Canada weighing small weapons shipment to Ukraine amid Russia threat: sources

WATCH ABOVE: Trudeau says he's 'sure' there will be more announcements to come on further support

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is weighing whether to ship small weapons like firearms and ammunition to Ukraine at the three-day virtual retreat underway now, sources tell Global News.

According to the sources, who spoke on background as they are not authorized to discuss the proposal publicly, the federal cabinet will be asked to decide on the possible shipment of the small weapons along with the potential for increased military capabilities support for Ukraine from the Canadian Forces.

That could include countering cyberattacks or increased intelligence sharing, the sources said. They added the weaponry being considered includes pistols, rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns and ammunition.

Trudeau is expected to make an announcement after the cabinet retreat ends on Wednesday.

Sources said the government is looking to take a hard, clear stance in support of Ukraine, while limiting the potential to inflame already heated tensions with Russia as that country continues to mass troops on the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian officials have made three specific requests of the government, which they say would support them in defending against Russian aggression: an expansion and extension of Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, providing defensive weapons and equipment, and imposing severe sanctions.

Sources told Global News the Canadian Forces are preparing to be able to ship the weapons in question if cabinet approves the proposal, which a senior national security source said is expected.

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Trudeau has said earlier on Monday that the question of how Canada should respond to continued Russian threats against Ukraine would be on the agenda for the retreat.

NATO officials had announced earlier in the day that additional forces from the military alliance are being put on standby to deploy into eastern Europe as part of a bid to deter Russia.

“We’re going to continue to be there, to respond in ways that we can, to support Ukraine,” Trudeau said.

“This is something that matters deeply to us and I can tell you that we will be looking at the situation in Ukraine as part of our cabinet discussions over the next three days.”

He did not say whether Canadian officials are currently considering an order to evacuate families of diplomats stationed at the embassy in Kyiv — as the U.S. began doing over the weekend.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada did not say whether an evacuation of diplomats’ families is being considered, or whether any aspect of the staffing levels at the embassy will change.

“Global Affairs Canada takes the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our missions overseas very seriously,” spokesperson Jason Kung said in an email.

“Global Affairs Canada works with its missions in the development of prudent contingency planning for any type of emergency situation, and continuously monitors the security situation at its missions abroad. We do not discuss operational details of our missions abroad out of security considerations.”

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Trudeau has been facing questions about whether the government will offer additional support to Ukraine to help it prepare for the possibility of a Russian invasion.

Last week, the government committed a $120 million loan to Ukraine.

But the decision by other allied countries to begin sending weapons into Ukraine has sparked questions about why Canada is not doing the same. The United States is sending $200 million worth of weapons to Ukraine, while the American government has also approved requests from defence officials in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to ship U.S.-made weapons in their stockpiles to Ukraine.

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Trudeau was asked on Monday whether Canada will send weapons. He did not directly answer the question.

“We will continue to work closely with the government of Ukraine to ensure they get the support they need,” Trudeau said. “And I’m sure there will be more announcements to come.”

His comments follow Defence Minister Anita Anand saying she did not rule out the possibility of shipping weapons to Ukraine, during an interview on Friday with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson.

Anand said the government is looking to add “further support” amid the continued Russian aggression.

She indicated that more detail on those plans is not long in coming.

“I can say that I’m working with my cabinet colleagues on ways to further support Ukraine, and I will have more to say on those options very shortly,” Anand told Stephenson.

While Russian aggression directed toward eastern European nations is not new, the current tensions come against the background of a renewed bid by Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Russian officials have demanded a guarantee that NATO will not allow Ukraine to join the military alliance, whose backbone is collective, mutual defence.

In short: an attack against one member is an attack against all.

READ MORE: Russia is facing ‘severe’ sanctions for Ukraine threats. Here’s what that could mean

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg cited that principle on Monday in emphasizing the military alliance’s commitment to beefing up its deterrence and defence activities.

He said NATO will “take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies,” adding, “We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence.”

The federal cabinet retreat is scheduled to run until Wednesday.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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