Thursday,
17 August 2017
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Ukrainian community in Canada: experiences and issues

They were invited and given the enticement of free land if they broke the soil...  There were no lights or heat either during the cold winters and it was no easy task but many endured... About 5,000 Eastern Europeans, mostly Ukrainians, were put in one of 23 concentration work camps across the county under forced labour...

There are a small number of very important events which took place in Canada since the first Ukrainian settlers came here to open the Canadian West.

A.  1st Settlement:  1890 - 1905.  They were invited in the 1890`s and given the enticement of free land if they broke the soil and built a home within the first one or two years.  There were no tractors back then.  There were no lights or heat either during the cold winters and it was no easy task but many endured.  Other settlers went to Brazil but over the past 100 odd years generally did not fair as well.  As for those Ukrainian immigrants, going to the US., they often ended up working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. The Ukrainian settlers who came to Canada were those primarily with farming skills from the two provinces held at the time by Austria-Hungary (Volyn and Bukovyna regions of the western Ukraine).  Thus they came with Austrian passports.  When WWI broke out in 1914, suspicion of Ukrainian immigrants had become rampant in this relatively new country and resulted in their rights as citizens being taken away by the federal government.  About 5,000 Eastern Europeans, mostly Ukrainians, were put in one of 23 concentration work camps across the county under forced labour.  Tens of thousands of others were required to report regularly to authorities.  It was a very damaging time for this new immigrant population and the scars of which remain to this day.  The government later destroyed its records of the national internment operation and hoped that the matter would go away but it has not.  The community has been very active in seeking recognition of this gross past injustice and Bill C-331 was finally passed on November 25, 2005 to recognize the injustice.  Wealth of those interned however has never been returned and the last survivor of the Internment operation, Mary Haskett, recently died.  She was a child during the Internment.  Settlement of the unreturned wealth is presently being negotiated.

B.  Holodomor 1932-1933.  Recognition of one of the world`s largest and hidden tragedies is of great importance to Ukrainians in Canada, the US and abroad as it is in Ukraine itself.  MP Borys W., as indicated above, has been actively pursuing recognition of the Holodomor both internationally and at the educational level.  One well known Canadian and American foreign correspondent refers to the Holodomor as the Unknown Holocaust.  A Bill introduced by Senator Raynell Andreychuk passed unanimously through the Canadian Senate recognizing the Holodomor as a genocide against the Ukrainian people.  Recognition in Canada of the Holodomor as a genocide has met with some opposition as it has in Ukraine and internationally.

C.  Denaturalization and Deportation of suspected Nazi war criminals.  This is an on-going hard fought battle in Canada.  The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), though its affiliates, is seeking deportation of "thousands" of Nazi war criminals, and while the Ukrainian community agrees with the need to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, it also agrees that Soviet war criminals should be brought to justice as well.  The CJC has not fought to achieve this end with the same vigor if at all.  Most of the handful of Canadian citizens targeted have been of Ukrainian origin but none have been convicted of committing war crimes.  The program has been damaging to the Ukrainian community and is unresolved.  Those elderly individuals who have been falsely targeted have often lost their life savings.

Hopefully, the foregoing gives a brief summary of the experiences and issues affecting the Ukrainian community in Canada.

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