Source: Carl Ridderstråle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Newly released documents reveal that Canadian officials met with members of a neo-nazi Ukrainian regiment, the Azov Battalion, and were more concerned with PR than anything else. The Canadian state is nothing if not hypocritical. It plays up a progressive image at home while aiding Nazis abroad. 

The Azov Battalion is part of an international far-right movement. It began in 2014 as a volunteer military battalion and was later officially incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard.

In addition to being open Nazi supporters, Azov members have attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, the LGBTQ community, and Roma people. A 2016 report from the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights details accusations of war crimes and torture against the battalion.

In June 2018 a Canadian delegation met with and took photos with leaders of the Azov Battalion, despite knowing that the unit was pro-Nazi. A briefing produced by Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine in 2017 acknowledged, “Multiple members of Azov have described themselves as Nazis.” 

The Battalion then used those photos for its online propaganda, as proof of Canadian support, noting that the Canadian delegation expressed “hopes for further fruitful cooperation.”

And the documents show that this was not an isolated incident. In December 2018 Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier attended an event in Ukraine with members of the Azov Battalion present. 

“This may or may not prompt questions,” said Chris Henderson, at the time the assistant deputy minister for public affairs about the event, “but we need to be ready and not come across as being taken by surprise.” Appearances were more important than anything else.  

This is part of a pattern of Canadian officials turning a blind eye to the Nazis in Ukraine. Back in 2015 the Canadian military was warned of the dangers of the far-right in Ukrainian military ranks. According to the Ottawa Citizen, “the senior leadership largely ignored those concerns.”

Additionally, a recent report from the Institue for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University revealed that another Ukrainian far-right group, Centuria—whose members have been documented giving Nazi salutes, and praising members of Nazi SS units—have bragged about receiving training from Canada, among other NATO countries. 

These revelations have sparked a military review into how Canada approves the foreign military personnel it trains. Parts of the study will remain secret, however. It’s hard to believe that the review isn’t just a PR response. 

When reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the George Washington University report, they received an email that stated, “the Minister is deeply concerned by these reports and he has requested that officials review this matter. Our government and the Canadian Armed Forces do not tolerate anti-Semitic, racist, or hateful views.” It’s a hollow statement considering that the CAF was well aware of the anti-Semitic, racist and hateful views of the people they were working with. Trudeau himself has met with far-right Ukrainian Parliament Speaker, Andriy Parubiy, who has been accused of praising Hitler. 

Canada out of Ukraine!

But why are the Canadian Armed Forces in Ukraine in the first place? The government says it is supporting the “fight for democracy”. But Canada’s involvement has nothing to do with “democracy” and everything to do with imperialism. Canadian imperialism, along with U.S. imperialism, has been playing geopolitical games with Ukraine, fighting for their own narrow economic interests. Going along with the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Canadian imperialism, engaged in a struggle against Russia for access to Ukraine, has found itself in bed with fascists. 

Jewish groups have understandably raised concerns over Canadian troops apparently training neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine. Rightly so. You cannot be fighting for democracy and aligned with Nazis at the same time. Clearly human rights go out the window when the interests of Canadian imperialism are at stake. 

Canada has no business in Ukraine and should pull out immediately.