Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday: Ukrainian Canadians deserve thanks

Canada turned 150 on July 1. From “a few acres of snow” it has been transformed into one of the world’s most prosperous countries, consistently ranking in the top 10 happiest places to live. It is also a global leader in human rights and multiculturalism. Canadians of Ukrainian descent were instrumental in developing both concepts. Walter Tarnopolsky led the articulation of human rights and civil liberties domestically and internationally.

Co-organizers of the March 13 benefit lunch in Longboat Key, Fla., for Olha Onyshko’s “Women of Maidan” film project. From left are: Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Ken Hepburn, Ms. Onyshko, Anisa Mycak, George Mycak and Roma Rainey.

How to make $2,500 in three hours

Here’s a way to make money. You need a fine cause, good friends and a determination to make it happen. This is how it happened in Longboat Key, Fla. Olha Onyshko, M.FA. in film and video from American University and a D.C. area-resident, was in Florida screening her documentary film “Women of Maidan” at the Fort Myers Documentary Film Festival about 100 miles away.

Urging Trudeau to influence Trump

Canadians, indeed the entire democratic world, are concerned about the foreign policy positions articulated by President-elect Donald Trump. The Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine (cg4du.blogspot.com) has written a letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, setting out some of the key foreign policy issues for democratic-minded Canadians regarding Ukraine. I am a founding member and a co-writer of the letter. It is offered in my column with the view that other groups and individuals will produce similar policy positions addressed to authorities because in democracies silence means agreement. Act now!

The next huge challenge

Challenges are something Ukrainians settling in Canada, and around the world, know well. Some 125 years ago it was the challenge of being among the first non-traditional (Anglo Celtic or French) groups to settle in Canada. Landing here was as foreign then as landing on the moon would be today; then, it was without the NASA support. The settlers were assigned plots at the end of the railway track and dumped to fend for themselves. There was no housing, no schools or hospitals, not even roads.

125 years of Ukrainians in Canada

Nothing, absolutely nothing, convinces me more of the future of Ukrainians in Canada than Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s “Counting Sheep,” a guerrilla folk opera staged in Toronto. The performance was phenomenal – and filled to capacity. The interactive cast and audience sang, danced, battled, shouted, threw bricks and wept. The mostly non-Ukrainian audience lived through the life cycle of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity in the 99-minute performance. Believe it or not, real borsch was served a la the soup kitchens on Kyiv’s Maidan.

Going forward: Three steps

The two-year battle to defend Ukraine from Russia calls for an assessment. High marks go to Ukraine’s ATO forces. Originating with the young protesters from the Maidan, the fighters had little but their bare hands to repel the invader. Not only have they withstood Russia, virtually on their own, but their endurance is accumulating other benefits for Ukraine. Primarily, it’s the image.

125 years in Canada: What now?

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. Not too many plans have been shared to date, hence I am offering some of my ideas on how to mark this important historic year and going forward. 1. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights might develop a historic time line marking Canada’s development in human rights based on lessons learned from its harsh treatment to Ukrainians; Canada’s first major non-Anglo-Celtic, non-Francophone settlement. This would be a fine tribute to a founding Canadian community and a history of progress in human rights.

Canada’s Ukraine agenda under the Liberals

Canada’s October elections returned the Liberal Party to power and relegated Prime Minister Steven Harper’s Conservatives to the opposition. What does this mean for Canada’s relations with Ukraine? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made promises during the election campaign suggesting that it will be business as usual – even better. For example, speaking at a pre-elections roundtable to a primarily Ukrainian Canadian audience, he promised to provide “staunch support for Ukraine” and take a “firm stance against Russian military aggression.”

He also dealt with the release of political prisoners, including pilot Nadiya Savchenko; the addition of two key Russians – Igor Sechin and Vladimir Yakunin – to Canada’s sanction list; and removing Russia from the critically important SWIFT banking system, which would virtually stop its international money transactions. Canada’s influence will be used, said Mr. Trudeau, to seek support from international institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – to strengthen Ukraine’s economy, to move forward in reforms and stem corruption.

People’s patience is running out

Dear Editor:

Regarding “U.S. officials criticize Ukraine’s prosecutors for failure of reforms” by Zenon Zawada (October 17): this excellent article makes it clear that the Procurator General’s Office (PGO) must be cleansed, or else Ukraine’s efforts to capitalize on the victory of its Maidan and Donbas heroes and move forward is doomed. Bravo to the U.S. officials for pressuring President Petro Poroshenko to do so. The key indicator of progress in corruption reforms will be the prosecution of Berkut leaders in connection with the murders of the “Nebesna Sotnia” (Heavenly Brigade). Here, Procurator Viktor Shokin must do the right thing, or else resign or be dismissed. President Poroshenko says the evidence is available at the PGO to prosecute them.

Answer these questions if you want my support!

There was a lack of emphasis on Russia’s terror in Ukraine during the recent Republican Party presidential contenders’ debate. Russia must be pleased. True, several chided the current administration for its tepid response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine; even criticized U.S. participation in the dismantling of Ukraine’s nuclear capability. None, however, went as far as admitting that the U.S., and other signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, have a legal obligation to defend Ukraine after insisting it give up its nukes to the Russians. Now Russia is the ultimate threat to global peace and security as it deliberately advances its aggression.