Main Menu

Home  » Diaspora





Ihor Broda July 1, 2017

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Anniversaries are a good time for reflection, and as we celebrate the 150th. anniversary of Confederation, we should remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to live in Canada. For Ukrainian immigrants, Canada turned out to be the “promised land”, although not without some dark days in the early years of settlement in Canada. Hardship, internment and discrimination were eventually overcome and Kiriak’s, “Sons of the Soil” became Slavutych’s, “Conquerors of the Prairies” and were fully integrated into Canadian society.

      Ukrainian Canadians have played an important role in Canada’s development over the 125 years since Ukrainians first came to Canada: in

agriculture, in politics at all levels, in the military, in business and the

professions, in education and in all walks of life.

      Besides conquering the prairies, perhaps the most important achievement of Ukrainian Canadians, for Canada was the implementation of the policy of “official multiculturalism” which was the federal government’s response to Ukrainian Canadian input into the “Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism” of the 1960’s. This policy was proclaimed in October 1971 in

Parliament, and in public at the triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians in Winnipeg a few days later, by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

      The late Senator Paul Yuzyk is recognized as the “father of multiculturalism”. Ukrainian Canadians (Lupul, Tarnopolsky, Decore and Romanov) were the proponents of an interpretation clause, sec. 27, being included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in 1982, which provided that this Charter “shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” In 1988 this was followed by the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

      Multiculturalism is often considered as one of Canada’s significant accomplishments, and a key distinguishing element of Canadian identity. In 1982 the Aga Khan described Canada as “the most successful pluralist society on the face of the globe, citing it as a model for the world”. In 2016 The Economist described Canada as “the most successful multicultural society in the West, arguing that Canada’s multiculturalism was a source of strength that united the diverse population, attracted immigrants from around the world and was an engine of economic growth.”

      On the eve of Canada 150, the New York Times ran several stories praising Canada’s multiculturalism and immigration policies, maintaining that these were “reasons why populism has failed to break through in Canada, and why Canada’s politics remain stable.” The story went on to state that “Canada is a mosaic rather than a melting pot, a place that celebrates different backgrounds.” “This dynamic may also have made Canada resistant to political extremism and the polarization plaguing other Western countries”.

      Political scientists, historians, journalists and other commentators may often forget the Ukrainian Canadian initiative for the policy of multiculturalism in Canada, but this contribution should not be forgotten by Ukrainian Canadians. It is a policy that promotes national unity, acceptance, tolerance, inclusion, understanding, consensus, sharing and communication and freedom. It is a policy which promotes human rights and dignity, and derives from the Cossack spirit of Ukrainians who sought human dignity and freedom from serfdom. It is a spirit which still manifests itself in Ukraine today.

      This policy should continue to be a beacon for our community and guide the future work of our organized community, because racism and discrimination still occur in Canada, in recent forms of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ukrainian Canadians must never forget the experiences of the early pioneers and why they fought for equality and recognition, in the land where they sought freedom and opportunity. Our work is still incomplete!

      Indigenous people, the first Canadians, have used Canada 150 as a time tovoice grievances over their plight in Canada and how they still trail other Canadians in economic opportunity, and how Canada has failed them in comparison to other Canadians. In its July 2017, Canada 150 commemorative issue, Maclean’s magazine ran an interview with Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He indicated that he went to elementary school in Goodeve, Saskatchewan, which he described as a small Ukrainian town. He indicated that he was the only native in school and learned to make allies and build bridges. He said, “I still speak some Ukrainian-what a beautiful language and culture.” It appears that Ukrainians in town treated him well and we should be proud of that. He said that “his mother taught him seven sacred teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, truth.” These are all principles underlying Christianity and the policy of multiculturalism. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress should make Bellegarde an honourary Ukrainian Canadian, and engage with him in seeing how our community can help him in his work to improve the status and plight of Indigenous Canadians. The lesson he teaches is that when people treat someone with respect, it will be reciprocated. An opportunity for building bridges and helping a group that desperately needs help, presents itself. While our community is focused on helping Ukraine, we should remember that Ukraine has received assistance from Canada and other countries, and reciprocity should include helping our Indigenous Canadian neighbours whose needs and problems have been neglected.

      Canada 150 has inspired introspection, self-criticism, and some self-loathing and self-flagellation. Canadians are often prone to this and raining on our own parade is common. Others have pointed out the many reasons for celebrating, even though we have not yet achieved utopia. Being humans governed by other humans, we never will. Being an unabashed Canadian I wholeheartedly agree with an editorial in the Globe and Mail. “Cherish this country, one of history’s greatest creations. Canada has a leading claim to being…the most successful country on the planet, and the best place to be an average citizen, anywhere, ever.” Maclean’s editorial also speaks volumes in three words, “Second to none”.

      The Maclean’s issue mentioned above, also has an article which points out, “The UN “Human Development Index” ranks Canada among the 10 best countries to achieve one’s maximum potential.” Interestingly, a recent article in an American publication points out that “You’re almost twice as likely to reach the ‘American Dream’ in Canada.” The Maclean’s article continues, “The Social Progress Index”, a detailed assessment of how a country meets its citizens’ needs, consistently ranks Canada among the top three nations in the world. We are among the world’s best nations for providing basic medical care, access to education and safeguarding individual rights. It should be no surprise the World Economic Forum ranks Canadians as among the very happiest people in the world. ... Of all our accomplishments as a nation, our unrivalled ability to welcome all, and protect all should be one of which we are all proud.”

      Canada has a magnificent social safety net, the world’s 10th. largest economy, economic prosperity, rule of law and equality under the law, universal healthcare, a Canada Pension Plan mandatory for all, strong rulesbased institutions, mandatory public education and accessible higher education, vast natural resources, great natural beauty, relative political civility among competing political parties, a high quality of life and a high standard of living, and ranks at the top for per capita GDP. Canada’s global influence has grown and recently the Reputation Institute named Canada as the world’s most reputable country with a high internal self-image. And yet some will always “find bones in the milk” to use an old Ukrainian adage.

      In addition to the above, Canada’s record in defence of freedom and democracy, against tyranny and in support of universal human rights, should make Canadians even prouder. 102 years ago, Lt. Col. John McCrae, in his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”, symbolically defined the responsibility of future generations of Canadians:

“Take up our quarrel with the foe

To you, from failing hands we throw

The torch: be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die,

We shall not sleep…”

      Generations of Canadians have held the torch high: from Flanders Fields to Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Hill 70 and numerous other battles of WW I; to Juno Beach and numerous other battles in WW II; the Korean War; numerous U.N. peace keeping missions throughout the world; the “Canadian Caper” rescuing American diplomats from the frenzied fanatics of Iran’s Revolution; Operation Desert Shield, a strong anti-apartheid stance for justice in South Africa; the NATO anti-genocide actions in the Kosovo War; against Taliban fanatics in Afghanistan; and more recently against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Rt. Hon. Lester Pearson was one of the fathers of UN peacekeeping, during the 1956 Suez crisis, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Canada was always a reliable ally, regardless of how much of our GDP is spent on the military.

      All these Canadian efforts were in defence of freedom, and were all consistent with Canadian values, in furtherance of international peace and security, and never in furtherance of imperial conquest nor to subjugate any peoples. We proudly remember and honour those who fought, served and died!

      When Ukraine declared independence in 1991, Canada again stepped

forward to lend support. Several days later, when Ukrainian Canadians were holding a commemoration of the 100th. anniversary of Ukrainian

settlement in Canada in Edmonton, at a meeting with a delegation of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, promised that if Ukraine ratified the Proclamation of Independence in the referendum of December 1, 1991, Canada would immediately grant diplomatic recognition to Ukraine. This was Ukraine’s first commitment of diplomatic recognition and in September 1991 when acting President Leonid Krawchuk, and his acting foreign minister Zlenko, came to Canada, Brian Mulroney, repeated this promise, and they then used this promise in the referendum campaign to allay any fears in Ukraine that independence would not be recognized by other countries. After 92.3 % of voters in the referendum supported the Declaration of Independence, Canada was the second country after Poland (due to the 6-hour time difference) to grant official diplomatic recognition to Ukraine. Promise made and promise kept! At the UCC congress in 1992 in introducing Brian Mulroney, I promised him that his name would be written in golden letters in Ukrainian history, as a Godfather of Ukraine’s independence.

      Since that time, Canada has been a stalwart friend and ally of Ukraine in international tribunals, and has provided significant assistance to Ukraine through various projects and funding in support for democratic development, human rights promotion and support for the development of civil society. Various projects have focused on furtherance of rule of law and improving judicial independence. Canada has supported sustainable economic growth, provided humanitarian assistance, and through the Stabilization and Peace Operations Task Force (START) has supported initiatives to address Ukraine’s most immediate stabilization requirements, including police reform, election and cease-fire monitoring and other needs. Canada has provided significant Defence and Security Assistance including providing training and advisors. Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiative, support has been provided for small projects run by Ukrainian civil society organizations, village councils, local academic institutions and grassroots

initiatives, across Ukraine.

      This level of support for Ukraine has continued throughout 26 years of Ukraine’s independence and Ukrainians in Ukraine know that Canada is a true and loyal friend and ally. Ukrainian Canadians are overcome with pride that Canada has extended such friendship and support to Ukraine, and we sleep easier during these trying times knowing that Ukraine has such a faithful ally. Support for Ukraine crosses party lines and enjoys the wide support of the Canadian public.

      In his greeting to Canada on Canada 150, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, paid tribute to Ukrainian Canadians for their contribution to Canada, stressing the historic family ties that bind them to Ukraine. He also expressed thanks to Canada for its continuing support, for improved economic relations under the recent free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine, and joint support for freedom and democracy to live in a free world.

      During the recent crisis in Ukraine, some in the West have suggested that “Finlandization” should be considered for Ukraine in its relations with Russia. “Finlandization” is a policy by which a stronger country, Russia, makes a smaller country, in this case Finland, abide by it foreign policy rules, while allowing it to keep its nominal independence and its own political system. The ill-fated Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654, teaches that this would be a deadly policy for Ukraine. History also teaches that appeasement only leads to oppression and possibly war.

      Canada should promote a policy of “Canadianization of Ukraine”. Canada lives next to America, the world’s most powerful country, economically and militarily, with which it shares the world’s longest undefended border. Canada is free to enter into international alliances, some of which include the U.S. and some of which do not: e.g. the British Commonwealth, Francophonie, and Canada has recently concluded a trade agreement with the EU. Canada is free to adopt its own foreign policy and historically once avoided membership in the Organization of American States (OAS), and had a friendlier policy towards Cuba. Yet, America is Canada’s largest trading

partner, at least until recently, and a strong ally.

      Canada is a beacon of democracy and freedom and can provide a role model for the continued evolution of Ukraine into democratic governance, hopefully free of the rampant corruption which still exists. Canadian institutions and rule of law can provide guidance to Ukraine to create a more just and prosperous society. Today’s Russia, which is a captured state and kleptocracy, cannot serve as a useful model for Ukraine’s development, nor anyone else’s. Ukraine as a sovereign country, should be able to follow its own path of development and seek beneficial economic partnerships and alliances in its own interests. “Canadianization of Ukraine”, could also

serve as a model for other former Soviet countries, and hopefully, even

provide a model for the future evolution of Russia into a democracy, with which Ukraine will want to trade and have beneficial and friendly relations, just like Canada and the U.S.

      Both Canada and Ukraine, to varying degrees, are still works in progress, and both now face some uncertainty with the advent of a new president in the U.S. Canada faces a threat to its existing trade relations under NAFTA, and to historic alliances such as NATO. Ukraine faces a continuing existential threat from a regressive and belligerent Russia. To date, the U.S. under its new president has shown a schizophrenic foreign policy towards Russia and traditional American allies. Some members of the U.S. cabinet have shown a preference for historic U.S. foreign policy and support historic U.S. allies. The U.S. President seems to be erratic and it is difficult to predict from one day to the next, in which direction U.S. foreign policy will proceed. Both Canada and Ukraine, share a commitment to defending “liberal democracy” and international security. Canada and Ukraine are natural allies in defending and preserving this common commitment, and to preserving international security and peace.


Vive le Canada!

Vive l’Ukraine libre!

Vive la democratie liberale!





Todays Top News




Home | About Ukrainian Echo | Subscribe | Advertise | Contact us | Links
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada.