Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko returned to Castlegar recently after a week in Russia as a member of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum. Atamanenko was one of 26 Canadian delegates to the forum which took place in Vladivostok from Jan. 27-31 and included 328 delegates from 23 different parliaments throughout the world .
“There’s an organization called the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum which encompasses some 28 countries of the Asia Pacific region and they meet on an annual basis,” said Atamanenko. “This year the meeting was held in Vladivostok in the far east of Russia. Our leader Tom Mulcair asked me if I would be willing to be one of the representatives of our party on this inter-parliamentary group.”
Being able to speak Russian was a big advantage for Atamanenko for the mission. Also, on board for the forum from Canada were two members for Atamanenko’s NDP party, one from the Liberals, three from the Conservatives and three senators.
“This was new to me. I’d never done anything like this before,” he said. “The agenda was basically official greeting. We were hosted by the equivalent of the Russian Senate. Their was an opening ceremony with greetings from a representative of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. We then broke off into plenary sessions.”
The delegates discussed several important topics including political and security matters, economy and trade, and regional cooperation.
“During these plenary sessions on these topics, countries put up a speaker to speak on an issue that normally reflects their government policy,” said Atamanenko. “There were also countries that before hand prepared resolutions.”
Some of the adopted resolutions including combating terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and organized crime; the middle east process; and the middle east peace process.
Also attending the meetings were representatives from Aghanistan, Kazakhstan, and the United Nations who attended as guests.
“It’s hard to measure what the outcome is,” said Atamanenko. “There’s the package of resolutions that will be given to each country. It could be reflected in the policies of governments. I think the biggest thing is that you have parliamentarians from 28 countries meeting and talking and sharing information whether it’s in the official sessions or the break-up groups or socially during the cultural events. I think it’s a really good thing. It builds bonds. There are people here who have been going to these things for years.”
To illustrate his point, Atamanenko relays the story of meeting a parliamentarian from Mongolio who is coming to Canada this year. “I’m hoping to maybe host him in Ottawa,” he said. “Just to keep in contact. So that’s great.”