January 19, 2014

2013: Ukrainian Canadians: speaking out on the issues


Oksana Struk

Chrystia Freeland, candidate for the Canadian Parliament, with her children during the parade of the Toronto Ukrainian Festival on September 13.

For Ukrainian Canadians, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR), scheduled to open in Winnipeg in September 2014, continued to be an issue of discussion and contention. In early 2013 it was reported the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) had held a two-day board meeting to discuss the issues, which primarily concern the inclusion of Canada’s First National Internment operations of 1914-1920 as well as the Holodomor, as exhibits in the CMHR. The board unanimously adopted a motion reiterating its position – held for the last nine years – in support of a permanent, prominent and distinct gallery for the Holodomor at the CMHR, as well as a permanent and dedicated exhibit on the internment.

CMHR’s CEO, Stuart Murray, its head curator, Dr. Clint Curle, and director of communications, Angela Cassie, attended the late December 2012 meeting with the UCC. They presented the proposed content and layout of the CMHR, in which the UCC board expressed disappointment. The UCC board established an Advisory and Coordinating Committee (ACCE), whose role is to provide support to the CMHR on academic research and artifacts on Ukrainian issues. The committee is to be convened and directed by Dr. Jurij Darewych, Valentina Kuryliw and Iryna Mycak.

Vicki Karpiak (left), daughter of the late Sen. Paul Yuzyk, presents the Yuzyk “First Day Issue” commemorative stamp in the Senate of Canada to Sen. Raynell Andreychuk (center) and Minister Jason Kenney on October 24.

Vicki Karpiak (left), daughter of the late Sen. Paul Yuzyk, presents the Yuzyk “First Day Issue” commemorative stamp in the Senate of Canada to Sen. Raynell Andreychuk (center) and Minister Jason Kenney on October 24.

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) also was active in the discussion on the exhibits planned for the CMHR. It began a national educational campaign raising concerns over CMHR’s failure to include any significant exhibit dealing with the story of Canada’s first internment operations. The UCCLA released a postcard highlighting the case of one World War I internee – Montreal-born child Mary Manko Haskett – who had been interned with her parents and siblings in the Spirit Lake Camp in Quebec. Roman Zakaluzny, president of UCCLA, maintained that the Ukrainian community is being punished for having raised objections about CMHR’s contents and governance, the exclusion or the trivializing of Ukrainian-related content. CMHR relegates the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-1933, in which millions of Ukrainians perished, to a secondary gallery. He maintained that the taxpayer-supported museum references the World War I internment operations only in passing, although this was a thoroughly Canadian story of human rights.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada (foreground) and Ukrainian Canadian Congress National President Paul Grod are greeted by the Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Group at the XXIV triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians, which was held on November 8-10.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada (foreground) and Ukrainian Canadian Congress National President Paul Grod are greeted by the Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Group at the XXIV triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians, which was held on November 8-10.

During 2013, the UCCLA also continued its project of memorializing sites of internment camps with plaques or exhibits, supported by the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, a redress settlement that the Canadian government had created in 2008. An exhibit was opened to provide information about two internment camps, which existed in what is now Banff National Park, from July 14, 1915, to July 15, 1917. On September 13 a permanent exhibit at Cave and Basin National Historic Site at Banff, on a site set beside the actual place where the internee barracks once stood, was opened. Parks Canada had been provided with the resources to help build it.

A trilingual (English, French, Ukrainian) plaque was unveiled at the Exhibition Grounds in Lethbridge, Alberta ,on October 29. The plaque marks the site of an internment camp that was in operation from September 30, 1914, to November 7, 1916. This is the 22nd plaque placed by the UCCLA, leaving only two camp sites out of the total 24 – Montreal and Halifax – to be memorialized.

The celebration of the centenary of Plast continued during 2013 in Winnipeg with an exhibition and public lecture. The exhibition, “The Story of Plast,” organized by Oseredok – the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Center – and curated by Executive Director Sophia Kachor, was officially opened on October 21 by Prof. Jaroslav Rozumnyj. It portrayed a unique narrative of an organization that was founded in western Ukraine, banned there by Polish authorities, survived clandestinely through repressions and World War II, was successfully “exported” abroad and finally “imported” back to the homeland in the early 1990s. The story was illustrated with photos from the Central State Historical Archives of Lviv, Archives of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, archives of Plast in Ukraine, the United States and Manitoba, as well as the collection of Oseredok.

Complementing the “Story of Plast” was an exhibition of artwork by Plast’s youngest members, depicting scenes of favorite activities with symbols and ceremonies. On November 18, the senior historian at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, Radomir Bilash, gave a presentation about Plast in Canada in the 1930s. He traced the interest of various parties in those years in establishing Plast in Canada; those early groups calling themselves Plast or “plastuny” were ultimately integrated into the Boy Scouts of Canada.

The centenary was also marked by a Ukrainian-language documentary film “100 Rokiv Plastovoyi Ideyi” (known in English as “100 Years of Ukrainian Scouting”) which was shown in Montreal on February 24. (It had already been shown at the centenary celebrations in Lviv in the summer of 2012 and Toronto’s centennial celebrations in October 2012). The 30-minute film was produced and edited by Montreal based filmmaker Yurij Luhovy. The film screening was enthusiastically received, during which Mr. Luhovy acknowledged the film’s initiator and director Tanya Dzulynsky and graphic designer Adriana Luhova. Mr. Luhovy noted that the film was an example of how the Ukrainian diaspora, after World War II, continued the work of Plast, which had been founded in Lviv in 1911-1912 and banned by the Polish authorities in 1930. The film is narrated by Irena Korpan with original music by Roman Luhovy of Kyiv.

Mr. Luhovy was also responsible for the production of the first French version of the documentary film “Ukrainians in Quebec 1891-1945” (“Les Ukrainiens du Québec”) which premiered on June 17 at the Spirit Lake Internment Interpretive Center. The keynote speaker was François Gendron, deputy premier of Quebec, who expressed delight that the history of early Ukrainian settlement was now available to Quebec’s majority Francophone population. Mr. Luhovy, who was producer and director of the documentary, gave an overview of how the original English-language version of the film was made and shot in 16 mm film in the mid-1970s. The film includes a section on the internment of Ukrainians at the Spirit Lake camp

The Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK) held its 55th national congress, hosted by the Ukrainian Students’ Society at the University of Alberta on May 9-12. The four-day congress featured professional seminars on topics such as: the Holodomor, George Orwell and the refugees (Andrea Chalupa), contemporary politics in Ukraine (Marta Farion), the UCC (Daria Luciw), the Shevchenko Foundation (Andriy Hladyshevsky), business and the Ukrainian connection (Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce) and others. Participants also attended social and team-building activities – they brainstormed ideas on this year’s selected problem: the decline of bilingual education in Canada. In the elections of the executive Christine Czoli was voted as SUSK president.

Volunteer organizations are the mainstay of Ukrainian community life, but sometimes they need to brush up on how to plan strategy and tactics. To assist them, an all-day leadership workshop, “Stronger Communities Through Stronger Organizations,” was held on April 13. It was co-sponsored by the UCC and the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation (UCEF) and attracted 70 participants, representing 30 Ukrainian Canadian organizations. The conference was the brainchild of Christine Kuzyk, a development manager for UCEF. She opened the proceedings and introduced the facilitator, Elisabeth Way of Management Stratagems Group, who outlined the need for institutional balance between dynamic vision and charismatic leadership on the one hand, and sound management and fiscal stewardship on the other. Alex Kuzma, chief development officer for UCEF, spoke about the challenges facing many organizations which have become risk-averse, prone to be overly cautious, unoriginal. Formal presentations at the sessions were interspersed with group discussions. Two other consultants explained how organizations build strong relationships with their donors. In summing up, several community leaders gave positive feedback on the workshop but said that talking was not enough: “Great ideas! Now we need to follow through and implement.”

The news at the end of 2012 that the Canadian government intended to create a Canadian Museum of History on the site of the current Museum of Civilization created some concern about the fate of one of the most prominent artifacts in the Canada Hall of the Museum of Civilization. Originally erected by Ukrainian Catholic pioneers in 1907, in the town of Smoky Lake, Alberta, a modest chapel was replaced in 1913 by a sanctuary designed by the missionary priest and architect, the Rev. Philip Ruh, a native of Alsace Lorraine. It was dedicated to St. Onufrius and served its parishioners until 1964 when, due to depopulation, the congregation was no longer viable. Thirty years later the church was donated to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. It was disassembled, shipped and then reassembled inside the Canada Hall of the museum, reconsecrated and opened to the public on June 18, 1996. The UCC concern as to the future of the St. Onuphrius Church received reassurance from president of the Museum of Civilization that the church would continue to be featured in the new history museum.

The Globe and Mail became the fifth recipient of the John Syrnick Journalism Award. The Toronto newspaper was chosen for providing illuminating coverage of an issue significant to Ukrainian Canadians: the 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Dr. Christine Turkewych, selection committee chair, said that the newspaper’s coverage of the elections was presented with well-researched and thoroughly written articles of importance and relevance to all Canadians. The articles were authored by Brian Bonner, John Doyle, Ambassador Derek Fraser and John Stackhouse. The 2013 Syrnick Award was presented on April 24 at Massey College, University of Toronto, by Sen. Raynell Andreychuk and Andrew Hladyshevsky, president of the Shevchenko Foundation, which sponsors the award.

Awards and honors were given out during the year through the UCC. On February 8, Dr. Orest Cap and Sophia Kachor were awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal at a special awards ceremony at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and presented by UCC President Paul Grod on behalf of the Governor General. Dr. Cap, professor of technology education and director of the imperial Oil Academy at the University of Manitoba, was honored for his work in establishing the Chernihiv State Teacher Innovation Award Project at Hohol State University in Nizhyn and the Chernihiv State Pedagogical University of Chernihiv, both in Ukraine. Ms Kachor, the executive director and chief of collections of the Ukrainian Cultural and Education Center (Oseredok) in Winnipeg, is a board member of the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Canadian Foundation, a past board member of UCC National and has been active in Plast on the local, national and international levels. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was created in 2011 to mark the 60th anniversary of her reign.

The awards ceremonies continued in Toronto on September 26, where seven more people were honored with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal: Anna Trojan, Ann Szyptur, Oksana Zakydalsky, Olya Sheveli, Bozhena Iwanusiw, Valentina Kuryliw, Maria Szkambara.

In 2013, Sen. Paul Yuzyk (1913-1986) was honored with a Canadian postage stamp. On October 24 the newly released Paul Yuzyk stamp was unveiled in the Senate of Canada; it was officially released by Canada Post on October 26. Sen. Yuzyk was known for his role in defining contributions of Canadians of non-British and non-French origins, of shaping an all-inclusive Canadian identity and for the concept of multiculturalism. The senator had stressed that Canadians of every ethnic background contribute to the nation-building process and for this he is recognized as the “Father of Multiculturalism.” Daughters of the late senator– Eve Yuzyk-Duravetz, Vicki Karpiak and Vera Yuzyk – attended the unveiling ceremony.

On September 13-15 the 17th Toronto Ukrainian Festival launched a whirlwind of non-stop entertainment, traditional food, cultural displays and activities for all ages. This free, three-day family-focused showcase of the most widely identifiable aspects of Ukrainian culture, attracted a diverse audience of about 600,000. This year the festival headliners were classic rockers Kozak System from Ukraine, who teamed up with Taras Chubay for a performance of Ukrainian world music – modern technology and rhythms combined with Ukrainian melodies and lyricism. The group’s appearance was made possible by a grant from Celebrate Ontario, which also helped to bring such out-of-town groups as the Cheremosh dancers from Edmonton, the Syzokryli Dance Ensemble from New York, the Todaschuk Sisters from Winnipeg and the St. Andrew Vodohray Dancers from Bloomingdale, Ill.

The crowd-pleasing parade that opened the festival featured more than 65 entries and 2,000 participants led by the parade marshal – author, journalist and media personality Chrystia Freeland with her three children. At the official opening, Chris Alexander, Minister of Immigration and Citizenship presented Jurij Klufas, founder and chair of the festival, with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario was welcomed on stage and Mr. Klufas presented an award to Eugene Melnyk, philanthropist and owner of the Ottawa Senators hockey team, recognizing his role as an ongoing festival sponsor.

One of the unique events at the festival this year was the photo exhibit by Ukrainian Parisian photographer Youry Bilak “The Hutsuls: In the Shadow of the Carpathians.” The Kule Center for Ukrainian and Canadian Folklore featured an interactive exhibit “The Ukrainian Dance from Village to Stage.” On Sunday, the youth program featured some 170 young performers.

One of the lively break-out sessions during the “Stronger Communities” workshop organized in Toronto on April 13 by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation.

Olya Grod

One of the lively break-out sessions during the “Stronger Communities” workshop organized in Toronto on April 13 by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation.

On November 8-10, the UCC held its XXIV Triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians to set its policy direction and elect its leadership for the next three years. For the first time in 70 years, the gathering was held in Toronto and brought together some 400 delegates, observers and guests. Some of the highlights of the Congress included a financial report that highlighted the critical need to increase the UCC’s donor base and a panel discussion on the CMHR, focusing on the UCC’s concerns over balance in the museum.

A new event at this year’s congress was the “Ukrainian Dragons” competition. This highly anticipated session – based on the TV program “Dragons’ Den” – paired philanthropists Borys Chabursky, Ian Ihnatowycz, John Ivaniura, Nadia Jacyk, Eugene Melnyk and James Temerty with innovative community projects vying for a $60,000 prize. Out of over 30 submissions of projects from community organizations which had been submitted, hoping for financing, five were pitched to the funders at the public session. The winners were: Ukrainian Canadian Students Union (SUSK) – for mentorship of students (awarded $25,000); Lemon Bucket Orkestra – for a tour of Canada performing Ukrainian and Eastern European musical selections (awarded $20,000); and the Vesnivka choir – for an online library of choral music (awarded $15,000).

The gala dinner featured Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a 25-minute “Conversation with the Prime Minister” conducted by Mr. Klufas. The prime minister commented on many issues currently of concern to the Ukrainian community.

The Taras Shevchenko Medal was awarded to nine recipients: Vasyl Balan, Roman Borys, Dr. Daria Darewych, Dr. Jurij Darewych, Halya Kuchmij, Valentina Kuryliw, Irene Mycak, Peter Shostak and Iroida Wynnyckyj. UWC president Eugene Czolij presented the St. Volodymyr the Great Medal to James Temerty and Sen. Andreychuk.

UCC Youth Leadership Awards of Excellence were received by Christine Czoli, Danylo Korbabicz, Bozena Hrycyna and Andrea Kardasz.

The congress elected the officers, board of directors and board of auditors of the UCC. Members of the executive committee are: Mr. Grod, national president; Renata Roman, first vice-president; Emil Yareniuk, second vice-president; Andrea Kopylech, secretary; and Walter Dlugosh, treasurer.

Appointed on January 25 from Saskatchewan, Denise Batters is a new Canadian senator. She gave an exclusive interview to the UCC, answering questions about her educational background, her interest in politics and memories regarding her Ukrainian Canadian heritage. Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan, she attended Ukrainian school, danced in a Ukrainian ensemble and still attends St. Basil Ukrainian Catholic Church in Regina. She was a practicing lawyer, and in the Senate she has taken up the cause of fighting the stigma of mental illness.

Ms. Freeland, a journalist, prize-winning author of “Plutocrats” and former senior editor of New York based-Thomson Reuters, won the Liberal Party nomination for the federal riding of Toronto Center. On November 25 she won the by-election. Ms. Freeland entered the House of Commons and was tapped to serve as co-chair of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s Economic Council of Advisors, which is writing the party’s economic policy. She will have to defend her seat in the next federal general election, which is scheduled for 2015.

Last but not least, it should be noted that 2013 began on a merry note in Ottawa, when members of the Canadian capital’s Ukrainian community on January 16 performed a series of Ukrainian Christmas carols at Stornway, the residence of the leader of the Opposition. They sang the well-known “Carol of the Bells.” Mr. Mulcair was then hosting a meeting of provincial NDP leaders, so the carollers had a larger audience than anticipated.