Cablegate: Canada to Send a Large Contingent to Observe

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. The Canadian Government, and especially
the large Canadian Ukrainian community, are eager to play a
major role in ensuring the December 26 run-off elections run
smoothly and fairly. However, Canada's decision to send a
significantly larger observer contingent to Ukraine than
previously announced may pose organizational problems for the
Canadian government. Many questions remain, including the
number of official and unofficial observers, and the training
that they will receive. A potential problem could be the
perception that Canadian observers may not be neutral in
their activities. End summary.

2. (U) Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, in conjunction
with International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll,
announced on December 6 that the Government of Canada (GOC)
is prepared to send up to 500 Canadians to monitor the
Ukraine election run-off on December 26. The size of the
monitoring contingent is unprecedented for Canada. The GOC
had been planning to send a contingent of 75 observers, at
the request of the OSCE, after having sent some 40 observers
to the run-off on November 21 (in addition, approximately 50
Canadian private citizens traveled to the Ukraine as well).
Normally, the GOC sends fewer than 10 individuals to monitor
an election. The move to increase the size of the GOC
contingent came after public calls from the Ukrainian
Canadian Congress (UCC), supported by several key members of
parliament, for the GOC to send as many as 1,500 observers to
the Ukraine.

3. (SBU) The relatively sudden decision of the GOC to
increase from 75 to 500 the number of Canadians to be sent to
the Ukraine may in itself pose problems for the GOC.
Conservative MP Peter Goldring, who traveled to Ukraine to
monitor the run-off on November 21, told us that his office
is already receiving dozens of calls from potential
volunteers. The Ukraine Desk officer at Foreign Affairs
Canada (FAC) also advised poloff that his phone has been
ringing off the hook in the last day or so. Goldring
believes that the GOC may not be prepared to adequately
screen and train such a large number of observers before the
December 26 elections. Somewhat paradoxically, Goldring also
expressed his concern about why the GOC agreed "only" to send
500 observers. In an interview in the local press, he said
that he believed that 1,500 Canadian observers is the bare
minimum that the GOC should send to the Ukraine.

4. (SBU) A related issue to how many observers will go
centers on the question of who will comprise the observer
contingent. Minister Carroll, in making the announcement,
said that observers would be drawn from all qualified
Canadians, and would be recruited by CANADEM, a non-profit
organization that has previously handled election monitoring
for the GOC. (The Ukraine Desk noted to poloff that FAC
prefers to rely upon CANADEM to handle personnel issues
involving recruiting and training election monitors.)
According to the its web site, CANADEM is seeking individuals
who have either previous elections experience and/or
Ukraine-related experience. CANADEM also indicates that in
addition to the official observation mission organized by the
OSCE, a second mission of Canadian observers may also be
deployed, possibly attached to the Central Elections
Committee of the Ukraine.

5. (SBU) However, Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, in a
pre-announcement conversation with us, noted that the
Canadian observer contingent will be composed largely of
Ukrainian-Canadians, and organized by the UCC. UCC Executive
Director Ostap Skrypnyk further noted that the UCC is
undertaking a completely separate recruiting effort (replete
with its own application form on its web site, with no
mention of the application process underway at CANADEM), but
that the UCC is in quote informal negotiations unquote with
the GOC to have UCC observers included in the CANADEM
mission. It's unclear at this point how may UCC observers,
if any, will be absorbed into the CANADEM force.

6. (SBU) Wrzesnewskyj (a first generation Canadian of
Ukrainian descent) believes that it is essential that
Canadians of Ukrainian heritage comprise the observer
contingent. He stated that he has traveled to the Ukraine
five times in the past six weeks and is convinced that the
success of Canadian observers is directly related to their
Ukrainian heritage, and has little to do with them being
Canadian. Due to their regional connections and language
skills, the Ukrainian-Canadian observers had much more
freedom of movement and action than other OSCE observers, and
were therefore quote three to four times as effective as
individual OSCE counterparts unquote. He pointed out that
the Ukrainian Supreme Court used a large amount of documents
prepared by Ukrainian-Canadian observers, because of the
volume produced, the clarity of the information, and the
perception of impartiality.

7. (SBU) Underscoring this last point on the subject of
impartiality, Goldring noted that Wrzesnewskyj had been
photographed hugging Viktor Yuschenko, and questioned his
impartiality as an observer. Goldring also mentioned that
NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who likewise had traveled to
Ukraine to observe the November 21 run-off, routinely wore
orange scarves while in the House of Commons, clearly
demonstrating her support for Yushchenko, in Goldring's

8. (SBU) Exactly how many official observers the GOC ends up
sending to Ukraine is still being worked out, as is the
question of the number of concurrent unofficial observers
that the UCC may end up sending. With a Ukrainian population
in Canada exceeding one million, the election turmoil in
Ukraine has been followed closely in the local press (not to
mention extensive Internet and BLOG coverage). The UCC is
making a concerted effort to have as many Canadian-Ukrainians
as possible travel to Ukraine, and has called for up to
10,000 international observers to go to monitor the upcoming

9. (SBU) Comment. The logistical challenges to the GOC will
be significant, given the limited lead time (according to the
CANADEM web site, the observers will arrive in Ukraine
on/about December 21), the size of the monitoring contingent,
and the somewhat competing interests between CANADEM and the
UCC. More importantly, however, will be the perceived
impartiality of the Canadian observers (whether official or
unofficial), particularly if there isn't adequate time for
the GOC to screen and train such a large contingent.
Ostensibly, the election observers should project their
impartiality, but it is possible, given the pro-Yushchenko
sentiments in Canada reported widely in the local press, that
many observers may well be supporters of Yushchenko. If even
a few of the Canadian observers are overtly partisan (even by
wearing orange apparel), their best intentions could be
compromised. Any perceived bias will likely be exploited by
anti-Yushchenko elements in Ukraine, and Moscow, as further
evidence (in their view) of western interference into
internal Ukraine political affairs.

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