September 28, 2016
The Ukrainian Canadian community is mourning the loss of a community leader, someone who inspired others to follow in his footsteps, regardless of the odds, to serve the Ukrainian Canadian people. John B. Gregorovich, known to many as ‘JB’, lived a life of commitment, leadership and perseverance in the face of discrimination, injustice and deceit. His life was dedicated to serving and supporting Canada’s Ukrainian community.
“It is with deep sadness that I extend condolences to the family and friends of John B. Gregorovich,” said UCC National President Paul Grod. “He was a man of exceptional courage, integrity and acumen. John was stalwart, intense, passionate in his commitment, yet also good-humoured, encouraging and supportive of the next generation of activists. Canada and our Ukrainian Canadian community has truly lost an important leader.”
Mr. Gregorovich was the son of the founder of the Ukrainian National Federation, and a lawyer by profession. In 1984 John accepted the challenging task of standing as chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Civil Liberties Commission (CLC), the group organized to represent the Ukrainian Canadian community before the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals headed by the late Mr. Justice Jules Deschênes. He competently steered that group through a trying period of several years during which time our community found itself targeted by those who alleged that Nazi war criminals and collaborators were being hidden in our midst. Under John’s direction the CLC successfully put forth our community’s position, namely that any war criminal found in Canada should be brought to trial in a Canadian criminal court of law; the same remedy eventually adopted by the Government of Canada and announced in the final report of the Deschênes Commission.
John later founded the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which together with the UCC and the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, would spearhead the campaign for acknowledgement and redress. In 2008 this resulted in the Government of Canada establishing the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, a $10 million endowment that continues to support educational and commemorative projects recalling Canada’s first national internment operations.
John also served as the last president of Branch #360, the Konowal Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, which placed plaques across Canada honouring Cpl Filip Konowal, the only Ukrainian Canadian awarded the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest military distinction, for his valour in August 1917 at the Battle of Hill 70, near Lens, France. In 1985 John led the group that also placed a plaque in London, England, to remember the sacrifices of the Ukrainian Canadian women and men who served voluntarily in the Canadian armed forces during the Second World War; whose efforts during and after that conflict played a significant role in saving Ukrainian Displaced Persons and political refugees from forcible repatriation to the Soviet Union.
Vichnaya Pam’yat – Eternal is his Memory