The Canadian Conference in Support of Ukraine (CCSU) continues to engage MPs in Ottawa and in their ridings with issues of concern to its members and the Ukrainian Canadian community as a whole, as represented by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC).
Representatives of the CCSU - Orest Steciw, Adriana Willson, Christine Czoli, Zenon Ciz and Borys Potapenko - held meetings on February 17, 2011 on Parliament Hill with leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Parties. The Executive Director of the UCC, Taras Zalusky, accompanied the CCSU representatives to the meetings.
The delegation met first with MP Mark Warawa (Langley, BC), Chair of the Canada- Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG), and MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake, MB), Secretary of the CUPFG. Both Mark Warawa and James Bezan were prominent members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s delegation during his historic trip to Ukraine in October 2010.
Later the same day, the Ukrainian Canadian representatives met with the Leader of the Official Opposition, Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, ON), and MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke-Centre, ON), Vice-Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
The following week, on Family Day, February 21, 2011 the CCSU delegation was in St. Catharines where they were joined by Bohdan Nakonieczny and Irene Newton, President and Board member of the LUC and LUCW chapters in St. Catharines, respectively. They met in his riding office with MP Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, ON), who is a member of the CUPFG.
Earlier, in January, Bohdan Gogus, Board member of the LUC chapter in Etobicoke, met in the riding office with his MP, the Hon. Navdeep Bains (Mississauga - Brampton South, ON).
Prior to this latest round of consultations with MPs, and following Prime Minister Harper’s trip to Ukraine, representatives of CCSU organizations held a series of meetings in Ottawa with Members of Parliament on November 30, 2010. They called for further Canadian support for the national democratic civic organizations in Ukraine, fighting to preserve hard won democratic freedoms and national independence, freedoms that are now being undermined by the President and Parliament of Ukraine.
Consequently, meetings with MPs held since the New Year are to give further impetus to Ukrainian Canadian efforts, led by the UCC, to secure specific policies and actions on the part of our government:
First, Canada should conduct a comprehensive review of Ukraine’s compliance with the bilateral agreement between the two countries, called the “Road Map.” To this end, the CCSU delegation called for hearings in Parliament that would keep the spotlight on the conduct of Ukraine’s government. They also proposed that the CCSU policy proposal submitted last year to the Hon. Peter Van Loan, “Canada’s Policy Options for Ukraine: Analysis and Recommendations,” be given serious consideration during the review process.
Second, the delegation called for the bilateral free trade negotiations with Ukraine to include provisions on human rights and civil liberties, as contained in the aforementioned CCSU policy proposal.
Third, they urged the Members of Parliament, especially members of the CUPFG, to bring to the attention of the delegation from the Ukrainian parliament during the visit to Canada planned for April 2011 concerns over the authoritarian direction by the Ukrainian government, that is actively supported and directed by the Russian Federation.
The CCSU delegation also brought up domestic issues of specific importance to Ukrainian Canadians:
First, is concern that the Holodomor/Genocide of 1932-1933 and the Internment Operations of 1914-1920 will not be included as permanent, prominent and separate “zones” in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). The delegation called for parliamentary and ministerial intervention with a view to assuring that the CMHR will be a truly national museum reflective of Canadian values.
Second, 2011 marks the 120th anniversary of Ukrainians’ settlement in Canada, a fitting opportunity to inaugurate the “Pier 21 Project” initiated by the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women. The project will assure that the full story is told about Ukrainian immigrants during and after WWII, and why some by choice and others as political refugees did not return to their homeland, but made the welcoming shores of Canada their new home. The delegation called on MPs to support the “Pier 21 Project” by informing the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Hon. James Moore, of their interest in having the implementation of the Project facilitated by the Ministry.
On their part, both the Conservative and Liberal MPs supported parliamentary hearings on Ukraine. During the discussion the CCSU delegation stressed the need for all of the political parties in Parliament to work together to assure that the hearings focus on the key issues of helping Ukraine consolidate democracy, advance human rights and civil liberties, and safeguard its sovereignty and independence in accordance with the provisions of the Road Map of Priorities for Canada-Ukraine Relations.
James Bezan and Mark Warawa indicated that they would raise the issue with Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and its subcommittee on International Human Rights. Similarly, Rick Dykstra stated that he would work with MPs Bezan and Warawa in calling for hearings.
On their part, Michael Ignatieff and Borys Wrzesnewskyj agreed with the assessment of the situation in Ukraine presented by the CCSU delegation. The Leader of the Official Opposition said that he has been following developments, shares the concerns of the CCSU, and will consider raising in the House of Commons the question of subcommittee hearings on Ukraine. Earlier, Navdeep Bains stated that he would support such an initiative by Liberal members in Parliament.
The Conservative and Liberal MPs were in accord on engaging the Ukrainian parliamentarians during their visit to Ottawa in a “clear and candid manner” concerning the retreat from democracy, human rights and civil liberties in Ukraine. Michael Ignatieff stated that the visit would be a useful opportunity to raise pointed questions and to discuss the ‘Road Map.”
Mark Warawa and James Bezan also expressed their support for a “frank discussion” with the delegation from Ukraine.
On the question of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the CCSU delegation expressed its appreciation to James Bezan for his forthright position, including issuing a video statement in support of a full review and revision of the proposals and the composition of the Museum Board. Also, Rick Dykstra issued his own letter to Minister James Moore calling for a worthy place for the Holodomor Genocide in the Museum.
In his capacity as Vice-Chair of the CUPFG, Borys Wrzesnewskyj initiated a motion calling on Minister Moore and the Museum Board to include a permanent and prominent display of the Holodomor. The motion also calls for a member on the Museum Board to be nominated by the UCC. In their capacities as Chair and Secretary of the CUPFG, Mark Warawa and James Bezan, as well as Rick Dykstra, lent their support to the motion, leading to unanimous approval.
Michael Ignatieff told the delegation of his personal involvement in the CMHR issue, when during his recent visit to the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg, local Ukrainians expressed their opposition to the current plans for the Museum. Subsequently, he relayed the concerns to the Executive Director of the Museum. He also assured the delegation that he will continue to share those concerns, including the position that without an accommodation, the Museum will continue to be a point of contention in the long term.
In this regard as well, and at the initiative of Borys Wrzesnewskyj, five MPs from the Liberal Party - Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Hon. Navdeep Bains, Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park, ON), Bonnie Crombie (Mississauga-Streetsville, ON) and Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, MB) - issued a joint statement on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the text of which appears below. Also, for the record, below are the statement by James Bezan and the letter to Minister Moore from Rick Dykstra.
The local chapters of CCSU member organizations, especially their students and young professionals, are in the forefront of reaching out to the MPs in their communities. The collective mission is to garner support for Ukraine’s efforts to consolidate its hard won independence, to foster a better understanding of Ukraine’s tragic history, and to safeguard our Ukrainian Canadian heritage.
The member organizations of the CCSU are: League of Ukrainian Canadians (LUC), League of Ukrainian Canadian Women (LUCW), Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada (CYM), Society of Veterans of UPA, and Homin Ukrainy/Ukrainian Echo community newspaper.
CCSU organizations are members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC).