For Canada, 2019 began with a change in leadership at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, when Alexandra Chyczij began her first year as national president, succeeding Paul Grod, who served in that capacity from 2007 to 2018, and went on to lead the Ukrainian World Congress.
As the new UCC head, Ms. Chyczij wasted little time in calling on Canada and the international community to increase pressure on Russia to secure the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors captured during a Russian naval attack on Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on November 25, 2018. The sailors held captive by Russia are prisoners of war and protected by the Geneva Convention, and their incarceration is a “grave violation of international law,” said Ms. Chyczij in a January 17 statement that also called for the release of “over 70 Ukrainian political prisoners taken hostage and imprisoned by the Kremlin.”
Among the UCC’s demands was for Canada to implement specific actions against Russia in response to the November 2018 Kerch Strait attack, including sanctions on Russian state financial institutions as well as on Russian shipping that would both ban Canadian ships from docking in Russian ports in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea and ban Russian ships from Canadian ports.
The UCC also called on the Canadian government to apply its Magnitsky legislation to implement sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the violations of internationally recognized human rights of Ukrainian citizens – and working with its NATO allies, increase military assistance to Ukraine, including providing Ukraine with naval armaments, surface-to-ship missiles, patrol boats, radar systems and surveillance equipment.
Still focused on Ukraine, the UCC on March 13 called for the renewal and expansion of Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine. Five days later, the Canadian government announced it would extend the operation until the end of March 2022.
At the end of March, Ukrainians in 72 countries, including Canada, cast their votes at 101 polling locations for Ukraine’s presidential election. Three of those polling stations were in Canada: Ottawa, Toronto and, for the first time ever, Edmonton. The Edmonton Consulate was the first that Ukraine opened since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression in the Donbas in 2014. It serves the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, as well as the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
Most Ukrainians who voted in Canada supported the incumbent, President Petro Poroshenko, with 152 votes in Ottawa, 432 in Toronto and 110 in Edmonton. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who won the presidency, received only 213 votes in all of Canada.
Meanwhile on March 11, Illya Myktyn started work as the new national coordinator of the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK). A graduate of the University of Toronto who had been working at the Canadian Ukrainian Immigrant Aid Society, Mr. Mykytyn will split his duties between SUSK and the UCC, according to both organizations.
One month later, tragedy struck the Ukrainian Canadian community in Hamilton, Ontario, when its cultural center was destroyed by a fire that began in the early hours of Saturday, April 13.
The building was home to the Ukrainian Youth Association, League of Ukrainian Canadians, Svitanok Women’s Choir, Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Language School, and previously to bandura music, art and dance groups in Hamilton.
A few days later, on April 16, a general election was held in the western Canadian province of Alberta that saw the election of at least three new ethnic Ukrainian members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
Of the three new MLAs – all from the governing United Conservative Party (UCP) – two have significant historic links to the Ukrainian community. Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, who defeated an incumbent who is also of ethnic Ukrainian origin, Jessica Littlewood of the opposition New Democratic Party, is descended from one of the first two Ukrainian settlers to set foot on Canadian soil – Ivan Pylypiw.
Calgary-Acadia MLA Tyler Shandro is the grand-nephew of Alberta’s first Ukrainian-Canadian MLA, Andrew Shandro, who represented the Ukrainian bloc-settlement constituency of Whitford from 1915 to 1922. Mr. Shandro was also appointed Alberta’s health minister.
Another incoming MLA of Ukrainian origin, Nate Glubish (Strathcona-Sherwood Park) was named minister of service for Alberta.
Returning UCP incumbent Mike Ellis (Calgary-West), whose maternal great-grandparents came from Ukraine, was appointed to the non-Cabinet position of government whip. UCP MLA David Hanson (Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul), who was also re-elected, traces his Ukrainian roots to the last century when his great-grandparents arrived in Canada in 1910.
Other victorious Ukrainian Canadian MLAs included several returning NDP incumbents: Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora), former deputy premier and health minister; Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview), former minister of economic development and international trade; and Lorne Dach, who represents the riding of Edmonton-McClung.
Later in the month, on April 22, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement congratulating Mr. Zelenskyy on winning the Ukrainian presidential election. “Canada commends the millions of Ukrainians who exercised their democratic rights and went to the polls,” said Mr. Trudeau on behalf of the Canadian government. “Canada is proud to have deployed hundreds of election observers to Ukraine, and I thank Lloyd Axworthy for his work leading the observer delegation.”
The prime minister added that Canada is also “providing funding for projects that support fair, transparent and legitimate democratic elections in the country.”
The UCC issued its own statement of congratulations to President-elect Zelenskyy on April 22. “The Ukrainian people have affirmed their historic choice of Euro-Atlantic integration for their country,” said Ms. Chyczij, who noted that the UCC looks forward to working with the Zelenskyy administration “in furthering these strategic goals.”
Mr. Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign affairs minister, also spoke to The Ukrainian Weekly about the election-observation mission he led. In the April 28 issue, he said that despite Russian attempts to interfere with Ukraine’s presidential election, the two rounds of voting were held under a “free and fair” democratic process and resulted in Ukrainians choosing as their head of state political neophyte Mr. Zelenskyy, “a riddle wrapped up in an enigma.”
The 160 Canadians who participated in the election observer mission visited 2,366 polling stations. During the first and second rounds of voting in Ukraine’s presidential election, “polls opened on time; ballots were counted properly; law-enforcement officers were available for security; and grievances and problems were quickly responded to,” said the now 80-year-old Mr. Axworthy, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work while he was foreign minister to ban land mines.
He also credited Ukraine with developing an “early-warning prevention” system to address any potential disruptions to the election campaign – including Russian attempts to disseminate disinformation through social media in the lead-up to the first round of voting on March 31.
Two days after Mr. Zelenskyy’s landslide win, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to the president-elect “and reiterated Canada’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” according to a readout released by Mr. Trudeau’s office.
The Canadian government also committed up to $17.8 million (U.S.) to advance electoral reforms in Ukraine. Of that amount, $8 million was allocated to support the team of Canadians who participated in the election observation missions of both Canada and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
On May 8, outgoing President Poroshenko met with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and thanked Canada, in particular at the G-7 level, for its full support, both in terms of reforms and counteraction to Russian aggression. According to the president’s office, the two further discussed broadening security cooperation between Kyiv and Ottawa, as well as Canada’s support for the possibility of Ukraine to obtain a NATO Membership Action Plan.
On May 11, the UCC issued a statement decrying attempts by three groups, including Russian Heritage of Canada, to remove the Holodomor from an Ontario legislative bill on genocide awareness.
Bill 97, which would proclaim April as Genocide Awareness, Commemoration, Prevention and Education Month, has yet to be passed but so far does not mention Joseph Stalin’s man-made famine that killed as many as 10 million Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933.
Meanwhile, Canadian government and Ukrainian community officials took a wait-and-see approach to the direction President Zelenskyy’s administration would take following his May 20 inauguration in Kyiv, which Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan attended on behalf of the Canadian government.
“We look forward to hearing their vision so that Canada can evolve its support based on their needs,” said Mr. Sajjan, who also had a bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s new head of state. “Instead of us trying to dictate what we think they need, we’re there to provide support for what they require,” he added.
Mr. Sajjan told The Ukrainian Weekly that Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, Operation UNIFIER, in which about 200 Canadian soldiers are deployed to Ukraine in six-month rotations, was expanded “as to where we do the training,” explained Mr. Sajjan. “Instead of having the troops come to us, we have 10 locations where Canadian Armed Forces personnel will conduct the training. This provides tremendous flexibility – but also the training is mutually determined as to what is needed,” he said.
The defense minister’s visit to Ukraine followed one made earlier in May by then-Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland, a Ukrainian Canadian, who met not only with Mr. Zelenskyy, but also with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who had announced their intention to leave their posts following Mr. Zelenskyy’s inauguration as president.
President Grod of the UWC met with President Zelenskyy on May 21 and attended the presidential inauguration the day before as a representative of the sole international non-governmental organization invited to attend the ceremony. He told The Weekly that he also warned the president to not “throw out the baby with the bathwater” following the scathing comments Mr. Zelenskyy made in his inauguration address about “pompous” politicians, who over the 28 years since Ukraine gained its independence, “have created a country of opportunities – the opportunities to bribe, steal and pluck the resources.”
On the day Mr. Zelenskyy was sworn in as Ukraine’s sixth president, a significant Ukrainian Catholic monument was vandalized in Winnipeg.
On the morning of May 21, the bronze statue of St. Volodymyr the Great located adjacent to the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Ss. Vladimir and Olga in the city’s North End was found headless and missing the cross held in the figure’s hand. Created by the world-renowned Ukrainian Canadian sculptor Leo Mol, the statue was blessed by Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to Winnipeg in 1984.
The statue’s head was eventually recovered near the cathedral and returned in a black knapsack on May 25. “Two men working on construction in the area found it” at a low-rental apartment complex, said Anna Katchanovski, the cathedral’s secretary.
A Scottish-born national art gallery owner, David Loch, who was Mr. Mol’s exclusive dealer and close friend, said he would pay for the costs of the statue’s repair if the cathedral’s insurance won’t provide coverage. The parish committee was also planning a fund-raising campaign to complete the restoration work.
On June 13, the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development unanimously passed a motion by Toronto Liberal Member of Parliament Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Center), a Ukrainian Canadian, to recognize the 1944 deportations of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin as genocide.
A week later, on June 21, the UCC issued a statement calling on the Canadian government to address “the wave of political persecution against Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea,” by imposing individual sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the “egregious violations of human rights of Ukrainian citizens” and “significantly increase sectoral sanctions targeting Russia’s economy until Russia ends its occupation of Crimea and parts of the eastern Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk.”
On June 22, a trilingual educational plaque and commemorative statue were unveiled and consecrated to the civilian internees held in Yoho National Park’s internment camp in British Columbia during World War I. The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), in co-operation with Parks Canada, unveiled the trilingual (English, French, Ukrainian) plaque on the site where, between 1915 and 1916, some 200 mostly Ukrainian men were interned as enemy aliens under Canada’s War Measures Act.
In arguably the biggest news story of 2019, President Zelenskyy made his first overseas trip and North American debut when he arrived in Canada on the country’s birthday (July 1) to attend the third annual Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto, a gathering of more than 800 representatives of 37 countries and 10 international organizations.
On July 2, the 41-year-old new head of state spent the next day in the city on a jammed near 13-hour public schedule that began with a working breakfast with Ms. Freeland, and went on to include meetings with members of the Ukrainian Canadian community and Prime Minister Trudeau; a visit to the Holodomor Memorial; an address to the Ukraine Reform Conference; and a dinner in his honor hosted by Mr. Trudeau.
In a joint news conference that day with the prime minister, the president spoke of his desire to reach a ceasefire in the battle-ravaged eastern region of Ukraine, and rescue the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained and recover the Ukrainian ships seized by Russia in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. President Zelenskyy said he also spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau about expanding the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement to include joint ventures in the area of information technology.
During their bilateral meeting, the two leaders signed the Audiovisual Coproduction Treaty that will help promote Canadian content in Ukraine, and share the creative and financial resources of Canadian and Ukrainian audiovisual producers. Canada and Ukraine also agreed to renew a Youth Mobility Arrangement, which was first established nine years ago by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to support travel and work opportunities for Canadian and Ukrainian young people.
During the Ukraine Reform Conference, Mr. Zelenskyy also delivered his first public address, in which he said that his administration’s key tasks would be to eradicate corruption; create an independent court system; digitize government services through the use of artificial intelligence-technology; and attract foreign investment with the “single purpose of raising the standard of living for Ukrainians.”
He said that building Ukraine’s economy was a priority, while rebuilding the war-ravaged Donbas alone will cost about 10 billion Euros (about $11 billion U.S.). Mr. Zelenskyy told the conference that a forum would be held in [late October]in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol to attract international investment in humanitarian and infrastructure projects in the Donbas.
At the reform conference, co-hosted by the governments of Canada and Ukraine, Ottawa announced over $45 million (about $34 million U.S.) in support for Ukraine, including $25 million ($19 million U.S.) over six years to help implement “inclusive and gender-responsive reforms in Ukraine,” according to Global Affairs Canada.
Minister Freeland also announced that Canada would deny entry to Ukrainians from the Donbas region holding Russian-issued passports, which she said that Canada considers “a further act of aggression against Ukraine.”
Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevičius announced that his country would co-host the next global Ukraine Reform Conference in Vilnius in 2020.
On August 14, Conservative Sen. Raynell Andreychuk, a Ukrainian Canadian, said good-bye to Canada’s unelected upper chamber, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Appointed in 1993, she became the first female senator from the province of Saskatchewan.
A former judge and ambassador, Sen. Andreychuk sponsored a number of legislative initiatives related to the Ukrainian-Canadian community. Among those efforts: a resolution on the Holodomor Ukrainian Famine-Genocide in the Senate, which was adopted on June 19, 2003; Bill C-459 in the Senate, which established a Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day and recognized the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 as an act of genocide; Bill S-226, which enacted the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Magnitsky Law) in Canada on October 18, 2017, which enables the Canadian government to impose sanctions against perpetrators of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.
In the August 11 issue, The Weekly reported that a retractable and re-useable metal banner was available at no cost from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF), to help communities commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I internment operations in Canada, which ran from 1914 to 1920.
The banner – titled “Without Just Cause!” – includes a short historical background of the internment operations along with an image of a group of prisoners interned at Banff-Castle Mountain, one of 24 such sites across Canada.
One month later, on September 28 in St. Paul, Alberta, members of the UCCLF and its activist counterpart, the UCCLA, unveiled Canada’s newest monument dedicated to remembering the country’s first national internment operations. Titled “21 Strands,” the monument includes a trilingual (English-French-Ukrainian) educational plaque and an image of internees standing behind 21 horizontal lengths of Canadian barbed wire.
Canadians headed to the polls in a general election on October 21, and several Ukrainian Canadians held onto their House of Commons seats, most notably Ms. Freeland, who represents the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale for the governing Liberals.
Other ethnic Ukrainian Liberal MPs re-elected were Julie Dzerowicz in Toronto and Terry Duguid in Winnipeg. Former Cabinet Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk, however, lost her seat in the city’s riding of Kildonan-St. Paul.
The Official Opposition Conservatives also had Ukrainian Canadian MPs return to the Commons, including James Bezan, the shadow minister for national defense, who held onto his Manitoba seat. Other re-elected Tories were Tom Lukiwski in Saskatchewan, and David Yurdiga and Kelly McCauley in Alberta.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who was first elected a Liberal MP for a Toronto riding in 2004, chose not to run again following a parliamentary career during which he convinced then-Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin to send an unprecedented 500 government-sponsored election observers (in addition to the 500 that came from the community itself) to monitor the third round of voting in Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election.
Mr. Wrzesnewskyj was also instrumental in securing a redress agreement, from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, for the First World War internment of Ukrainian Canadians, and worked behind the scenes to get a 2008 Holodomor memorial bill passed in Parliament.
His successor in the riding of Etobicoke Center is fellow Liberal and Ukrainian Canadian Yvan Baker, who served as Mr. Wrzesnewskyj’s executive assistant before serving as the member of the Ontario legislature for the same-named riding from 2014 to 2018.
On October 29, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously passed the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. Bill M225 was introduced by BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. In 2008, the Canadian government had recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people and established the fourth Saturday of November as the National Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day. The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have adopted similar legislation.
On November 1 to 3 in Ottawa, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress held its XXVI triennial congress at which Minister Freeland was a headline speaker. The congress addressed the current needs of the Ukrainian Canadian community and focused on changes and growth of the community. According to the congress website, featured were five workshops, 11 guest speakers and some 70 hours of learning the collaboration. Recipients of the Taras Shevchenko Medal, UCC National Leadership Award and UCC National Youth Leadership Award were honored at the prestigious National Awards Banquet. More than 300 delegates attended the congress at which Ms. Chyczij was unanimously re-elected as national president.
The year wound up with the rise of two Ukrainian Canadian women to two high-profile roles.
On November 3, Minister Freeland announced the appointment of Larisa Galadza, a 48-year-old senior Canadian public servant, as Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, its 10th representative since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. She succeeded Roman Waschuk, who served as Canada’s official representative in Kyiv since 2014.
Prior to being named ambassador, Ms. Galadza was the director-general of the peace and stabilization operations program at Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign affairs department, which directs the implementation of Canada’s commitments to United Nations’ peace operations, as well as the Canadian Police Arrangement, through which 40 Canadian police officers are being deployed to Ukraine.
All four of Ms. Galadza’s Ukrainian-born grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1949. Her parents, Roman Galadza and Irene (Bishko) Galadza, were married at Soyuzivka in Kerhonkson, N.Y., in 1969 and immigrated to Canada that year. They live in the Toronto-area city of Brampton, where Father Galadza serves as pastor of St. Elias the Prophet Church.
Joining Ms. Galadza in Ukraine was her husband, businessman Kenneth Cronin (their university-aged children, Finnian, Nikolai and Taissa, will remain in Canada). In Kyiv, Ambassador Galadza has other family – a cousin, Ukrainian Catholic Deacon Daniel Galadza, serves as a member of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission in the Ukrainian capital.
Ms. Freeland herself got a promotion, when on November 20, Prime Minister Trudeau named her deputy prime minister – only the 10th Cabinet minister to receive that title since the position was created in 1977 by Mr. Trudeau’s father, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the only Ukrainian Canadian to hold the post.
Deputy PM Freeland was given the further responsibility to serve as intergovernmental affairs minister entrusted with trying to find unity in a country divided along regional lines, particularly in western Canada, where the 51-year-old Cabinet superstar was born.
The daughter of Donald Freeland, a farmer, lawyer and Liberal, and the late Halyna (Chomiak) Freeland, who was also a lawyer and who ran as a candidate in an Edmonton riding for the left-of-center New Democratic Party in the 1988 Canadian general election, Ms. Freeland also retains oversight of Canada-U.S. relations, which also includes the conclusion of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement legislative process – a responsibility she had as foreign affairs minister.
Quebec Liberal MP François-Philippe Champagne, who previously served as international trade minister following Ms. Freeland’s time in the portfolio, succeeded her as Canada’s foreign affairs minister.
In late November, former President Poroshenko spoke at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia. His main message to the forum, which took place on November 20-22, was: “Don’t allow Putin to destabilize us.” His advice, based on what he said was his years of experience “in communication” with the Russian president was: “Please don’t trust Putin.” Mr. Poroshenko also told forum participants that Ukraine will regain Crimea, which is temporarily lost to Russia, but needs global support in its fight against Russian aggression in the Donbas. “When Ukraine protect[ed its]territorial integrity and our sovereignty – and voluntarily gave up the third-biggest nuclear arsenal in the world and expected global solidarity to protect our territorial integrity, nobody stopped Russia, except Ukraine,” he said about Russia’s war in eastern Ukraine.
At year’s end, a stone sculpture by Nick Leniuk was unveiled at City Hall in Kingston, Ontario, on December 6 to honor the Ukrainians who made this city their home. Titled “Enduring Roots” and commissioned by the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston, whose president is Prof. Lubomyr Luciuk, the sculpture depicts an oak tree, whose strong roots are nourished by the Christian faith and national identity of the Ukrainians of Kingston, represented symbolically by a stylized cross, the Ukrainian tryzub (trident) and a Canadian maple leaf.