Office of the Hon. Jason Kenney, PC, MP, Calgary Southeast
Dyakuyu, Dobriy vecher, Thank you Senator, Reverend Fathers, Minister Kulynyak, Parliamentary Colleagues,
Thank you Raynell for all you have done for Canada and Ukraine. And thank you to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and all of the organizations and sponsors for making today’s Ukrainian day on the Hill possible. For coming to help us celebrate here in the heart of our nation’s capital a cultural community who’s contribution to Canada is literally incalculable – in every possible field.
When Canadians think about our national story, when they think about our positive experience of immigration; of pluralism; of multiculturalism, I think often one community comes to mind that symbolizes, and is a kind of icon of our positive experience with multiculturalism and that is the Ukrainian community.
I say that because we know the roots of this community, which go back over a century, were those people who were struggling against the tides, who were overcoming adversity, who came to this country and settled the West in the harshest circumstances possible.
Clifford Sifton put in a call for hearty people; people of courage; people of backbone who could break the virgin soil of Canada’s unsettled west. And by the thousands they came, the men of sheep skin coats as they said, crossed Europe, crossed the Atlantic, crossed Canada to the newest part of the New World. And they gave birth to Canada all through the Prairie West. And her sons and daughters went on to success and contribution in every field of human endeavor.
One person who personified that Ukrainian-Canadian story was the first Canadian of Ukrainian origin appointed to the Senate of Canada, the Hon. Paul Yuzyk. He and the Hon. Michael Starr, the first Ukrainian-Canadian appointed to a Cabinet, represents how in one or two generations, can you believe that went from barely surviving in the inhospitable climate of the Prairie West gave fruit to generation upon generation of successful Canadians in every field. It is no accident that as Minister of Multiculturalism I have created the Paul Yuzyk award to celebrate excellence in the promotion of Canadian Multiculturalism because I want us to remember that the vision for Canada’s multiculturalism was given birth by the Son of the Ukrainian Canadian community who said, “this is not nearly a bi-cultural country, it is a multicultural country” and those who came from Ukraine and every other corner of the world have a full and equal standing as Canadians who thank him, and the Ukrainian community for that critical insight into our national heritage.
As I mentioned to Minister Kulynyak today when we met, as a kid who grew up in the Prairies Ukrainian’s cultural contribution to Canada wasn’t some kind of exotic aspect of diversity, it was who we are in Canada’s Prairies. I grew up eating cabbage rolls and perogies like it was Western Canadian food. In that sense, Ukrainian culture has become Canadian culture and this is what our multiculturalism is about. Not living in separate silo’s but coming together and sharing what is best about our background. And this community and this event tonight typifies that perfectly.
That is why I was proud to come to an agreement with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Committee Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, and the Ukrainian Civil Liberties association to finally and formally recognize the injustice of the internment of subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire including some several thousand of Ukrainian ethnicity who were unjustly and wrongly interned as enemy aliens during the first world war, and I look forward to attending the opening and unveiling of our National Historic Monument at Spirit Lake next month. To remember those who were misunderstood; who came here merely to build Canada and who instead faced prejudice. It is so important for us, as Paul Rodgers reminded us, to continue to nurture the relationship between Canada and the Ukraine – which goes back over a century.
I am proud that Canada has always stood at the forefront of recognizing and defending the democratic and independent Ukraine; just as Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence; just as Canada had the largest election observer missions in each of the last two Ukrainian presidential elections; just as Ukraine’s is the only European country which continues to have Canadian development assistance program run by CIDA to help promote transparency in the public service in the Ukraine; just as Canada was the first Western government to recognize the genocidal nature of the Holodomor, the famine genocide.
As the Prime Minister did last year in his visit to Kyiv and Lviv, we as Canadians will continue to champion democratic values and belief that Ukrainians and Canadians together aspire to the full enjoyment of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
J’encourage tous les membres de la communauté Ukraino-canadienne à partager leur succès, leur succès d’intégration du Multiculturalisme, des richesses culturelles avec toutes les communautés culturelles au Canada et tous les nouveaux canadiens ainsi qu’avec ceux de longue date. On va continuer à solidifier la solidarité démocratique entre les peuples canadiens et les peuples ukrainiens.
Merci beaucoup and thank you very much.