The Ukrainian diaspora in Canada is one of the largest and most well established Ukrainian communities in the world, numbering around 1.3 million. This year the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian emigration to Canada. The National President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, spoke to Business Ukraine about the upcoming anniversary and reflected on the historical contributions of Ukrainians to the Canadian success story.
How will you celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian emigration to Canada?
Ukrainian Canadians across Canada will be celebrating this anniversary throughout the year. A very long list of events, exhibits and dedications is available at www.ucc.ca. Our community has been working with our federal, provincial and municipal governments to organise these landmark celebrations. For example, Saskatchewan has designated 2016 the Year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians, while Manitoba has designated 2016 the Year of Manitoba’s Ukrainian-Canadian Cultural Heritage. Alberta declared 2016-2017 the Alberta’s Year of the Ukrainian Canadian. The celebration of the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada will culminate at the 25th Triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians in Regina on 29 September - October 2 this year, with a Gala Showcase.
Who do you regard as the most important figure in the Ukrainian Canadian story?
It is impossible to identify any one individual because Ukrainians have had such an important impact on Canadian life and society. A Ukrainian Canadian, Ramon (Ray) Hnatyshyn, served as Head of State. Senator Paul Yuzyk is widely acknowledged as the father of Canada’s multiculturalism policy – which has defined the Canadian cultural landscape for over four decades and is a fundamental part of contemporary Canadian identity. The current Commander of the Canadian Army, Lt. Gen. Paul Wynnyk, and the Governor of the Bank of Canada Steve Poloz are both proud Ukrainian Canadians. The late Justice John Sopinka served on the Supreme Court of Canada, prior to which he represented the Ukrainian Canadian Congress before the Royal Commission on War Criminals. Astronaut Roberta Bondar is a Ukrainian Canadian.
Ukrainian Canadians have made and continue to make immense contributions to all fields and sectors of Canadian life. James Temerty, C.M., Chairman of Northland Power, is one of Canada’s best-known philanthropists and recognized Canadian business icons. He is also chair of UCC’s Advisory Council and Founder and Chairman of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter. Artists such as William Kurelek contributed immeasurably to the development of Canadian art.
There are currently two Ukrainian Canadian Cabinet Ministers – Chrystia Freeland and MaryAnn Mihychuk. They are joined by three Senators (Raynell Andreychuk, David Tkachuk, and Denise Batters), and at least 12 MPs. Other Ukrainian Canadians to have served in government include former Premiers Ed Stelmach (Alberta) and Roy Romanow (Saskatchewan), and countless provincial ministers and mayors. Naturally, we are also very proud of Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk.
How have the historic challenges facing Ukraine over the past two and a half years of revolution and war affected the mood within the Canadian diaspora?
As I travel through Canada, I am continually inspired by the unity and determination in our community to assist the people of Ukraine as they defend their country against Russia’s invasion. The Ukrainian Canadian community has answered the call to help Ukraine, rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work. From the first days of Euromaidan, through Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian Canadian community has been incredibly active in helping our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, both is providing direct humanitarian assistance and advocating to all levels of government that they do the same.
Organisations throughout Canada and individual members of the community are assisting Ukraine in so many ways – organizing humanitarian assistance, help for wounded soldiers, participating in the reform process in Ukraine, advocating to both the Canadian government and to provincial and local governments, to increase their support to Ukraine – to name just a few examples. The UCC is coordinating much of the humanitarian, medical and logistical assistance through the UCC Ukraine Appeal chaired by John Holuk, and the Canada Ukraine Foundation chaired by Victor Hetmanczuk.
As Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its third year, the unity that the Ukrainian Canadian community continues to show is truly inspirational and moving. That resolve was on display during the recent visit to Ukraine of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who echoed the strong sentiment of all Canadians that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine against Russia’s aggression. For me it has been a true personal honour to serve our community.
About the interviewee: Paul Grod is National President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and Vice-President of the Ukrainian World Congress