Exploring the hidden history of Indigenous relations with Ukrainian settlers

Of interest:

Leah Hrycun has been wrestling with a mystery for much of her academic career. Hrycun’s Ukrainian grandmother used to tell her there were no Indigenous people in the part of Alberta where she grew up.

But Hrycun wondered why there were stories of First Nations and Métis families with grandfathers knowing some Ukrainian, and grandmothers passing down recipes for poppy seed cake.

To find the answer she devoted her research to uncovering these relationships and kinship connections — a hidden history often forgotten and sometimes erased.

“There’s a lot of stories about Indigenous folks reaching out to Ukrainian settlers to help them through their first winters, to guide them through the new lands,” said Hrycun, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta.

“On the other hand, I’ve also heard really heartbreaking stories about First Nations and Métis people who were shunned by their Ukrainian families.”

Over the last few weeks, Indigenous people have shown solidarity with Ukraine during the ongoing Russian invasion — which began with a full-on assault on Feb. 24 — by wearing “kookum scarves” and posting pictures online.

The scarves have come to symbolize the commonalities and cultural exchanges between the groups. Ukrainian settlers began flooding the Prairies in the late 19th century, not long after the numbered treaties were concluded.

These were the early days of the Indian Act when the racist law was at its most restrictive, assimilative and oppressive.

Ukrainian settlers
Ukrainian women cutting logs near Athabasca, Alta., in 1930. Photo: Library and Archives Canada

Hrycun told Nation to Nation Ukrainians also faced discrimination from the predominantly Anglo-Saxon community when they arrived.

“In the early days, they really sympathized with Indigenous folks because they shared a lot of the same struggles,” she said.

But as time went on — and particularly in the 1960s and 1970s during the growth of ideas about multiculturalism — the Ukrainian-Canadian population started to find its place among the country’s larger, white settler society.

“It was around that time that they really started to adopt the same mindset as the rest of settler Canada. They were part of that large group now of white settlers,” Hrycun explained.

“They often then reverted to othering Indigenous peoples, just as mainstream Canada had done.”

This adoption of the dominant colonial mentality eventually combined with a form of settler mythmaking common not just to Ukrainians but settlers across the globe. The result is displaced people displacing others.

That’s why her grandmother came to believe there were no Indigenous people in the region of Alberta where they lived — not because it was true, but because the truth had been manipulated over time.

“They created these myths and sort of benched the truth. Over the generations it got easier and easier to bend the truth,” said Hyrcun. “It was necessary for them to think that these lands were empty, to think that they were the first peoples on these lands, because otherwise you have to start considering that you are displacing people.

“And that concept, I think, for a lot of people is a very tough one to grapple with.”

Source: Exploring the hidden history of Indigenous relations with Ukrainian settlers

Ukrainian Canadians fight to save a forgotten cemetery in Quebec’s Abitibi region

Spirit Lake was one of the examples cited by Ukrainian Canadians during endowment fund negotiations over the World War I Internment Fund in 2008-9:

Beyond the crops, tucked deep in a boggy forest on a farmer’s land in the Abitibi region of Quebec, you’ll find the remnants of a cemetery, a few crosses still visible between the trees.

More than 100 years ago, at least 16 detainees from the nearby Spirit Lake internment camp were buried here.

But there’s no commemorative plaque or historical protection for the land that is slowly being swallowed up by forest.

Source: Ukrainian Canadians fight to save a forgotten cemetery in Quebec’s Abitibi region

New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

As one of my multiculturalism files was historical recognition of communities that were either subject to immigration restrictions or wartime internment, found this documentary of interest:

The late Ukrainian Canadian poet Michael Gowda, who in 1907 enlisted in the Canadian Home Guard and sought to create a Ukrainian regiment to serve the British army, once wrote a series of verses addressed directly to his new homeland.

Written from the perspective of an immigrant allowed to live in Canada primarily to colonize the prairie, as 170,000 Ukrainians did between 1891 and 1914, “To Canada” describes these new Canadians as in some sense merely “holders of thy soil.” To be recognized as fully Canadians, their people would have to fight and even die for Canada. It would take a blood sacrifice for their children to one day be “free to call thee theirs,” as the poem reads.

It is an outmoded vision of Canadian citizenship but no less powerful for the cultural change that has occurred since then, as Ukrainian-Canadians established themselves in Canada over many generations, with veterans of every war Canada has fought.

Award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker John Paskievich said this poem “proved prophetic.” The sacrifice was real, and the sense of belonging was finally ensured.

His new documentary, A Canadian War Story, describes Ukrainian Canadians’ contribution to Canada’s war efforts. Working for the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, he and other researchers tracked down details of veterans in Legion Halls and various archives, and gave voice to old correspondences.

As a story of racist exclusion giving way to acceptance, the film also offers a chance to reflect on the ethnic diversity of military service, especially from an ethnicity of Canadians who, like Japanese Canadians, were once persecuted as enemy aliens, even interned in work camps.

For Ukrainian Canadians in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of whom immigrated with the promise of title to a quarter section if they could farm it, resentment and suspicion were the norm. The film quotes then Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell referring to the consternation felt by established Canadians as trainloads passed through Ontario on their way west, filled with “disgusting creatures… being bearing human form” but having “sunk to such a bestial level.”

That was the climate in which Gowda tried to create a Ukrainian Canadian regiment as the threat of war grew in Europe. Canada was not interested. On the contrary, Ukrainians were suspected of sympathy for the enemy Austro-Hungarian empire, whence they came. Those who were not naturalized were forced to register as enemy aliens. Others were disenfranchised, and some were interned in forced labour camps.

There were exceptions, and the film describes how Filip Konowal, a Ukrainian Canadian from the allied Russian empire, became the only Eastern European born person to win the Victoria Cross, for “most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack.”

The second wave of Ukrainian immigration in the 1920s was similarly met with broad racism and exclusion. By the end of the 1930s, the reasons for enlisting were similar to other Canadians — patriotism, duty, excitement, lack of other work — but with that added cultural sense that Gowda’s blood sacrifice had not yet been paid.

The film quotes veterans such as Joseph Romanow of Saskatoon, who described an awareness that Ukrainian Canadians mustn’t be seen as second-rate citizens, and one way to do that was to fight for their country.

John Yuzyk of Rhein, Sask., said the economic climate was also so bad that “guys joined up because it paid and you could get three square meals a day.”

Ann Crapleve of Ladywood, Man., who would later participate in reconstruction efforts after the war, said: “I was a Canadian and wanted to do my bit for the country.”

The film ends with a description of Ukrainian Canadians assisting in this effort to rebuild Europe, and sometimes finding Ukrainians in camps for displaced persons, and facilitating their immigration to Canada rather than repatriation to the Soviet Union.

Source: New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

Jason Kenney denounces ‘useful idiots’ amid uproar over university lecturer’s Holodomor denial

A very Kenney comment, and warranted:

A day after Ukrainian students vented their fury at a University of Alberta lecturer who called the Holodomor famine “a lie,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney slammed the “useful idiots” who engage in genocide denial.

Dougal MacDonald, who is listed as a lecturer in the university’s education department, said on Facebook that the Holodomor was a myth perpetuated by the Nazis. His comments led the Ukrainian Students’ Society to call them “harmful and false beliefs” that are unacceptable for an employee of the university.

“Sad to see some in Canada still engaged in this genocide denial,” Kenney said on Twitter on Thursday morning although he didn’t mention MacDonald by name.

Kenney also posted a video of a speech he gave about Holodomor, which was a fierce condemnation of “Western, supposedly-progressive voices who were complicit in one of history’s great cover-ups.”

“These were the useful idiots of whom Lenin wrote. Westerners who purposefully lied about one of the great acts of mass murder in human history,” said Kenney.

The speech was delivered last week at a Holodomor commemoration in Calgary and the video was posted in full on Thursday morning as the scandal around MacDonald erupted.

MacDonald’s comments were originally reported by The Gateway, the student newspaper at the U of A, and MacDonald responded to the paper’s story with a statement decrying the “irrational assertions” and “defamation” directed at him.

The term Holodomor means “to kill by starvation” and refers to the famine in Ukraine that killed millions of people in 1932–33. The genocide has been recognized by the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures, including in Alberta.

In his Facebook post, which was archived online by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, MacDonald describes the Holodomor as a myth perpetuated by the Nazis to discredit the Soviet Union.

“In Canada, former Nazi collaborators and their spawn have long led the phony Holodomor campaign,” wrote MacDonald.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress urged its members to contact the university and demand the dismissal of MacDonald, even providing suggested text for an email to the school’s president.

“This is a stark reminder that, even in 2019, we cannot afford complacency in Holodomor education and awareness,” the organization’s website reads.

MacDonald was a candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election in the Edmonton-Strathcona riding, which NDP candidate Heather McPherson won. MacDonald tallied 77 votes. His banner photo on Facebook is an advertisement to subscribe to the Marxist-Leninist Party’s online bulletin and his profile picture is a photo of Fidel Castro. His photos on Facebook are a collection of historical leftist leaders, like former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara and former North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, who MacDonald describes as a “great leader of the Korean people.”

Although the university did not respond to a request for comment before press time, it said in a statement to the Gateway that the university is “balancing many interests and obligations” while it is “carefully monitoring this matter.”

The university has a commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom for its staff, which includes “the right to comment (and) to criticize without deference to prescribed doctrine.”

In responding to the Gateway’s questions, deputy provost Wendy Rogers noted that MacDonald was making the comments as a private citizen and that they did not reflect the university’s views.

“The University of Alberta actively fosters an inclusive culture committed to the expression of, exposure to, and debate of diverse points of view,” a draft statement on freedom of expression on the school’s website reads. “Our campuses are forums for rigorous debate.”

Source: Jason Kenney denounces ‘useful idiots’ amid uproar over university lecturer’s Holodomor denial

How Ukrainian politics became the most Canadian of politics

Good piece. Ukrainian Canadians also played a significant role in including s27 in the Charter – This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians:

I watched Canada’s long history of diaspora politics reach some sort of apex on Wednesday morning, when the Foreign Affairs Minister stood before an audience at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel and delivered a 10-minute speech in effortless Ukrainian, before switching to equally fluent French and English. She then introduced the newly elected President of Ukraine, who attempted to win over the audience with a detailed speech in what audience members told me was a slightly more hesitant Ukrainian.

That Chrystia Freeland, a Canadian born in Peace River, Alta., speaks the language of Ukraine better than the country’s President – and that both felt it important to begin his term of office with a week in Canada, including multiple meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – is a double accident of history.

President Volodymyr Zelensky is, like almost a third of Ukrainian citizens, a Russian speaker, and he built his career in TV comedy by mastering Ukrainian as a second language. He speaks it very well, I’m told, but without the confidence of a native. That does not mean he is ethnically Russian or inclined to back Moscow over Brussels in the battle for Ukraine’s allegiances – in Ukraine, language does not correlate with politics.

But it does mean that he felt it important to make a strong case for his authenticity and his pro-Western views to the 1.4 million Canadians who are of Ukrainian ancestry. Those Ukrainian-Canadians are crucial to the fate of both Ukrainian leaders and, often, of Canadian political parties.

During Ukraine’s election this spring, Ukrainian-Canadian figures backed incumbent Petro Poroshenko, an outspoken nationalist with corruption problems who could only govern with the support of some extremist parties, but who had won the confidence of Western governments during Ukraine’s war against its invasion by Russia. Mr. Zelensky is an unknown commodity, especially to a Canadian diaspora that tends to be even more nationalist and anti-Russian in its sentiments than citizens of Ukraine.

Ms. Freeland’s Ukrainian ethnicity and linguistic fluency make her a standout figure in the long history of Ukrainian-Canadian relations. And Mr. Trudeau, as we know, goes out of his way to gain visibility in the homelands of electorally important ethnic groups.

But this government’s eagerness to embrace the latest Ukrainian leader, and the tens of millions it has poured into election support and military-training aid to Ukraine, are far from unique or excessive. The politics of ethnic homelands are not some new addition to Canadian life; they have been central to Canadian politics almost from the beginning.

And it all began with the Ukrainians.

A century before the country of Ukraine came into existence, in the early 1890s, Ukrainians became Canada’s first really major non-Western immigrant group. They did not share a language, a culture or a religion with existing populations; they were also the first immigrants who overwhelmingly stayed in Canada rather than moving south of the border.

Almost from the beginning, Canadian leaders realized that they needed to make the Ukrainians’ interests, and their relationship to their homeland, part of the Canadian political vocabulary.

After a second wave of Ukrainians arrived in the 1930s, fleeing Stalin’s horrors, Canadian leaders began to speak of their role using a new language of pluralism. In 1936, governor-general Lord Tweedsmuir – also known as Scottish novelist John Buchan – gave a landmark speech to a crowd of Ukrainian-Canadians in Fraserwood, Man., promoting his notion of British Empire multiculturalism: “You will all be better Canadians for being also good Ukrainians … the strongest nations are those that are made up of different racial elements.”

In other words, more than a decade before Canadian citizenship came into existence, officials were inspired by the Ukrainian experience to promote a hyphenated form of Canadianism.

This would be embraced by political leaders of both parties, in part for electoral reasons. It was Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker, a prairie man with a keen sense of retail politics, who most aggressively used this to electoral ends, playing to Ukrainians’ desire for an independent homeland. It didn’t hurt that their fiercely anti-Moscow views lined up neatly with the government’s Cold War perspective.

In 1991, prime minister Brian Mulroney’s decision to become the first Western leader to recognize Ukraine’s claim of national sovereignty, against the advice of other countries, was driven in good part by his attention to this crucial constituency. And it immediately became mandatory for every Prime Minister to be seen shaking hands with whoever happened to be leading Ukraine – no matter how unsavoury the figure, or corrupt the regime.

Given the Ukrainians’ founding role in this most Canadian form of politics, it was inevitable that at some point Canada would manage to out-Ukrainian the Ukrainians themselves. And this week, it happened.

Source: How Ukrainian politics became the most Canadian of politics

Gurski: Linking immigration and terrorism is wrong, in Canada and elsewhere

Good column by Gurski:

I never knew my maternal grandfather. He emigrated to Canada in the early part of the 20th century from western Ukraine (or eastern Poland, the details on that are fuzzy) and settled in Montreal where he worked at the CPR’s Angus workshops, along with a great many other immigrants, I imagine. He married and had four children, including my mother, and toughed it out during the Great Depression. He died in the mid-1940s.

I seldom think of him but his memory came back to me last week when I read of a new documentary, That Never Happened, by Saskatoon native Ryan Boyko, which premiered at Ottawa’s Bytowne Cinema among other venues. The film deals with the internment of thousands of Ukrainian immigrants in camps in remote areas of Canada from 1914-1920. These men were seen as citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with which we were at war, and hence they were viewed as enemies of the state. My grandfather is believed to have been one of those internees at the Spirit Lake detention site in northern Quebec (I have a copy of my grandfather’s passport which says he was tied to the Austro-Hungarian Empire).

The round-up of thousands of Ukrainian immigrants, and the monitoring of tens of thousands more, was the product of fear: fear of the other. In fairness, I suppose, Canada was at war and those were different times, but fear is still largely irrational and often unjustified. Nor has it gone away – as there are still those who paint immigrants as threats today.

To see this, we do not have to cast our eyes even as far as the shameful depiction by U.S. President Donald Trump of the thousands of desperate migrants making their way through Central America to the southern states as “terrorists and criminals.” An example closer to home is La Meute (the “Wolfpack”), a racist Francophone anti-immigrant group, doing the same thing in Quebec regarding the irregular migrants seeking to leave an increasingly unstable U.S. and showing up at Canada’s border .

Whatever you think of people on the move – and there are valid concerns over how the government is dealing with, and should deal with, these migrants – what is quite clear is that they present a very low to non-existent national security threat. Yes, it is always possible that there are unsavoury characters in the mix who may engage in criminal activities in Canada, but shrill fear-mongering about a wave of terrorists seeking to sow mayhem in our cities is unsubstantiated.

U.S. intelligence agencies, for instance, have stated publicly that Trump’s conviction that ISIL is using the cover of refugee flows to infiltrate the U.S. is false. In other words, the president’s own intelligence services have taken the rare step to openly tell Americans that there is no “there” there, despite Trump’s demagoguery.

I am neither naïve nor ignorant of the real terrorist threat, having spent 15 years with CSIS as a strategic terrorism analyst and having written four books on the topic. It is always possible that malefactors use the immigration system to enter Canada – and we have had examples in the recent past. At the same time, however, there is simply no evidence that this represents a significant risk for our country. Our intelligence and other government organizations are on top of this, and they will advise the proper authorities when they come across solid information about a real risk so that action can be taken.

The rest of us – yes, that includes members of La Meute and other anti-immigrant and Islamophobic groups – need to start trusting in those agencies and stop irrationally hitting the panic button on immigration. Canada needs more people for its economic and social development and immigration is one way to get those people. Immigration is a strength, not a weakness.

Besides, no one should have to endure what my grandfather did. No one.

Source: Gurski: Linking immigration and terrorism is wrong, in Canada and elsewhere

Minister Joly Launches the New Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism – Canada.ca

Funny to see the Paul Yuzyk award relaunched under the Liberals.

The Conservatives launched it when I was the DG – Citizenship and Multiculturalism in 2009, largely in part to counter the prevailing narrative that multiculturalism originated with the Liberals as well as responding to wishes of the Ukrainian Canadian community.

Now the Liberals are trying to appropriate Yuzyk, a former Conservative senator. That being said, it is positive when governments adopt or appropriate other party programs that support integration.

This, along with the related initiative Holodomor National Awareness Tour 2017–2020, also demonstrate the influence and sophistication of the Ukrainian Canadian community, who worked closely with the previous government on such initiatives as the Historical Recognition Program, Holodomor recognition and foreign policy issues.

Text of press release follows:

Diversity is Canada’s strength. Our young leaders play a critical role in shaping our country’s future and fostering a stronger, more prosperous Canada, where everyone has the ability to reach their full potential.

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism, announced the launch of the new Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism. This annual funding initiative will award micro-grants of up to $1000 to dozens of young Canadians to fund projects that promote diversity and inclusion in their communities. This initiative will empower young leaders to make a positive impact on their communities, while addressing racism and discrimination. Canadian citizens or permanent residents aged 18 to 24 will be able to submit their applications online starting today, until April 20, 2018.

The new Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism is in keeping with the Government of Canada’s commitment to promoting multiculturalism and strengthening our diverse communities, while working to eliminate discrimination, racism and prejudice in all its forms. The new initiative will honour the legacy of the late Senator Paul Yuzyk in developing and promoting Canadian multiculturalism by inspiring young leaders to continue advancing cultural understanding and inclusion in‎ communities across the country.

The initiative will be administered by Inter-Action, the Government of Canada’s multiculturalism grants and contributions program, which funds community engagement and development projects which promote intercultural understanding and equal opportunities for people of all cultures.

via Minister Joly Launches the New Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism – Canada.ca

Press release on Holodomor National Awareness Tour:

Today, Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism) and Member of Parliament (Parkdale–High Park), announced that the Government of Canada is providing more than $1.4 million to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation in support of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour 2017–2020. Mr. Virani made this announcement on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism.

The ongoing Holodomor National Awareness Tour 2017–2020 has launched a Holodomor Mobile Classroom that tours the country both to raise awareness of the Holodomor and to promote tolerance and mutual understanding. This project is expected to reach 65,000 participants across the country.

The project is receiving $1,459,730 in total funding over three years through the Projects component of Inter-Action, the Government of Canada’s multiculturalism grants and contributions program. Inter-Action funds community engagement and development projects that promote intercultural understanding and equal opportunities for people of all cultures.

via Parliamentary Secretary Virani Announces $1.4 Million in Funding for the Holodomor National Awareness Tour – Canada.ca