First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Mélanie Joly. The parties discussed cooperation in the areas of mental health, barrier-free environment and cultural diplomacy.
The President's wife thanked Mélanie Joly and the entire Canadian people for their comprehensive support for Ukraine in countering Russian aggression and for the strong solidarity of Canada in this difficult time for our country.
"We are grateful for the assistance of the Canadian government to Ukrainian citizens seeking temporary asylum, in particular for the implementation of the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) program. The Ukrainian community in Canada is large and very strong. I had the opportunity to meet with them during my and Volodymyr's visit to Canada in the summer of 2019," the First Lady said.
Olena Zelenska spoke about the work on the preparation and implementation of the All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program, which began in 2022 on her initiative.
"The ambitious goal of the mental health program is to provide high-quality professional assistance during and after the crisis, as well as to increase the ability of the person to cope with complex challenges, melting them into post-traumatic growth," the President's wife said.
According to the First Lady, the experience of the Canadian Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will be very important for Ukraine in this context. She proposed to launch an exchange of knowledge and research results between Ukrainian and Canadian specialists in this area.
"We are also investing a lot of effort in building a barrier-free environment in Ukraine. Many of our people lose their health and suffer injuries that, unfortunately, will remain with them for life as a result of regular shelling, missile and drone attacks. Therefore, barrier-free environment, accessibility of the environment and opportunities is our urgent need," Olena Zelenska emphasized.
According to the President's wife, it will be useful to introduce an exchange of experience between experts from the two countries: "We know that the Enabling Accessibility Fund of Canada funds initiatives aimed at improving accessibility, safety and inclusion for people with disabilities. As the war increases the number of people in need of inclusion, we would like to use your experience and establish direct cooperation between Canadian and Ukrainian specialists."
The parties also discussed cultural cooperation, in particular the implementation of the Ukrainian Bookshelf project in Canadian libraries, aimed at distributing Ukrainian books in the original and translated versions abroad. At the initiative of Olena Zelenska, the project has been implemented in 26 countries, including Austria, Türkiye, Lithuania, Slovakia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Latvia, Finland, Jordan, Croatia, Lebanon, Japan, Belgium, Albania, and Spain. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the Ukrainian Book Institute, and Ukrainian embassies that are involved in the transfer of books to libraries.
At the same time, the First Lady called on Canada to support a ban on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"Russia is actively using sports to propagandize the war against Ukraine. Many athletes from Russia and Belarus openly support the war against Ukraine. We believe that the aggressor must have no place in international competitions," the President's wife said.