Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly urges the international community to fully consider the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in Ukraine.
Joly and her British counterpart Liz Truss wrote an opinion piece this week describing the problem. In an interview that aired Sunday on rosemary barton livehe said that sexual violence was not receiving the attention it deserves both because of a sense of taboo and because it is difficult to investigate.
“We know that women and children are used as weapons of war, armed and used by Russian forces to put a lot of pressure on the Ukrainian people,” Joly told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
“That is extremely concerning, because we know that sexual violence is a lasting trauma.”
As part of the awareness drive, Canada is signing the Murad Code, a new code of conduct developed by Nadia Murad, an Iraqi human rights activist and Nobel laureate, to responsibly engage with survivors of sexual violence and seek justice.
“Like landmines, chemical weapons, we need to make sure there are more international rules governing this issue,” Joly said. “We need to make sure we bring this issue into the spotlight, which is something that is being discussed.”
The foreign minister said that Canada will work with the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and other institutions to document and investigate cases of sexual violence.
‘Important’ to start the embassy in kyiv: Joly
Joly also touched on the state of diplomacy regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, days after Canadian and allied officials walked out of a G20 meeting while the Russian delegation spoke. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week that the G20 could not function with Russia at the table.
“What I said is that I would not sit at the same table as [Russian foreign minister] Sergei Lavrov,” Joly said, although he also noted that other G20 countries did not share the same position.
“Of course, as the head of diplomacy in Canada, I believe in diplomacy, I believe in making sure that there can be peace talks, but Canada’s role right now is to support Ukraine,” he said.
Joly also said it was “important” to reopen the Canadian embassy in kyiv, as other countries are planning, and that the government was looking at scenarios for this to happen.
Information Warfare Intensifying: Canadian Top Commander
Canadian diplomats are currently in neighboring Poland, where Canadian troops have also recently deployed to help that country deal with the millions of refugees that have flooded its borders since the Russian invasion began in late February.
Commanding that deployment is Joint Operations Commander Vice Adm. Bob Auchterlonie, who said in an interview that aired Sunday that the troops were helping with the humanitarian crisis and as NATO partners.
Asked about the risk of a possible escalation in the war and NATO involvement, Auchterlonie told Barton that the main goal remained “avoiding a conflict with Russia”.
Auchterlonie highlighted the threat of disinformation during the war in Ukraine, saying Russia was using military might, diplomatic pressure and information warfare to achieve its goals.
“We feel comfortable talking about conflict in the domains of land, sea and air … it’s also happening in cyber, it’s happening in space and it’s happening in the information domain,” he said.
Auchterlonie, who was among 61 Canadians barred from entering Russia this week as part of a series of counter-sanctions, noted an increase in Russian cyber activities well before and during the run-up to the Ukraine invasion.
“There are governments … that are now using the cyber domain below the threshold of war to further their own cause,” he said.
The military commander praised Ukraine’s actions in the fight against information warfare, but also noted that “I don’t want to say that it will change the balance of the war.”
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live at CBC Gem, the CBC streaming service.