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Ukrainians in Canada

17.08.2017

A UKRAINIAN CANADIAN TAPESTRY IN HAMILTON

 

 

Larysa Zariczniak

Hamilton, Ontario

 

        Why did Ukrainians choose to move to Hamilton, Ontario? What connections lay in the manufacturing city, spread out on the shores of Lake Ontario? How did these Ukrainians create a thriving Ukrainian community in a city tucked between Toronto and Niagara Falls?

        These are some of the questions being asked by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Hamilton Branch. Mary Holadyk created the “A Ukrainian Canadian Tapestry” project from funds provided by the City of Hamilton’s Canada 150 grants in order to capture the stories of Ukrainians in Hamilton.

        Mrs. Holadyk wants to gather as many short family histories as possible to showcase the growth of a people and the growth of a community. It is, above all, a project to see how a community with roots in Ukraine managed to establish itself and flourish in a new country - Canada. This project is not only about the first Ukrainian immigrants - Mrs. Holadyk wants to chart all the waves of Ukrainian immigration to Hamilton, from those who arrived in the early 1900s with Austro-Hungarian passports to those who are arriving today from a free and independent Ukrainian state.

        She includes examples of some famous Ukrainian Canadians that came from Hamilton. William Kurelek’s parents, for instance, moved to Vinemount Hamilton in 1949. However, the most famous Hamiltonian of Ukrainian descent is still Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka. Born in Broderick, Saskatchewan, Sopinka’s parents moved to Hamilton where John when to high school. He would eventually study law at the University of Toronto and even played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Allouettes. However, his passion was for the law and he was called to the bar in 1960. Sopinka was made famous for his defence of Susan Nelles, who was charged for allegedly poisoning babies at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick children in the early 1980s. In 1986 he represented the Ukrainian Canadian Congress at the Deschênes Commission, which was established by the Canadian government in February 1985 to investigate claims that World War Two war criminals were living in Canada. He argued against the deportation of those suspected of war crimes, particularly those who would have been deported to the Soviet Union. The Commission recommended changes to criminal and citizenship laws that set a high bar for proving complicity in war crimes.

        In 1988 Sopinka was appointed directly to the Supreme Court of Canada due to his excellence as a trial lawyer. Sopinka did not have any judicial experience and was the first appointee to the Supreme Court who was not a judge beforehand. In 1999, the new courthouse in Hamilton was named in his honour along with the Sopinka Cup, a national mock trial competition.

        Another Ukrainian from Hamilton who was well loved in the judicial world was Eugene Fedak. The Hamilton native was appointed a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice in 1986 in Newmarket, and in 1992 was the South Central Regional Senior Justice back in Hamilton. As it turns out, Hamilton was the base of many great Canadian legal minds!

        It is these types of stories that Mrs. Holadyk wants to preserve and promote. She wants to document the stories that include “complete changes in your past” that make you “come to Hamilton and grow.” The eventual display will feature a weaving together of the different stories of different parts of the Ukrainian community that center around one constant – Hamilton, Ontario.

        Mrs. Holadyk is asking any Ukrainian Hamiltonians to include their stories in the “Ukrainian-Canadian Tapestry”, along with any pictures. This project will not only display the personal journeys of Ukrainians to Hamilton, but also the progression and change of the Ukrainian community in Hamilton.

        You can email your short family stories to info@ucchamilton.ca or zmholadyk@quickclic.net. To download the project information and application package please go to: https://www.ucchamilton.ca/news-and-events/

 

 

 

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