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‘It’s the only option’: Some Finnish people in Canada in favour of NATO bid

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Some Finnish people living in Canada say they support Finland’s recent historic decision to seek NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Finnish parliament resoundingly rubber-stamped the government’s decision to seek membership on Tuesday. The previously non-aligned Finland was joined by Sweden on Wednesday in submitting their official applications to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

Only three months ago, Borje Vahamaki would have opposed the move, but he says his opinion shifted after watching Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Vahamaki, who is a professor emeritus in Finnish studies at the University of Toronto, says there has been a major change in public opinion among Finns in Canada and Finland following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 with record levels of support for the Nordic country being part of the defensive alliance.

“Virtually everybody I have talked to says we just have to do this. We have to protect ourselves because if we don’t have the entire NATO backing us up then we are extremely vulnerable because of that long border with Russia.”

Finland shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia. Vahamaki says Finland has a war history with Russia but in recent decades has maintained an amicable relationship with the country.

“The last 30 years have been very friendly and very co-operative in business and in all kinds of areas but with (Vladimir) Putin’s war it has changed the entire picture,” he said.

“We have come to that realization.”

Joining NATO would be a huge shift for Finland and Sweden. Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Soviet Union in the Second World War, while Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland on Wednesday to reiterate Canada’s support for the country’s accession to the alliance.

Trudeau assured his counterpart that Canada would support Finland in response to threats to its security between the time of its application for membership and its formal accession to NATO, a statement from his office said.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau also pledged his support to Sweden in seeking NATO membership, saying the two Nordic countries have the sovereign right to choose their own security arrangements.

The move has been welcomed by several other NATO countries, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Turkey has objected to the two Nordic countries joining, alleging that they support Kurdish militants.

Pasi Pinta says he wasn’t surprised to hear Finland pushed ahead with its bid to join NATO.

Pinta is the honorary consul of Finland and lives in Thunder Bay.

He says discussions around Finland joining the alliance started after Russia increased rhetoric late last year demanding NATO refuse to accept new members.

“That was the first thing that changed the game for Finland because that limits Finnish sovereignty and Finnish free choice on choosing its own defence partners and its own defence policy.”

Finland is right in seeking to be part of a defensive alliance, says Pinta.

Thunder Bay is home to the largest Finnish community outside of Finland. Pinta has yet to hear of events or demonstrations for or against Finland’s move but suspects much of the local community aligns itself with the decision.

Pinta says for a long time Russian repercussions have overshadowed Finland’s decision-making process.

“That kind of thinking clouded and influenced a lot of Finns. Even up to the end of last year.”

Russia has repeatedly warned its Nordic neighbours that their joining the alliance would have negative consequences.

Salla Carson is bracing herself for an “information war” that may take place on Russia’s part including the spread of disinformation to influence Finnish people, the public and media.

Carson moved from Finland to Calgary in 2014. She was happy to hear what she calls good news that Finland and Sweden presented a united front this week.

“I think it’s the only option,” she said by phone.

“When I realized (an invasion) could happen in Finland … the next obvious thought is why isn’t Finland part of NATO.”

Carson acknowledged there are varied opinions among Finnish people. She says most Finns in North America are in favour of the membership bid but they also, “don’t have the individual risk associated with this.”

— With files from AP

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Canada first to sign off on Finland, Sweden joining NATO – CTV News

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Canada became the first country to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession protocols to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

The move follows NATO leaders officially inviting the two nations to join the alliance during a summit in Madrid last week, and brings the two countries a step closer to becoming full NATO members.

“Canada has full confidence in Finland and Sweden’s ability to integrate quickly and effectively into NATO and contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Their membership will make NATO stronger and we call on all NATO members to move swiftly to complete their ratification processes to limit opportunities for interference by adversaries.”

According to The Associated Press, all 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols on Tuesday, sending the membership bids to each nation for legislative approval. Both Canada and Denmark were quick to turn around their ratification documents.

“Thank You Canada! Canada is the first country to deliver its instrument of ratification to the United States Department of State, the depository of the North Atlantic Treaty!” tweeted Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada Urban Ahlin.

In Canada, the federal government made moves domestically to move through the ratification quickly, Trudeau said. This included issuing orders-in-council authorizing Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to “take the actions necessary to ratify, on behalf of Canada.”

Ahead of Parliament adjourning for the summer, the House of Commons debated and voted on a motion signalling their support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

In May, the House Public Safety and National Security Committee adopted a motion expressing “strong support” for the two Scandanavian countries’ membership in the alliance. The motion also called on all NATO members to approve their applications as quickly as possible.

A debate was held on this motion on June 1, and it passed unanimously when put to a vote the following day.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has actualized something that was once only theoretical. An authoritarian state led by an autocrat has attacked a democracy: It has demonstrated that it is willing and able to attack a democracy. It has made clear that democracies that stand alone and are not part of military alliances are most vulnerable,” said Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong during the House debate. “That is why it has become necessary to bring both Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance. This is an urgent matter.”

Also taking part in the debate, NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said she supports Finland and Sweden doing all they can to prevent their countries from being threatened further by Russia.

“Prior to the further invasion of Ukraine, support for NATO membership was around 20 to 30 per cent in Sweden and Finland. Now, 76 per cent of Finnish people support joining NATO. Very simply, Vladimir Putin and the aggression of the Russian Federation are responsible for escalating tensions in the region and leading Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership,” McPherson said.

With NATO member countries having different processes for completing ratification, it could be some time still before the two nations formally become a part of the longstanding intergovernmental military alliance.

With files from Senior Political Correspondent for CTV News Channel Mike Le Couteur

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Canada Day Ottawa: 12 arrested, 50 charges laid – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa police say 50 criminal charges were laid over the Canada Day long weekend and 12 people were arrested.

Last Friday marked the first Canada Day in Ottawa with major in-person events since 2019. Thousands of tourists and residents came downtown to celebrate the holiday. In the mix were several hundred protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” movement that paralyzed downtown Ottawa in February.

Ottawa police were out in force starting June 29 with the implementation of the downtown vehicle control zone, which was meant to prevent another vehicle-based occupation of the city.

Police said they arrested a dozen people in downtown Ottawa between June 29 and July 3, including people who were not involved in Canada Day events or protests. On top of the 50 criminal charges, four charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were also laid.

One man was arrested on Parliament Hill June 29 for causing a disturbance. He was taken back to Toronto on an outstanding warrant.

On June 30, police charged one person with breach of release orders and Highway Traffic Act offences after a traffic stop on Highway 417 at Anderson Road.

Later that day, three people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial in which a police officer was allegedly choked. Charges include assaulting police, resisting arrest, causing a disturbance, and assault by choking. This incident came shortly after Canadian soldier James Topp, who is facing a court martial for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rules in uniform, completed his cross-country walk protesting vaccine mandates. Hundreds of people had gathered at the War Memorial to hear Topp speak.

On Canada Day, one man was arrested and charged for allegedly pulling a knife on RCMP officers near LeBreton Flats after officers broke up a fight. Two more people were arrested and face several assault charges after an attack in the ByWard Market.

On July 2, police arrested two people in a vehicle and seized a handgun. Several gun and drug charges were laid. Patrol officers also seized a gun in Sandy Hill that afternoon and charged a man with drug and gun offences.

On July 3, police arrested a woman for public intoxication who allegedly spit in an officer’s face. She now also faces an assault charge.

Ottawa police did not name any of the accused.

Police are also investigating paint on public property in Strathcona Park and on Wellington Street. Protesters painted messages about convoy organizers Pat King and Tamara Lich on Wellington Street on Canada Day. Police also said earlier they laid 19 impaired driving charges over the long weekend.

Ottawa Bylaw towed 121 vehicles from the vehicle control zone between June 29 and July 3 and issued 513 parking tickets. 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to take part in G20 despite Russia’s presence

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OTTAWA — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will take part in a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, this week, even though Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend.

In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had brought sanctions against days earlier, began speaking.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a walkout of a G20 meeting for finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In May, International Trade Minister Mary Ng joined her counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand in leaving an APEC meeting in Bangkok when the Russian representative began to speak.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would take part in the G20 leaders’ meeting in November, even if President Vladimir Putin goes too, saying it is important to counteract the voice that Russia will have at that table.

Joly, who recently said it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, is expected to join other foreign ministers at the G20 meeting in opposing the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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