Canada pledges millions to 'gender-inclusive' effort to remove landmines from Ukraine

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The Canadian government is funding a multimillion-dollar “gender-inclusive” effort in Ukraine to remove landmines and explosive ordnance from the war-torn country, a government official confirmed. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office announced last week that the nation was committing $3.02 billion CAD, or roughly $2.2 billion USD, in financial and military support for Ukraine, as war rages in the country. The press release detailed several initiatives within the funding package, including $4 million CAD, or just under $3 million USD, for an initiative dubbed, “Gender-inclusive demining for sustainable futures in Ukraine.”

“This project from the HALO Trust aims to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of Ukrainians, including women and internally displaced persons, by addressing the threat of explosive ordnance present across vast areas of the country,” the press release on the funding stated.  

“Project activities include conducting non-technical surveys and subsequent manual clearance in targeted communities; providing capacity building to key national stakeholders; and establishing a gender and diversity working group to promote gender-transformative mine action in Ukraine.”

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Trudeau shakes hands with Ukrainian president

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 10, 2023. (Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Fox News Digital reached out to Trudeau’s office for additional details and information on the initiative, which directed Fox to Global Affairs Canada, the government’s agency that manages the country’s diplomatic and consular relations. 

Department spokesperson Charlotte MacLeod said in a statement Canada is funding the project with humanitarian group HALO Trust in an effort to “safeguard the lives and livelihoods of Ukrainians, including women and internally displaced persons.”

“The project will do this by conducting non-technical surveys, explosive ordnance risk education and clearance, as well as building the capacity of state demining institutions,” MacLeod explained. 

HALO Trust “established a dedicated in-house Gender and Diversity Working Group, to ensure gender is integrated into every aspect of HALO’s survey, demining and risk education operations in Ukraine, from recruitment to community engagement,” MacLeod added. 

A Ukrainian mine clearance team gathers and conducts mine and ammunition clearance after Russian forces withdraw from Izyum, Ukraine. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The HALO Trust is a U.K.-based non-governmental organization that works to remove landmines and explosives left in nations following war. The group, founded in 1988, gained international attention back in 1997 when the late Princess Diana walked through HALO’s minefields in Angola, the group states on its website. 

“Clearing landmines inspires confidence by making land safe. It is also empowering for men and women alike. With training and a living wage, they can take control of their destiny,” HALO’s website states. 

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UKRAINE

In this photo provided by the National Police of Ukraine, a police officer and a rescue worker walk in front of a restaurant, RIA Pizza, destroyed by a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. (National Police of Ukraine via AP)

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News of the Canadian government’s commitment to the HALO Trust and its “gender-inclusive demining effort” has left many on social media scratching their heads and others expressing outrage.  

“No joke! YOU’RE ALL PAYING TO PROMOTE GENDER-INCLUSIVE DEMINING IN UKRAINE,” People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier posted. 

“@JustinTrudeau what the hell is this? It isn’t even comprehensible. But it’s really on the website,” author and psychologist Jordan Peterson asked in a post earlier this week when news first surfaced of the plan. 

Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld quipped on “Gutfeld!” this week that the initiative is an example of “peak idiocy.” 

“So how do you know when you’ve reached peak idiocy? When we now need diversity guidelines for clearing landmines. It seems Canada has just donated $4 million bucks toward an effort to clear landmines in Ukraine. But in a gender-inclusive manner,” he said. 

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Trudeau at press conference on Montreal air industry

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

To ensure the project in Ukraine is “gender-inclusive,” the “gender and diversity group” will work to “unite national and international experts to equip HALO and other mine action operators with data and evidence required to go beyond integration of gender equality considerations, towards implementation of gender-transformative mine action programming in Ukraine,” according to MacLeod. 

Canada has a longstanding commitment to “women, peace and security” as part of the country’s global affairs policies. The government explains on its website that Canada “knows that sustainable peace is only possible when women are fully involved in the resolution of conflict.” MacLeod explained that the HALO initiative in Ukraine abides by these commitments, citing a “range of policies” that incorporate “specific interests and needs of women and men.”

“In Ukraine, HALO has been a proponent of gender equality in mine action, a traditionally male-dominated sector. This includes providing fair and equal job opportunities in all program areas, from finance and HR to operational management and explosive ordnance disposal,” the spokesperson said. 

An interior ministry sapper defuses a mine

An interior ministry sapper defuses a mine on a minefield after recent battles in Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The official pointed to HALO’s lobbying efforts in 2017 in Ukraine that advocated for the inclusion of women as deminers. A previous Ukrainian labor law banned women from working as deminers, the Canadian spokesperson said, which HALO successfully advocated to overturn. 

The group has since trained hundreds of women in “demining, team leadership, intermediate care provision and explosive ordnance recognition and disposal.”

Now, according to data provided to Fox News Digital, 29% of HALO’s 1,127-member staff in Ukraine are women, with hopes to increase the proportion of female staff, especially in senior roles, as the group grows, according to MacLeod. 

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Ukrainian emergency personnel

In this photo provided by the National Police of Ukraine, firefighters work to extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on an apartment building area in the town of Uman, 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Kiev, Ukraine, on Friday, April 28, 2023. (National Police of Ukraine via AP)

Feb. 24 marked the second year since Russia officially invaded Ukraine, with Trudeau visiting Ukraine’s capital on the anniversary. 

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“While in Kyiv February 24, Prime Minister Trudeau and the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, held a bilateral meeting to discuss the situation on the ground and Ukraine’s needs over the coming months and the two leaders signed a new, historic agreement on security cooperation between Canada and Ukraine to establish a strategic security partnership. As part of this commitment, Canada will provide $3.02 billion in critical financial and military support to Ukraine in 2024,” the spokesperson added. 

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