Canada`s commitments to Ukraine will benefit the world
Canada`s commitments to Ukraine will benefit the world

Canada`s commitments to Ukraine will benefit the world

19:20, 24 June 2008
3 min. 1713

There are global lessons in the recent visit by Ukraine`s President. Canada recognized Holodomor as genocide and said it will support Ukraine`s bid for NATO...

There are global lessons in the recent visit by Ukraine`s President Victor Yushchenko to Canada. He came looking for a friend and found one. During the visit, Canada recognized the starvation of some 10 million Ukrainian landowners by the Soviet government as an act of genocide, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will support Ukraine`s bid for NATO membership.

These commitments are important not just to Ukraine but to the entire global community because the underpinning values are universal. It astonishes that this was not done before and continues to be opposed by Ukraine`s large and domineering neighbour, Russia.

The key lesson from the famine, Holodomor, is this: if the genocide of one dictator goes unpunished and unatoned for, it becomes a model to follow. Evil engenders evil. Despite the immensity of Communism`s atrocity in 1932-33, world leaders were silent while "useful idiots," as Joseph Stalin called Soviet apologists, worked to cover up the crime against humanity by furthering myths of a "people`s paradise."

Walter Duranty`s fraudulent articles in The New York Times earned him a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, led to the recognitions of the USSR as a state, and ensured Stalin a Time magazine Man of the Year Award. No surprise this genocide was copied some 10 years later by another dictator.

As a global human rights leader Canada stands firm by the principle that elimination of any people is heinous -- Ukrainian, Chinese, Jewish, Cambodian -- although it is significant that Communist dictators are responsible for some 120 million dead around the world in the last century. This is a grotesque record. Canada`s recognition of the Soviet-generated 1932-33 famine puts it on the map and in proper context in the history of genocides. There`s also a message here for the soon to be built Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It ought to teach prominently the lesson: genocides of the 20th century were disproportionately committed by Communist regimes. And that in Ukraine`s case they almost got away with it. Canadians have a right to know that genocides are not unique aberrations, but consequences to unchallenged or covered-up evil.

What is shocking about Prime Minister Harper`s laudable recognition of the genocide in Ukraine is that it could be opposed by anyone, yet official Russia does.

The prime minister`s support for Ukraine`s membership in NATO offers another lesson: the dangers of appeasement. Consider this. After years of Russian domination, sovereign Ukraine emerged from the ruins of the USSR with 90-per-cent plus support. Yet the West continued to view its needs through a pro-Russia prism. In the 1990s there were threats to withhold aid if Ukraine refused to forfeit components of the formidable Soviet nuclear arsenal exclusively into Russia`s hands. Now Europe et al, live in fear while Russia`s presidents -- former and current -- hiss threats about pointing warheads at neighbours.

When NATO support was pushing 70 per cent in Ukraine -- Europe`s second largest country, by the way -- membership was dismissed on grounds that it failed to meet standards. But let`s face it, NATO`s rejection of Ukraine in Bucharest, led by Germany and France, was about placating Russia.

History lesson: appeasement policies tend not to end well. Despite our Cold War victory Russia is wealthier, has its people in strategic western institutions, its finger on the nuclear button and, its latest weapon, energy hanging over Europe. And regrettably, Russia`s aggression - cutting off gas supplies, selling arms and developing nuclear capabilities in rogue states, dismissing national sovereignty - does not indicate a state moving toward democratic capitalist values.

Indeed, its belligerence gives Canada little reason to trust it close to home. We may yet find ourselves with more to fear for our unoccupied and unprotected north and its natural wealth than Russia`s recent words and underwater explorations, the Law of the Sea protecting our claim notwithstanding.

It`s very much in Canada`s and the world`s interest to support Ukraine`s struggle to turn itself into a democratic state and join likeminded communities. Regrettably, Vladimir Putin and his replacement as president, Dmitry Medvedev, are storming in opposition. Canada`s principled support of Ukraine provides a needed counterweight to such regressive thinking. And, to Russia pandering.

By Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Ottawa Citizen

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is the president of U*CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc. and former director of communications with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.


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