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Port Coquitlam MLA went to Ukraine three times to monitor elections, calls invasion 'appalling'

As a three-time election observer in Ukraine, Mike Farnworth got to know the people and believes they will succeed in protecting their democracy.
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Thousands of supporters rallied outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday (Feb. 26, 2022) to show solidarity with Ukraine.

A B.C. politician with strong ties to Ukraine, after observing three elections there, is "appalled" at what's going on in the eastern European country.

Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, who is B.C.’s solicitor general and public safety minister, told the Tri-City News today (Feb. 28) he has confidence in the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people and their determination to protect their democracy.

"It’s horrific what’s going on there; it’s terrible, it’s actually appalling," said Farnworth, describing the situation that began with Russian troops invading the country on Feb. 24.

He said he is watching developments "very closely" and feels "absolutely dreadful" about what the people are going through, the fear they must have and worry about family and friends.

"I think the Ukrainians want to be a democratic nation," Farnworth said in hopes the sanctions against Russia will work and the Ukrainians will be able to maintain their democratic institutions.

The B.C. deputy premier was part of a Canadian delegation monitoring three Ukrainian elections, including in 2019 when Canada sent observers to monitor the presidential and parliamentary elections.

He recalled watching the elections, and saw things were running “very smoothly.”

Farnworth told the Tri-City News he was also stationed for one election in the Sumy region, where heavy fighting has been taking place in Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second largest city. 

Farnworth said he also spent time in Kyiv — Ukraine’s capital — and is devastated to see what’s happening as residents are forced to take shelter in subway stations, evacuate or build defences against Russian tanks and arm themselves against the Russian troops.

VILLAGE INVITE

He said his fondest memory of his time in the country was being invited to dinner to a small town that was like something out of a "Tolstoy novel" where his hosts piled his plate with delicious homemade food.

Farnworth spent several years working with various international governance institutions, including in Ukraine and the Balkans.

Canada has a long history of recognizing Ukraine as a democracy.

On Dec. 2, 1991, Canada became the first western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence. 

According to a Canadian government backgrounder on Ukraine elections, Canada has contributed hundreds of election observers to seven successive Ukrainian elections to help further strengthen democracy in the country.

Many in B.C. also support Ukrainian independence.

On Sunday (Feb. 27), a crowd of more than 1,000 waved flags, held up placards or just stood in solidarity on the lawn of the B.C. legislature to show their support for the citizens of Ukraine.

ANTI-VACCINE MANDATE PROTESTERS

Farnworth characterized the protest as "legitimate" and "peaceful" compared a nuisance protest in front of his Port Coquitlam home the previous week, when 30 people rallied in support of the anti-vaccine mandate convoy.

For more than three hours that Saturday (Feb. 19), Farnworth was holed up in his house while the group used bullhorns to yell insults, wave flags and someone even knocked on his door.

Farnworth said the protest was not just a nuisance to himself, but also to the neighbours and required a Coquitlam RCMP security detail for the entire time.

"We notified police because there’s a protocol in place when something like this happens."