This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Canada has a lot of Ukrainians. Aside from Russia, it has the highest number of diaspora Ukrainians in the world.
This segment tells how these Ukrainians play a huge role in Canadian politics. The Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is of Ukrainian descent herself and bears a grudge against Russia for the recent conflicts over Crimea.
She is also openly proud of her actual Nazi collaborating grandfather. But apparently that is not a problem for the mainstream media, who, while they are normally eager to reveal anyone’s connections to Naziism no matter how tenuous, are giving Ms Freeland a pass. All sins can be forgiven, so long as you hate Russia.
The second-largest Ukrainian diaspora after the one in Russia one lives in Canada. It has a fairly strong influence over Ukraine and Canadian politics.
Anton Lyadov with the details.
A Ukrainian cemetery near the city of Oakville, located in south-eastern Canada. The tombstone says, "In loving memory of the soldiers of the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army."
That army was assembled in 1945 by the Wehrmacht High Command from the soldiers of the 14th SS Division Galichina, which was part of Nazi Germany's SS. The monument dedicated to the Ukrainian freedom fighters is decorated with lamps. People leave flowers and candles at the 14th Division soldiers' tombstones engraved with "never forget."
The Canadian press refers to the Government Committee that was summoned 30 years ago and claim that the soldiers of the division who moved to Canada after the war weren't charged and shouldn't be prosecuted despite the fact that at the Nuremberg Trials, the SS was charged with committing terrible war crimes and recognized as a criminal group.
Irina Bronnikova, Toronto: “The Canadian government has been ignoring the issue, claiming that the cemetery has private funding and is built on private land. This place is symbolic. This memorial dedicated to the victims of the famine of 1932 - 1933 in Ukraine which was later called the Holodomor. It's worth mentioning that Canada was one of the first states that recognized that famine in Ukraine as a genocide.”
A thin girl clutching four pieces of wheat looks so sad that it's impossible to not believe her. It doesn't matter that in the 1930s famine, Russians, Kazakhs, and other peoples of the USSR suffered along with the Ukrainians. The Canadian sign says that Ukraine was starved out by the Soviet invaders.
If we sum up all of the Ukrainian memorials in the various corners of Canada, such as the bust of Roman Shukhevych, the commander of the UPA, in Edmonton, the city whose bishop is the notorious Illarion, the priest dispatched to Ukraine by the Constantinople Patriarchate to deal with the matters of autocephaly, or the trident-armed stone warrior at the Oakville cemetery with "Eternal Glory to the UPA Warriors" engraved next to him, it becomes clear that the active nationalists who moved here from Ukraine left a powerful legacy.
The Ukrainian national ideas have developed in Canada so much that there's now a Canadian branch of a well-known organization with a red-and-black banner.
Here's a local news report from 2014.
Pyotr Shkilnik, coordinator:
- Our organization is called Right Sector Canada. They're raising funds at their stand. Everything from water to self-defense weapons.
- Of course.
Irina Bronnikova: “The Canadian government basically ignores the ultra-nationalistic agenda of the Right Sector. They were trying to raise funds for military needs. But Canadian law prohibits NGOs from doing that.”
Today, 1,250,000 people of Ukrainian origin reside in Canada. It's the third country after Ukraine and Russia with the highest number of ethnic Ukrainians. The first migrants settled here back in the 19th century. They came from Western Ukraine, Galicia, and Bukovina. In the city of Calgary in southern Canada, 7.5% of the local population are people of Ukrainian origin.
The population of the city is 1,100,000 people. 82,000 of them are Ukrainians. This includes the descendants of those who moved to Canada in the late 20th century, many of whom speak neither Ukrainian nor Russian, and those who migrated in the last three decades.
In the Etobicoke district of Toronto, the majority of the population is Ukrainian. The letters in the building read "the Ukrainian National Union of Canada" makes you realize how widespread and well-developed the Ukrainian community in Canada is. They have their own associations and their own banking institution.
Lyuba Chornaya, publisher: "The Ukrainian community is pretty big here. They even have their own newspapers and their own schools."
Pyotr Dudkevich, political scientist: "The Ukrainian community, Ukrainians, Canadians of Ukrainian origin, can be seen practically everywhere. Ukrainian-born politicians are present in Canadian politics. For example, the prime ministers of three different provinces. Stelmach, the former Prime Minister of Alberta, was another one who was in office in the 2000s. Those four people make you realize how deeply-rooted and influential the Ukrainian community of Canada is.”
Boris Vzhesnevsky is a member of the Parliament of Ukrainian origin. His entire family is wearing vyshyvankas. James Bezan, a member of the House of Commons was born in Canada to a Ukrainian family. Here's one of his speeches from 2017.
James Bezan, politician: "We made it extremely clear that regardless of whether it takes 5 months or 50 years Canada will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. I encourage the government to support all sanctions against the Russian Federation and the people behind the annexation of Crimea and for the invasion of Donbass."
Such speeches affect even those who used to be sympathetic, both Canadians and Ukrainians, whose ancestors migrated more than a hundred years ago.
Irina Bronnikova: “Grandmothers and grandfathers who came here with no bad memories and went through a different upbringing are rather positively-minded. But the immigration wave currently represented in the Canadian-Ukrainian Congress consists of those people who basically seized power and dictate Canadian foreign policy.”
Another Canadian of Ukrainian origin is Don Rusnak of the House of Commons.
Don Rusnak, politician: "On May 18th, I urge all MPs to put on vyshyvankas."
Here are almost two dozen Canadian politicians wearing vyshyvankas. The person in the middle of the group of vyshyvanka-wearing MPs is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is standing next to him.
When it was discovered that her grandfather, Mikhail Khomyak, was actively collaborating with the Nazis and was the editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian newspaper "The Krakow News", which was praising Adolf Hitler, Wehrmacht, and the SS, the Western press began defending her, focusing on how that information could be used by Russia.
Downtown Toronto. Chrystia Freeland's office is located in this building. Her office is located in room number 510. The sign says "Chrystia Freeland, MP, member of Parliament". It's her member of the Parliament office. Let's go in and talk with her.
- She's not in the office but it's her parliamentary office and I assume you have questions for her as the Foreign Minister.
There's a vyshyvanka next to Freeland's photo on the shelf. During her single year in office, she became famous in the world arena as a constant critic of Russia's actions. Ukrainians and Canadians of Ukrainian origin have differing opinions about her.
- I believe that she represents me in the government.
- So you agree with her?
- I'm very proud of my Canadian government.
- I believe that she's been fueling that hysteria, fueling that divide. I believe her attitude towards Russia is so aggressive not because she wants to hurt Russia but because she wants to sow the seed of discord.
For 20 years, the publisher of a Russian newspaper, Lyuba Chornaya, has been monitoring the change of the relationships between the Russian and the Ukrainian communities in Canada. They're gradually getting worse.
Lyuba Chornaya, publisher: "We used to have an idea that we shouldn't fight here. We used to be close, we used to be friends. We used to work with Ukrainian television and radio. We planned to hold joint events etc. To get rid of the divide in Canada. Unfortunately, we failed.”
After the Kerch incident, Ukraine urges Canada to expand the anti-Russian sanctions.
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