Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Canadian politicians clueless about cultural diversity

Interesting how politicians and the media fall over themselves to exclude European cultures from Canada's multicultural mosaic as a demonstration of their great respect for cultural diversity.

The Winnipeg Free Press recently illustrated this with a news story, editorial and letter to the editor chronicling a political squabble over the optics of acquiring bloc votes from visibly "ethnic" communities.

The end result is that both the parties and the media appear totally clueless about the realities of Canada's multicultural mosaic.

It starts with the Winnipeg Free Press news story "Liberals miffed as Tories court minorities" which chronicles the insults traded between the two parties.

WINNIPEG Liberals accuse federal Conservatives of vigorously courting ethnic voters who traditionally vote for the Grits -- and they're miffed at what they see as a disingenuous political manoeuvre. ... In Manitoba, Tories have approached leaders of ethnic groups, said Liberal sources, who are angry at what they see as a blatant vote grab rather than a genuine effort to understand ethnic issues.

Speaking of blatant vote grabs, my father can drop some pretty big Liberal names that he recalls having visited the family farm in rural Saskatchewan to enlist my grandfather's help in "reaching out" to neighbouring Ukrainian and Russian-speaking homesteaders. My grandfather, eager to be a "good" Canadian, learned English quickly (without ESL classes or any other government assistance) and became politically informed. He was understandably flattered to be asked to deliver messages from such important people to an assembly of his fellow immigrants in the local community hall.

But, that was then and this is now. Although back at the press office old habits die hard. Hot on the heels of that article comes this editorial that opines on the current political squabble so that, presumably, readers can understand what is really going on here.

SHAME on those dastardly Conservatives. They're vigorously courting the ethnic vote, even though they know those ballots belong to the Liberal Party of Canada. The nerve! ...Since when is it wrong for a political party to broaden its appeal by reaching out to new Canadians or those with a special interest in minority rights? ... A political party is free to snub any group or people, but such a faction is unlikely to last very long. No one needs permission to "learn more" about their neighbours. Indeed, all Canadians should seek such understanding. It is a prerequisite of good citizenship. ...

Unlikely to last very long?? Define "long." The author is either mistaken or being deliberately obtuse. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have snubbed Ukrainian Canadians from the earliest days of immigration and still do today.

This Conservative government, like the Chretien Liberals, steadfastly and studiously refuses to grant official recognition of and restitution for human rights abuses against Ukrainians and other East Europeans during the WWI internment operation.

This is not a request for taxpayer money to compensate individuals. Rather, it is a request for the government to return the equivalent value of money and property the federal government confiscated from innocent, hard-working and loyal immigrants for an education campaign to help Canadians indeed "learn more" about their neighbours. But, perhaps neither party is particularly keen on that actually happening.

Meanwhile, oddly enough the national and regional media has not considered this outright snub of Ukrainian Canadians as the least bit scandalous ... and therefore newsworthy. So the current government continues (like all those before it) to treat Ukrainians, their ethnic identity, and their cultural contribution to Canada as if they were non-existent.

Which is evident in this letter from Canada's most recent Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity). The honourable member wrote:

... Conservatives have a distinguished record of reflecting Canada's diversity. For starters, Conservatives boast a number of firsts: the first Muslim elected to Parliament; the first Hindu elected to Parliament; the first Chinese-Canadian elected to Parliament; the first Indo-Canadian woman elected to Parliament; the first Japanese-Canadian cabinet minister; and the first black cabinet minister. Manitobans can take pride in the remarkable accomplishments of former Conservative senator Paul Yuzyk, who represented Manitoba in the Senate from 1963 to 1986 and was one of the earliest proponents of multiculturalism. ...

Well, good on the Tories for claiming a "Manitoban" as one of their own. How much more diverse can you get, eh?

A tad odd that the honourable Tory member would name just one particular individual in that ethnically diverse list ... and use a provincial instead of an ethnic label to help readers make the connection between Mr. Yuzyk's accomplishments and his interest in furthering multiculturalism.

Did his complexion have something to do with the omission? Who knows. Whatever the reason, it doesn't seem very politically astute to risk offending Canadians who identify even in small part with the missing ethnic label. (I do and believe me, I am offended.) Furthermore, if I were a Manitoban I'd be further offended by the member's clumsy semantics.

Maybe I'm naive, but in light of this latest article citing a big drop in the opinion polls for the Tories, you'd think every single Tory might be rather careful not to snub any potential voter.

However, I don't want to be accused of picking on the Tories. Because in their mad quest to be seen as respectful of cultural diversity, politicians of every stripe (as well as the media) would be wise to consider that Canadians may want to see recognition of their heritage cultures, rather than merely their skin colour, reflected in the "changing face of Canadian society."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update on latest attack on freedom of speech in Ukraine

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group sent out this press release yesterday. This group works so hard to save lives. Please do what you can to help save their voice.

Ukrainian civic and human rights activists under virtual attack

Since around 17:30 on December 9, 2007 the server supporting the civic network “Maidan” website and the sites of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union have been facing a sustained and intensive DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack. The attackers are inundating the server with a continual barrage of requests in order to paralyze it and thus block access to the websites.

Why attack human rights workers?

We believe we pose a threat to anti-democratic forces because we are often the only sites publishing material in English on human rights abuses in Ukraine and its close neighbours. Two of the targeted sites have recently published a number of hard-hitting articles and reports on human rights issues in neighbouring countries.

During the week which ended with the attack, articles were posted in Russian and English regarding the illegal expulsion of an Uzbek, Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov) from Russia to Uzbekistan, some 24 hours after the European Court of Human Rights had applied Rule 39 halting the expulsion.

The article “Worth Their Weight in Questions” was published in Russian on Saturday December 8.

What or who is next?

This attack comes just over a month after an almost identical onslaught against the main Russian human rights website HRO.org. In Russia there have also been attacks on other sites, often organizations which cover human rights issues (for example, “Memorial”).

This present attack is the first in Ukraine and affects two sites which regularly report on human rights issues in Russia, Belarus and some other former Soviet republics.

We believe therefore that the question of “who is next” is one that transcends all borders.

What you can do to help

Add your voice to ours! Please help us and other human rights activists resist the powerful forces trying to silence us.

1. Support our publishing efforts. If you have access to any websites and/or blogs, particularly civic or human rights ones, please post our articles there.
Attempt to Silence Human Rights Defenders (Russian and English)
So Who is Silence Golden For? (English)
Worth Their Weight in Questions (English)
«Потому что молчание – золото» (Russian)
Russian Authorities flout the European Court of Human Rights (English)

2. Spread the word. Pass this information around, to family, friends, co-workers and human rights activists in your personal networks. As well, forward it to your electoral representatives. Although we cannot say with certainty who is behind the attacks, governments need to be made aware of them – and the human rights abusers the attackers are trying to protect.

3. Join our network. Our experience in helping our Russian human rights colleagues, and their enormous support over the last few days, has made us acutely aware of the need for a wide emergency network of people around the world who can help when urgent action is required. Even simply forwarding email messages and URLs is a tremendous help. If you are willing to join our network, please contact Halya immediately.

For more information please contact:

In English: Halya Coynash at halyapuff@gmail.com or Tel: 0048-58-710-7401
In Ukrainian: Yevhen Zakharov on 8-050-402-40-64

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

French police beat Ukrainian choir members

Here's a good reason not to go to France, especially if you sing in a Ukrainian choir, get hungry, and venture out for food without being able to speak French. Apparently that's all it takes to bring out a real mean streak in Inspector Clouseau and his minions:

French policemen beat four members of “Dumka” National Choir of Ukraine ... in Clermont-Ferran city of France on 7 December.

...the four choir members went out of their hotel to buy some food in a near-by supermarket. They received 500-euro bonds from the tour organizers. When they tried to pay for food, supermarket employees ... called police...

According to ... the choir chief, unknown people in civil [sic] clothes arrived into the supermarket and began to demand from choir members all their money. As the Ukrainian musicians does not know the French language, they could not understand ... and offered resistance. As it appeared later, the people in civil clothes were police employees. In their turn, the French policemen used force. The beaten Ukrainian citizens were taken to a nearest police station. ...

... the 500-euro bonds authenticity was proved after an inspection, and ... the policemen, who arrested the Ukrainians, did not have on them anything that indicated them as policemen...


The police commissariat representatives apologized for “misunderstanding” and recognized the mistake of the French policemen during the arrest of the Ukrainian singers.

The Ukrainians were discharged from custody, after which they turned to the nearest medical institution to register their beating.

At present the choir collective continues its tour in France. ...

Full article here.

(If I were the choir director, I'd cancel the tour and demand compensation in the form of full payment for the remainder of the tour. In cash.)

Malcolm Muggeridge meets Mother Theresa on stage in San Jose

Here's a good reason to find your way to San Jose!

SAN JOSE playwright Cathal Gallagher's Malcolm and Teresa gets at the story of English journalist and talk-show host Malcolm Muggeridge by bouncing back and forth between two key points in Muggeridge's public life.

In the early 1930s, the Communist-leaning Malcolm (Kevin Kennedy) is covering Moscow for the Manchester Guardian when he inadvertently stumbles over a devastating Ukrainian famine (now estimated to have caused 4 million to 7 million deaths).

In Gallagher's telling, Malcolm's bundle of experiences around this famine—sights of starvation, disillusionment caused by the Russian government's refusal to mitigate it, ostracism suffered at the hands of other left-leaning intellectuals whose guided tours of Communist Russia led them to disbelieve his reports—throws him into an existential crisis that will only be answered 30 years later when he meets and interviews the then-unknown Mother Teresa (Diana Hoffman) on his talk show. ...

... MALCOLM AND TERESA, a Quo Vadis production, plays Thursday–Saturday at 8pm through Nov. 3 at the Historic Hoover Theatre, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $12–$15. 408.252.3530.

Full article here.

Freedom of speech under attack in Ukraine - again

According to the General Petro Grigorenko Foundation, there has been mass hacker attack on Ukrainian human rights sites.

It is not known exactly how many sites were affected but the following three have been completely shut down: the information site Maidan, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, and the Ukrainian Helsinki Watch Group.

Obviously the folks running these sites are doing good work which, equally obviously, disturbs some very evil people.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vancouver audio archives updated to Dec. 9

Audio archives for Nash Holos are now available on the Nash Holos website.

On Ukrainian Food Flair, Sylvia Pidraziuk Molnar shares the recipe for "Cool Kovbasa" that first appeared on this blog here.

On Travel Tips for Ukraine and Eastern Europe, Myrna Arychuk of Solaway Travel highlights some great travel hotspots in Romania.

As usual, the Proverb of the Week and other items of interest to the Ukrainian community in the Lower Mainland ... and beyond.

And of course, plenty of Great Ukrainian Music... This week's Nash Holos Ukrainian Language School lesson is on tsyboolya and our CD of the week is Dennis Lischynski and the Parkland Pioneers' tribute to Peter Hnatiuk.

Enjoy!

Ukrainian music website

Aleksey Zakharenko from Kyiv, and webmaster of the OrigenMusic website, recently sent me a bunch of fabulous Ukrainian music CDs that will be getting airplay on Nash Holos in the weeks ahead.

Very professional, high-calibre musicianship and a fairly eclectic musical variety, ranging from lost songs of Ukrainian villagers to New Age opera. He is also a liturgical music expert (Ukrainian and Russian). Apparently, some of his church bell tracks have been used in recent Hollywood movies.

The website is in English ... the translations are a tad choppy, but comprehensible enough for the "Ukrainian-impaired" visitor to be able to browse the site comfortably and come away with more historical knowledge and order a CD or two!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - mea culpa

It has been brought to my attention that I had a (rather serious) brain fart while making My Excellent Edmonton Adventure Part 2 post.

Premier Ed Stelmach is Alberta's first premier of Ukrainian descent. I have since been reminded that there have been other premiers in Canada of Ukrainian descent (full or part). They include Roy Romanow (Saskatchewan,) Gary Filmon (Manitoba) and Ernie Eves (Ontario).

Sincere apologies for the oversight(s).

Monday, December 03, 2007

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - Part VI: All good things must end

Well, I figured that by Friday evening Molly Anne would need a break from gallivanting me all around Edmonton and area for the past 3 days. So it was the perfect time to meet with my esteemed colleague, the award-winning, veteran Ukrainian broadcaster Roman Brytan of World FM (formerly CKER) for some relaxing conversation over dinner after he finished Friday's Radio Zhurnal.

So there I was, chatting with him in the studio between his on-air moments and innocently waiting for him to wrap up the program. Then, with 3 minutes left on the clock, he decides to chat on-air. Ah, the hazards of live radio with a consummate professional at the controls!

On Saturday after saying goodbye to my fabulous hosts, I had coffee with Freddie Curatolo who kindly let me pick his brains about the business side of art. Then my sister and I had another coffee with Maksym Protskiv, former editor of Welcome to Ukraine Magazine, who is in Edmonton for a while. It was Maksym who put me in touch with Oleh Skrypka of Vopli Vidopliassova (a cyber-relationship that has significantly increased my music library holdings!) and I certainly hope that's not the last time we meet. My sister and I both found Maksym an absolute delight!

Then a chatty 2.5 hour drive to Calgary and a nice, quiet family visit before coming back to Vancouver and gobs of heavy snow being washed away by pouring rain.

It was exhausting but exhilarating, and I'd do it all again in an instant. Thanks Molly, and everyone else who made my trip so magical. It truly was an excellent adventure.

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - Part V: Mundare

If you're going to go to East Central Alberta for a Ukrainian experience, you will not want to miss out on Mundare.

Mundare is home to many interesting things, not least of all a giant kubasa monument and the source of this brainchild, Stawnichy's Meat Processing plant. (I bought 3 rings of kubasa in the deli!)

It is also home to the Basilian Fathers Museum, an indoor museum which was thankfully warm as well as fascinating. To do it justice, I suggest spending at least half a day there to browse through all the displays and illustrated accounts of pioneer, village, and church life.

For a great Ukrainian meal, I heartily recommend M&M's Kozy Kitchen. It is an adorable restaurant with that legendary small-town hospitality and character. There is every possibility you will strike up a conversation with a colourful local and get some very interesting insights into Alberta politics, the oil industry, the weather, and everyday life. When you do go there, say hi to Margaret and Marlene from me!

And only in a place like Mundare can you see a window etched with "Western and Ukrainian Cuisine" and a sign plunked in the middle of the street (not the sidewalk, the street!) announcing the day's dinner special!

I kid you not. (The special this day was Prime Rib.)

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - Part IV: Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

On Friday morning, I experienced the indescribable, breath-taking Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Being an open-air museum, it's closed for the winter, but Molly Anne has a way of getting around such minor details. ;-)

It was a lovely morning when we left Edmonton ... winter as it should be. A nice dusting of snow, lots of sunshine, and not too cold ... as long as you're dressed for it!

(L-R: the frozen Molly Anne, Ivanko, me, and Pam inside the Grekul House).

We were taken on a quick tour by Arnold Grandt, head of corporate and community relations for the Village ... a little "zakuska" of the time-travel experience when the museum is operating full tilt. Ivanko, a senior interpreter, also joined us but had to leave early to help fellow interpreter Pam with a school group coming to experience Ukrainian Christmas preparations in pioneer times.

This award-winning historic site showcases Ukrainian settlement in Alberta starting in 1892, when Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada and were dumped in the middle of the bush and expected to turn it into prime agricultural land with pretty much their bare hands and whatever they brought with them.

They did, but it wasn't easy. There was no government assistance for my grandparents and their compatriots and Canadians often were unkind to the struggling immigrants. Yet, while life was hard, there was a charm to living a simple life and pride in being self-sufficient while contributing to the development of Canada. There are many lessons here for current immigrants to Canada, as well as people born here.

I told my sister about the Village when she came up from Calgary on Saturday to take me off Molly's hands. She's already begun organizing a family gathering to take in all of the Kalyna Country ecomuseum, of which the Village is just a part.

Knowing my family (that bunch of party animals!), I'm certainly in for another adventure! But until the Village re-opens, take this fabulous guided cyber-tour and check out this virtual tour to get a "sneak preview" of what to expect.

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - Part III: The Art of Conversation

An event in Edmonton to see and be seen at is The Art of Conversation, a monthly schmooze-fest started almost 2 years ago by Edmonton Sun columnist Graham Hicks and Magic 99 morning host Rob Christie.

Molly Anne invited me to Edmonton to attend this event, which moves around the city from month and brings people together in a relaxed setting to swap business cards, fish stories and I imagine even the occasional true story. ;-)

This month it was held at the very elegant Oasis Centre. Rob insisted on photos and promised to put them on his blog. So do check it out.

In the meantime, Molly snapped this shot of Rob with her friend Aileen and me.

My Excellent Edmonton Adventure - Part II: Meeting Alberta's Premier

It was an absolute thrill to meet Alberta's Premier Ed Stelmach, Canada's Alberta's first premier of Ukrainian descent. He is warm and charming, and so down to earth that I was barely even nervous! His wife, Marie, is equally warm and charming. (That's Molly Anne next to Mrs. Stelmach and me next to the Premier.)

I gave Premier Stelmach an autographed copy of Kobzar's Children: A Century of Ukrainian Stories, and he gave me a Christmas CD of the St. Michael-Krakow Ukrainian Catholic Choir, in which he and his wife sing (he sings bass and she sings soprano).

Premier Stelmach is the second Canadian premier I delivered a copy of KC to. (The first was my own BC Premier, as you can see in the photo at the book's blog here.) Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to remember to get either the book or the CD in this photo. :-(

The CD is outstanding, and you will definitely hear tracks from it on Nash Holos during the Christmas season!