"Building a Future '96" conference explores Ukrainian-Canadian issues

by Andrij Kudla Wynnyckyj
Toronto Press Bureau


EDMONTON - As part of the "Building the Future '96" conference held jointly with the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) in early October, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress's Alberta Provincial Council organized parallel sessions with eight panels concerning "Canadians in Ukraine Today" (that is, various assistance programs for the nascent state) and "Ukrainian Canadians Today."

Canadian unity panel

Michael Hamelin, president of the Montreal-based Alliance Quebec, led off by presenting what amounted to a besieged Anglophone's vision of the political climate in his province. He railed against the "conditioning process" abetted by Parti Québécois (separatist) provincial governments of the late 1970s and 1990s that allegedly turned the local population against federalism. He claimed that the "language crisis has been manufactured" and that Francophones have little or no reason to be concerned about the assimilationist pressures exerted by the Anglophone majority culture in North America. Mr. Hamelin also accused the PQ of wholesale electoral fraud in last year's referendum on sovereignty.

Thus, Mr. Hamelin's speech had more to do with Canadian polarization rather than unity. Multiculturalism came in for less blame than usual, but his presentation was met mostly with unease.

In fact, multiculturalism was cited as an antidote to such fractiousness by the other two speakers of the panel, the first of whom was Roger Lalonde, president of the French Canadian Association of Alberta (ACFA). He stressed that French Canadians outside Quebec are overwhelmingly in favor of continued confederation, and that their ties to the population of that province are stronger than any separatist politician imagines.

Mr. Lalonde declared that the struggle for acceptance of 7 million Francophones in Canada "has been won for all practical purposes... because the policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism have enriched our country to the point that the entire world envies our quality of life." The ACFA president added, "we are all ethnic Canadians, whether of Native, French, British, Asian, Central or Eastern European background." In conclusion, he said that continued diversification is the key to the country's unity.

Bill Pidruchney, a former chairman of the Alberta Securities Commission and self-proclaimed "multiculturalist," largely concurred with Mr. Lalonde, adding that Canadians should remain aware that immigrants tend to be the most patriotic adherents of a national idea, since it is something they came here to benefit from.

Two other panels, one on Ukrainian dance as a Canadian art form, and the other, which addressed Ukrainian cultural heritage in rural Alberta, dealt with Ukrainian Canadian cultural issues.

Energy industry developments

Dennis Yurkiwsky, chief financial officer of the Toronto-based Ukrainian Enterprise Corp. (UEC), began by giving a North American private-enterprise view of Ukraine's energy sector. Mr. Yurkiwsky said that while a national energy grid has been created and over 20 projects to refashion the way hydro-electric and thermal plants provide enterprises and cities with energy have been set in motion, a three-year-old presidential decree (dating back to Leonid Kravchuk) banning privatization of thermal energy enterprises threatens the viability of these projects.

Mr. Yurkiwsky provided general statistics indicating that because of lagging technology, existing oil and gas extraction sites in the country operate at about 30 percent efficiency. He pointed out that Canadian companies are uniquely suited to upgrade the technology in Ukraine, as they have learned to overcome geological anomalies such as those present in Ukraine.

Mr. Yurkiwsky then outlined one of UEC's investment targets: the support for a Donetsk coal tailings reclamation project that will greatly moderate, if not eliminate, the environmental blight caused by the many so-called "terri-cones" dotting the countryside near southeastern Ukraine's coal mines.

Don Wilson, a former official of the Alberta Economic Trade Development department responsible for assessing oil and gas potential in Central Europe and Ukraine, described the potential sites for exploitation in Transcarpathia, in the Pryluky-Poltava region and in Crimea.

Mr. Wilson said that, at most, Ukraine's oil deposits would provide about 50 percent of its needs if exploited efficiently, up from the current figure of about 5 to 15 percent, but doubted the country could ever become a net exporter. He added that the situation with gas was somewhat more optimistic, given the potential shown by offshore deposits located in the Black Sea, but would be tempered by the probable gradual decommissioning of the country's nuclear plants.

Ernie Manko, a veteran oil geologist and consultant for the Calgary-based Ukrainian Capital Equities Inc., provided a more technical focus on the potential of sites in the Kerch (Crimea) and Poltava regions, and the present output of Dnipro-Donbas sites being exploited by the Canadian Ukran Oil Co. and other firms.

Terry Roberts, executive director of the Canada Ukraine Business Initiative and a former Alberta provincial deputy minister for energy, lauded CIUS efforts in establishing his agency and for its work in fostering contacts between Canada and Ukraine at the professional, business and academic levels. Mr. Roberts also announced the CUBI will hold a conference in June 1997 in three Canadian cities on energy (in Calgary), agriculture (Regina) and Winnipeg (construction).

Technical assistance projects update

Prof. Walter Mis of the University of Alberta faculty of law and Dr. Bohdan Klid of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies reported on the Canada-Ukraine Legislative Cooperation Project, which has drawn on the know-how of management and legal experts in Canada, and for which Canadian International Development Agency funding was announced in April.

Prof. Mis, project director of the program, said it aims to both fill a void in terms of legal concepts associated with property by sending practicing lawyers and law professors to Ukraine and bring 18 law teachers from that country to study at various institutions in North America.

Dr. Ehor Gauk of the five-year-old OSVITA Medical Project, showed a slide presentation of its efforts, which range from focusing on the health and hygiene of mothers and children in areas affected by the Chornobyl disaster to providing computers for database maintenance and equipment for diagnostic laboratories in a number of Ukraine's regions, and which involved drawing on the resources of all 16 of Canada's medical schools.

Dr. Roman Petryshyn of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation explained the need for a convergence of individual and community volunteer efforts and the projects conducted by corporations, and governmental and professional agencies. He proposed that the CUF, as an arm of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, could have a coordinating role and serve as an "institutional memory and experience bank" for projects.

In a separate workshop on land privatization in Ukraine, Terry MacNeill, director of UMA Engineering's Ukraine Project, reported on the effort to establish a land registry that will make the transition to private ownership and farm operation, based on Alberta's Torrens system of land assessment. He said the basic system was put in place, training was completed and that registration in the region of Kosiv, in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast would be effected by Ukrainians whose expertise would no doubt be in demand throughout the country.

New Canadians

During the panel dealing with immigration to Canada, Ela Tuszynska of the Alberta branch of the Citizenship and Immigration Department led off by offering a generalized and wan view of the services provided by government to "establish a bridge between the newcomer and the mainstream," and the factors affecting the ability of newly arrived individuals to integrate with the host society.

Maria Stebelsky, president of the national Ukrainian Canadian Social Services, spoke in general about the great stresses endured by migrants, threw in some metaphors of "birds mustering before takeoff," the occasional "dysfunctional flocking together" of Ukrainians in Canada and the need for empathy for immigrants, but provided little in the way of specifics about the functioning of the UCSS and the assistance it offers.

Bill Diachuk, president of the UCSS Edmonton branch, gave a sketch of local efforts to settle Ukrainians arriving from Poland in the mid to late 1980s under the now-defunct federal Self-Exile Program, and of the work done on behalf of refugees from the conflict zone in the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Diachuk also addressed the disappearance of programs that previously had enabled Ukrainians to apply for landed immigrant status in Canada upon arrival or from points in the U.S. He called on the Ukrainian Canadian community to both be more active in informing friends and relatives in Ukraine of the situation, and to lobby for a change in governmental policy.


Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, November 17, 1996, No. 46, Vol. LXIV

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