|November 28, 2007|
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement today at a commemoration ceremony for the victims of Holodomor – the famine that killed millions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933.
“I am very honoured to join you tonight in this solemn commemoration of the Holodomor. The 20th century was described by Pope John Paul II as the “century of tears.” The world was infected by a lethal combination of utopian ideology and brutal despotism. It spawned totalitarian regimes that enslaved their own peoples and sought to conquer others.
Rarely did dogma and dictatorship combine to more murderous effect than in the regime of the communist tyrant Josef Stalin. Tonight we remember and honour those Ukrainians who suffered horribly during his savage reign. The main instrument of Stalin’s persecution of Ukrainians was collectivization.
The honest and hard-working people who had tilled the rich soil of Eastern Europe successfully for centuries were forced to farm for the Soviet state. By crushing private ownership, initiative, and dignity, collectivization destroyed most of their agricultural production, and the soviets stole the rest. The result was one of the worst famines the world has ever known, millions of men, women and children – mostly Ukrainian, but also some Kazakhs and Russians – died of starvation. Those who refused to yield were slaughtered.
We in Canada are bonded to this dark chapter in human history by more than a million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, many of whom lost loved ones in the Holodomor. And so, all Canadians join us in commemorating this 75th anniversary of the terrible famine of 1932-33. Because what was done to the Ukrainian people was a mortal offence against the values we hold dearest; freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Ladies and gentlemen, in remembering these events, we should also never forget the efforts that some made to encourage us to cast aside these values and turn a blind eye to this brutality. Between the two world wars and the long cold war that followed, apologists tried to persuade us that the ideology of communism was benign.
They said we should be neutral towards it – an “honest broker.” They said we should learn to live with it – that we had nothing to fear from the Soviet Empire. Canadians knew better. So we took a stand. We stood for freedom and fundamental human rights. We stood against oppression in Ukraine. We stood with its brave people, and those of the other captive nations of central and Eastern Europe. And when Ukraine won her freedom, we became the first western country to formally recognize her membership in the free world.
Our special kinship with Ukraine was displayed to the world again last month. At UNESCO, Canada proudly co-sponsored the government of Ukraine’s motion honouring the millions who perished in the famine and acknowledging that their deaths were caused by the brutal communist dictatorship of Josef Stalin. That was just the beginning of a year of commemorative events in Canada planned by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Our government welcomes and supports these efforts because remembering those who died, and why they died, is our best hope against history repeating itself.”
The Prime Minister’s Office – Communications
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