As of recently, the Green Party has become the only major party to question Canada’s participation in the Ukraine War. This is while the NDP, the traditional “antiwar” party, has been ramping up the war drums. It’s shameful that a pro-business party like the Greens has shown more backbone over this question than what’s supposed to be Canada’s main labour party. 

In late February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new round of military support to the Ukrainian government, which will include 5,000 rounds of ammunition and four new tanks. In response, Green Party deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault asked whether this is a wise decision and argued that Canada should instead push for peace talks. 

“It’s not clear to me that military victory is at all possible,” Pedneault said. “So then what are we left with? To engage in diplomatic efforts.” He also expressed doubt in the government’s intent, asking “Do we have any assurances that war will stop at the border of Russia once territory is reclaimed?” Ultimately, due to criticism from all sides, Pedneault did walk this particular statement back. 

Pedneault also pointed out how in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons supplied by western governments have ended up in the hands of violent extremist groups. To his credit, this is a correct criticism. The Canadian military has no way of tracking arms sent to Ukraine, which makes it very likely that Canadian weapons will end up on the black market. It’s a common problem. American weapons supplied to Syrian rebel groups ended up in the hands of ISIS almost immediately. The government has also expressed no interest in solving this issue. Canada dodged a meeting held by NATO members last summer to discuss this very issue. The Ukrainian military has incorporated far-right elements like the Azov Regiment, a neo-Nazi group which started as a volunteer military battalion. Canadian weapons could easily end up in these hands, and be used to terrorize minorities, as Azov has done for nearly a decade. 

It’s easy to overstate the strength of Pedneault’s position. Again, Pedneault gave in to pressure and walked back some of his comments. The Greens shouldn’t be painted as some sort of anti-imperialist party, because they simply aren’t. There’s a reason they’ve been derided as “conservatives with compost bins.” Pedneault himself has admitted that he supported all previous weapon shipments up until this point. Likewise, his criticisms are framed more as a friendly suggestion to Trudeau rather than a demand for withdrawal. 

But even with the weakness of their criticism, this still makes the Green Party the only mainstream political force to levy any criticism against Canada’s involvement in the Ukraine War. CBC noted that it makes them “an outlier on the Canadian political landscape.”

In the past, this is a position that has usually been occupied by the NDP instead. In the 1980s, they even put forward the demand for Canada to remove itself from NATO entirely. In recent years, however, the party has become a very vocal supporter of both Canadian and NATO imperialism. This is part of a general shift the party has taken to more right-wing, status quo politics. 

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson is arguably one of the war’s most vocal supporters in Parliament. She openly opposes any kind of diplomatic contact or negotiations with Russia to put an end to the conflict. McPherson was even the person who moved the parliamentary motion to classify the Russian invasion as a genocide. 

If anything, her only criticism has been that Trudeau isn’t belligerent enough! In the NDP’s statement on the one-year anniversary of the war, McPherson criticized the government for not imposing heavy enough sanctions on Russia. She, along with the rest of her party, also celebrated the government’s decision to spend $70 billion on new war jets, which will mean taking funding from schools and hospitals at home, and using it to destroy schools and hospitals overseas. 

Canadian imperialism and the NDP 

The government has justified its involvement in the war in the name of defending Ukrainian democracy and self-determination. This fits nicely alongside Canada’s reputation as a “peacekeeping” nation. But one only needs to look elsewhere to realize this reputation is completely undeserved. If Canada is such a lover of freedom and human rights, why does it support the brutal dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, or the racist regime in Israel? 

In reality, Canada has its own imperialist interests in the region, and Canadian military support is being granted in order to protect these interests. In 2017, Canada and Ukraine signed a free-trade agreement, which was expanded in 2020. This gives Canadian imperialism access to a market it was previously excluded from. Trudeau is in no way acting out of the goodness of his heart. If that were the case, why has he said absolutely nothing about the dictatorship in Peru murdering peaceful protesters in broad daylight? 

The government in Ukraine that Canada is fighting to uphold is also far from democratic. The Zelensky regime is a right-wing, pro-business government that has used the war as an excuse to strip rights away from the working class. In July 2022 the Communist Party of Ukraine was illegalized and its assets were seized. Political parties representing 18 per cent of the vote in the last election have been banned! The war has been used as a pretext to nullify labor laws, toss out collective agreements, and even clamp down on the media.

Not only that, but Canadian military training has already gone directly to fascists and other far-right groups. As we noted back in January of last year: 

Canada also provided training to Ukrainian armed forces, notoriously to troops associated with the far-right neo-nazi Azov battalion, known for attacking anti-fascists, LGBTQ people and Roma people, and for engaging in torture and other war crimes. This was not the result of any accident or oversight: Canadian representatives knowingly met with nazis in the Ukrainian army, and were more concerned about the optics of it than anything else. So much for “upholding the rules-based international order” and “preserving the human rights and dignity of Ukrainians”!

The fact that the NDP, which is supposedly Canada’s working class party, has refused to criticize any of this is nothing short of disgraceful. In effect, they’ve become nothing more than a left-wing cover for the imperialist ambitions of the Liberals and Canadian ruling class. 

This doesn’t even just apply to the war in Ukraine. The NDP has been supportive of Canada’s recent campaign against China, and has pushed for tougher sanctions on Iran. 

The Liberal government is only looking to gain the upper hand against global rivals. The Canadian ruling class wishes to spur tensions with governments overseas as a way to distract from the austerity, wage cuts, and outright exploitation it’s pushing at home. If Canadian workers are made to be paranoid about what China, Russia, or Iran might hypothetically do to them, they’re less focused on what the Canadian government is actually doing to them. 

In response to this, the labour movement needs to shout out a common rallying cry: the main enemy is at home! It’s absolutely necessary that the labour movement opposes any action which will strengthen Canadian imperialism. Fighting against Canadian war efforts will weaken corporate interests and strengthen working class unity not just here, but internationally. 

Say no to imperialist funding!

No war but class war!