boris Johnson made two trips to to meet Zelensky and stop any peace agrement being sigbed.
    US, UK Sabotaged Ukraine-Russia PEACE DEAL In April: Aaron Maté Breaks Down Report

  • Sjeng Derkx

    Apart from turning the core Green principle of non-violence into a sad joke, in the process the GPC leaders also missed the opportunity to connect with the over 30% of unrepresented Canadians who oppose sending weapons into the Ukranian war zone. To be cowardly unprincipled under pressure fails to recognize that pressure to the contrary makes standing behind your principles that much more important. Being a true voice for peace could have been the start of rebuilding a strong, courageous, principled Green Party, but that, unfortunately is not what we have today.

  • Eric

    To give Pedneault his due, he was badgered and bullied by a CBC interviewer when he expressed any support for peace negotiations. But overall, the one-sided support he and May give to the Zelensky regime is appalling to those who believe in the Green Party’s professed principles.
    Yes, Russia’s invasion was a war crime of aggression. But it was hardly unprovoked, and more war is hardly the way to end the deaths and destruction, including of the environment.

  • Colin Griffiths

    Dmitri, I find that the map you show of support for Viktor Yanukovych makes poor sense. Each coloured block (oblast?) shows a percentage for Victor. But percentage of what? The total all percentages is around 50%. So is that the total of all votes for Victor, ie he had close to a majority of the vote? Clearly it shows a substantial support for him in the east of the country. But it might be more meaningful to show the percentage of the vote in each oblast that was for Victor.

  • David Gut ick

    Dearest Dimitri right from the beginning of your adventure it became clear what you were up to when you described how Russia had “merged” (your description) with Crimea. As a lawyer you were fully aware that Russia was illegally in Crimea, illegal no matter what the justification.

    From there on of course a reader’s skepticism was on hyper alert. When you posted your RT interview and did not mention that that very week one of Putin’s critics had been sentenced to jail for 25 years …well well.
    So what has become clear are at least three things:
    1) Your complete and utter naïve understanding of Russia, it’s history, culture and politics; your tourist pics – wow Moscow is nice – and people seem normal despite soldiers killing Ukrainian babies…
    2) Your refusal to see the obvious- you despise Canadian (capitalist) democracy which allows you to (rightly) criticize as much as you want Canadian government policies while you refuse to criticize Putin on RT despite his government jailing dissidents; Not one word from you, amazing!
    3) You are now I assume back in Canada and without a political party (the Greens publicly denouncing your Putin enthusiasm) unless it is the Communist Party of Canada which is the only Canadian party that also espouses your views. Good luck with that one should you decide you4 expertise deserves a seat in parliament.

  • David Gutnick

    Hello again Dearest Dimitri;

    This is your blog, you absolutely have the right to post only the comments that you like.

    Be well,

  • Gerry

    When you say you don’t understand why E May ‘can’t’ distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons. I would ask how you do tell the difference? If someone is attacking you, no matter what weapons you use it is a defensive weapon (I guess a fence isn’t really a weapon). If you are the one attacking you are using your weapons offensively…to me it seems pretty simple. Sometimes retaliating to the source may be necessary to deter further attacks – they are all slippery slopes.
    On this course of agreeing to supply Ukraine perhaps we are just saying that if someone attacks us, we might like or expect a little military support from someone else…I’m sure Dimitri would be on the front lines of that one shouting ‘No we don’t want your weapons or your help….let Canadians die until we can talk our attackers into going home – or we step aside and let them take over our country”. I would not consider that the mark of a good national leader.
    I don’t see E May’s feb 26 question in parliament asking about what the gov’t is doing to push for peace talks as a problem, or something done because of ‘pressure’ from anyone….that is something that would be very consistent with what I know of her since she has been in office.
    I don’t see a conflict between negotiating for peace while continuing to supply arms to a nation under siege as long as the siege continues. If Russia stopped while negotiating, then of course so would we stop supplying arms to those being attacked.
    One can talk all day about past actions and aggressions to justify war – that is how generational conflicts continue – but it seems to me that this is a case of pure aggression by a large powerful country against a weaker one. Standing by and doing nothing but plead for negotiations only makes it easier for the aggressor. It seems to me that this is a pure case of bullying and I am not sure that just letting the bully continue without intervention is the established way to proceed in a school yard, why is it here?. What I think this highlights more than anything is how fragile the world “order” is and how weak our International Institutions are at dealing with these uncivilized behaviours…..take a look around the world at the many conflicts in progress. If think we would be amiss not to think that other countries (China?) are watching the international response to this carefully before making their own aggressive moves.
    If we want to shoot at someone, perhaps we should point south to Clinton and Bush etc for continuing to push for Ukraine’s entry into NATO, which was apparently in opposition to a deal made with Gorbachev…even though that notion is contested in some quarters. Putin of course should have taken that route as well if he had any sense of courage or morality. I think he is just grasping at anything he can find to legitimize his expansion and control in the region.
    From my limited understanding, Ukraine is a sovereign nation and should be able to proceed to join whatever it wants if the organization allows it – Russia should have no say in that unless they are part of the organization.
    It seems we need to keep in mind the order of things here…Russia attacked Ukraine, not the other way around. The time for serious negotiation was when Russia was amassing troups on the border. Putin kept denying he was preparing for war and our leaders somehow (incredibly) believed him and sat back in their cozy chairs….I suspect it may have been the warmongers at Westinghouse/Boeing that had something to do with that.
    I watched one of Dimitri’s interviews with a Russian soldier and he was clearly just doing what his ‘country’ (Putin) asked of him because of nationalistic feelings. He didn’t seem to have anything but a couple of vague comments about lifestyle to back that up – and didn’t seem to think any were necessary- …I was surprised that Dimitri didn’t follow up on that even a little with him. Millions of Russians have taken to the streets in opposition to this war, and many soldiers had no idea what they were doing it for. . This is Putin’s war, not Russia’s.
    War is never the right solution in my mind, but when perpetrated on another country in a civilized interconnected world we should have some way of countering it. We are playing a very complicated international game on these issues. I don’t know much about global economics, but it seems to me that sanctions generally hurt the people of that country more than the leaders, especially when the leaders are dictators like Putin….I would love to hear the other options presented rather than just attacks on fellow members of our own Party…or any Party for that matter.
    This comment by Dimitri seems to either show he doesn’t know the difference between offensive or defensive weapons himself or is behaving like Pierre Pollievre and just looking for things to attack someone else with whom he may disagree – of course, we hope he is not like Pollievre in that he just attacks to make the other guy look bad….you know, very Trumpesque. I nearly voted for Dimitri…starting to wonder how I could have been so duped.

  • Peter Wilson

    Actually Gerry there are reports that Putin wanted to join NATO:
    Also there is credible evidence that the 2013/2014 EuroMaidan was financed and organised by US money and policy:
    This led to the ousting of the democratically elected Pro Russian President of Ukraine and attacks on Russian speaking Ukrainians the worst of which was in Odessa:
    The US hand picked the next government of Ukraine:
    All this happening next door to the Russian Federation,
    Kiev is closer to Moscow than Vancouver is to Edmonton.
    It makes the allegations of foreign interference in Canada seem rather petty, don’t you think, Gerry?
    Of course Canada’s Jason Kenney got a Ukrainian Civilian award for bolstering and training the Ukrainian Armed Forces (Operation Unifier…still ongoing) which allowed attacks on Russian speaking Ukrainians of the DonBas which killed 13000 civilians prior to Russia’s predictable reaction.
    Face the facts, Gerry, The US and Canada led the NATO charge that caused the Ukrainian Civil War, just like they did with Libya.
    To our eternal sham, Canada was the only country that held a Victory Parade over the distruction of Libya, a country that is still in turmoil with NATO countries paradoxically supporting opposing factions.
    You talk of sovereignty but where is Canada’s respect for that in Haiti.
    Take that Canada flag off of your backpack!

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