After previously saying she doesn’t want to “relitigate” past statements and calling opposition criticism “offensive,” Danielle Smith issued a public apology Tuesday evening.
The new Alberta premier said she made “ill-advised comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” prior to being elected leader of the United Conservative Party on Oct. 6.
“My knowledge and opinion of this matter have drastically evolved since that time, and I apologize for those previous comments,” Smith said in a statement on social media. The Twitter comments on her post were turned off.
In a livestream on Locals.com on April 29, Smith was asked about her thoughts on the “peace plan for Ukraine, Russia.” She answered by giving a hypothetical where Canada has nuclear weapons and is aligned with Russia, and how that would upset the U.S.
“So, why would we be surprised if Russia is upset because Ukraine has nuclear weapons and is aligned with the United States?” she said. “I think the only answer for Ukraine is neutrality.”
In a post on Feb. 24, Smith also wondered if areas of Ukraine should be allowed to break away and govern themselves independently if they want.
“It seems to me the great powers of the world did a terrible job defining the new borders of countries after WWII. So much of the conflict we have had since is due to different people being crammed under one national government that don’t like each other,” the post said.
Smith also suggested Ukraine give up its nuclear weapons, something that happened in the 1990s.
A board member of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation said Smith’s comments “demonstrate a profound ignorance of history,” and opposition critic Sarah Hoffman called her statements “tone deaf” and “cruel.”
The UCP held a caucus meeting in Sylvan Lake on Tuesday where several MLAs dodged questions about Smith’s controversial comments.
“I think it’s fair you ask her for details on what she may or may not have meant (about the war), so I won’t speak for the premier,” finance minister Jason Nixon said, adding he agrees with Smith on how to “support” Ukraine.
In her apology, Smith said she’s directed her staff to “reach out to Alberta’s Ukrainian community leaders” in order to see what more Alberta can do to help refugees settle in the province.
Smith also issued a statement last week to “clarify” but not apologize for saying unvaccinated Canadians are the “most discriminated group” she’s witnessed in her lifetime.
With files from CTV News Calgary’s Nicole Di Donato and The Canadian Press
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