Editorial: Clear up our moral clarity

  • January 11, 2024

Pope Francis has called out Russia with full papal moral clarity for its invasion of Ukraine. It’s good to see the Canadian government also getting its own story straight. Better late than never.

The Holy Father was model of straight talk this week in publicly naming  the Russian Federation as the aggressor in its two years of ultra-violence against its neighbour. But Ottawa lagged behind the bizarre mistreatment of Russian activist Maria Kartasheva, who had her Canadian citizenship put on hold for months merely because she wrote two blogs critical of Moscow’s murderous war.

Late Tuesday, in a tweet on X, Citizenship Minister Marc Miller belatedly declared Kartasheva would become a full Canadian citizen that day. Perhaps she’ll be honoured in the House of Commons as others far less deserving have been.

What remains embarrassing is that it took almost a week after the CBC reported that the 30-year-old Ottawa resident had a cloud of deportation hanging over her head for her conviction in absentia by a Russian court. She was found guilty of “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

If returned to her homeland, she would have faced an eight-year prison sentence handed down by a Moscow court for two blog posts she wrote in 2022 decrying a massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. The blog posts were written in Canada, where Kartasheva has lived since 2019. But this past December, she was notified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that the “crime” she committed under Russian law could “equate to false information under subsection 372(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada” and so disqualify her from Canadian citizenship on the grounds she has a criminal record in another country.

Worse, it was her own honesty that led to the IRCC bureaucracy coming down on her head. She was in the midst of a citizenship swearing in last May when the pro forma question was asked if anyone had a criminal record elsewhere. She raised her hand, never imagining it would lead to her being told to step out of the ceremony — and risk being tossed out of the country.

In fairness, the official responsible was probably only following a “rules is rules” obligation. The moment it became clear her “criminal record” was a wicked legal fantasy conjured up by a judicial puppet of prospective war criminal Vladimir Putin, the whole thing should have been dropped and glasses raised to toast her welcome. But no. In December, she was given 30 days to appear before IRCC officialdom and convince them she is no criminal.

Had that circus proceeded, she might have laid before her judges a 2022 letter from former Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. It threatened Canadian media outlets, including The Catholic Register, with loss of annual grants if they failed to uphold the federal government’s sanctions against Russia. Rodriquez was unequivocal about decrying the Ukraine invasion. The military act was “unprovoked, unjustifiable, egregious” and justified “sweeping sanctions” by Canada that “reflect the broad international support for the people of Ukraine,” he said. Media and arts organization alike were “urged” to “suspend all activity involving the participation of Russian or Belarusian state organizations or their official representatives.”

Leave aside the propriety of a federal minister issuing such a dire threat of financial sanctions to compel conformity with one government policy. Clearly, the Trudeau Liberals had complete moral clarity at the time about speaking out against Moscow’s two-year-old dirty war.

Not even Pope Francis made that rush to judgment, taking until this week in front of a gathering of Vatican diplomats to openly name the Russian Federation as culpable for the violence in Ukraine. Now the Pope, the PM, and his Citizenship Minister are aligned. Thank God Canadians can now tell Maria Kartasheva: “Welcome home.”

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