2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – which unites Ukrainian organizations from coast to coast to coast of our great country. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, supporters and generosity of our donors, the Ukrainian Canadian community today – more than 1.4 million of us – is stronger than ever and ready to lead us into a brighter future.
Learn our history in a series of videos
Every month this year, UCC will be presenting a video that describes and discusses our history and the important work of the community throughout the decades.
History of the Ukrainian community in Canada
1891 – 1930
The Pioneer Experience
Ukrainians immigrated to Canada at the turn of the century, settling mostly in rural areas of the prairie provinces. Given the church services were required all the more by the new settlers, and in 1918 the autonomous Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada was established. Between 1903 and 1920 Ukrainian Canadians started many organizations and institutions (Ridna Shkola, Taras Shevchenko Institute in Edmonton, Andrey Sheptycky Ukrainian Bursa in Winnipeg among others).
With the outbreak of WWI many Ukrainian immigrants were detained being deemed “enemy aliens” as they arrived from countries at war with Canada. Formed in 1917, the Ukrainian Canadian Citizens’ Committee, consisting of various lay and church organizations sent a delegation to Ottawa to protest the classification of immigrants from western Ukraine as “enemy aliens”.
A number of organizations became active in the ’20s and ’30s including USRL, UNF, the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood and others.
Forerunners of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee
The need for unified action by the Ukrainian community became urgent in 1938 to react to events affecting Ukrainians in Europe and the beginning of WWII. The community was anxious to unite under one representative committee.
The final and conclusive impetus for unity came from the National War Services of Canada which was anxious that young Ukrainians enlist in military services.
November 6-7, 1940
Ukrainian Central Committee is formed
The Ukrainian Central Committee was formed as the one representative body on November 6-7, 1940.
The UCC constituted of the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, Ukrainian National Federation, Ukrainian Self Reliance League, United Hetman Organization and United Labour Organization.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Dr. W. Kushnir was elected the First President of the UCC. Dr. S. W. Sawchuk became the First Vice-President and Chairman of the Presidium.
June 22-24, 1943
First Congress of Ukrainian Canadians
Slogan – “Victory and Freedom“
War Effort and Ukrainian War Refugees
Following the victory of the Allied Forces in 1945, nearly two million Ukrainians find themselves as refugees in Europe. To help and support them, the Ukrainian Canadian Relief Fund was established in 1948 and grew to over $200,000, led by the efforts of the Canadian women’s committee of the UCC.
The Central Ukrainian Relief Bureau in London channelled all relief aid.
The UCC pressed the Canadian government to give political refugee status to displaced people and convinced the allies to stop forced repatriation to the Soviet Union. Thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian community in Canada, over 32,000 Ukrainian refugees would find a home in Canada by the early 1950s.
Third Congress of Ukrainian Canadians
The Congress took place in Winnipeg
1950-1960 and beyond
Defending human rights and freedoms
The UCC stood up against this persecution and for Ukraine’s freedom and Ukrainian organizations in Canada were the voice of the voiceless. They advocated for equal rights and self-determination of all peoples and called on their Canadian government to oppose Soviet tyranny.
Radio Canada International starts Ukrainian language broadcasting
To combat Soviet propaganda, radio services such as the Voice of America and Radio Canada International Ukrainian-language service, broke through the information blockade and broadcast into the Soviet Union. This was achieved in no small part due to the hard work of the UCC and the Ukrainian Congressional Committee of America.
Sixth Congress of Ukrainian Canadians.
By this time 25 organizations comprised the membership of the UCC. Resolutions were approved dealing with financial, organizational, social, educational, cultural and political issues as well as student and women’s activities, all aimed at strengthening the community and the UCC.
Multiculturalism and the Arts
The Ukrainian Canadian community continued to grow and prosper throughout the 1960s. The community embarked on a project securing the Ukrainian legacy of contributions to Canada – from coast to coast, donations are raised to build a monument to Ukraine’s bard, Taras Shevchenko at the Manitoba legislature. Learn more.
July 9, 1961
More than $175,000 is raised (more than $1.5 million in today’s dollars), and on July 9, 1961, almost 25,000 people gathered to see Prime Minister John Diefenbaker unveil the Taras Shevchenko Monument. With the surplus funds from the monument project, (what later becomes the) Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko is created to preserve and develop Ukrainian culture in Canada.
UCC took an active part in discussions about Canada’s diversity; they deliver reports to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which recommends that minority groups be given greater recognition and support in preserving their cultures. In October 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, speaking at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, announces the policy of multiculturalism.