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Thursday, December 13, 2012

CBC will answer to Canadian Senate for dismantling RCI

Canadian Senator Hugh Segal issued a statement today on the unanimous vote in the Senate to have a special committee enquiry into the CBC decision to slash the RCI budget by 80 per cent. The statement said:

I am delighted that, in a non partisan way, the Senate voted to have the RCI matter go to a full review of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. My motion was amended by Senator Champagne to go to a full committee hearing rather than a one day appearance before bar of the Senate.

"That a ten percent cut to the CBC budget produced an 80 percent slash and burn of  Radio Canada International reflects an internal CBC management decision which needs to be better understood.  CBC management may well believe that if they let people go and dismantle transmitters, the problem will go away.

"The importance of Canada's voice to the rest of the world is not a detail of no consequence. The chance to call witnesses, pursue how other enlightened countries have expanded their short wave capacity, among other facts, will be a constructive step ahead in strengthening Canada's international voice.

Committee hearings on this matter may start as early as February 2013.


The Conservative Senator has taken exception to the disproportionate cuts to RCI by management at CBC and has been calling for answers ever since they were announced on April 4, 2012.

It's nice to see that he is getting support in the Senate without partisan politics getting in the way. Partisanship just makes it difficult to get to the bottom of this issue.

There's not been much objective analysis published, and it's disappointing how quickly the public discourse has descended to mostly acrimonious partisan politics. It's downright disheartening to see how easy it is for political pedants to throw out red herrings and completely derail a discussion.

Sure, it was Conservative MP James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, who signed a new order in council  in June that removed the obligation for the CBC to provide a shortwave service.

But according to an advocacy group for RCI, the service was also on the chopping block under previous governments, and was drastically cut back in 2001 under the then-Liberal government.

Unfortunately, Minister Moore has offered little in the way of enlightenment, which has only fueled the speculation by opponents of the current government of some sort of "secret agenda" at play.

Nor is there much insight to be gleaned from the orders in council themselves ... either the 2003 version or the newly-changed 2012 version.

Perhaps there is a secret agenda. Perhaps it is the government's ... but perhaps it's not. At any rate, why isn't anyone in the media at least asking that question?

Well, Senator Segal has been asking pointed questions and demanding answers. Shortwave and RCI fans are very fortunate that he has brought forth a reasonable and well-reasoned voice, and furthermore that he has made it heard above the rabble of partisan potshots.

An excellent article about Senator Segal's efforts to hold CBC management accountable for its draconian decisions at RCI was posted on the Puget Sound Radio website here.

As well, I spoke with Senator Segal by phone last month, and the interview was aired on Media Network Plus (on the November 3rd edition).  You can download the show here or listen the stand-alone interview here.

Keith and I are following the story closely and we'll be sharing our findings on future editions of Media Network Plus which is heard on the World Radio Network, SiriusXM, SkyDigital and great partner stations around the world.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Canada's former Ambassador to Ukraine assesses election and future prospects


The elections in Ukraine are over and (to no one's real surprise) the incumbent, Victor Yanukhovych, won ... albeit amdist accusations and eye-witness accounts of election fraud and irregularities by international election observers.
The Chief Election Observer for the Ukrainian World Congress during the 2012 election in Ukraine was Derek Fraser, former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2001). 
Fraser delivered the keynote speech at the 45th Anniversary Banquet of the Ukrainian World Congress, which took place on November 17, 2012 at St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and Heritage Centre in Oakville, Ontario. He spoke to events witnessed by election observers, many of which were not disclosed or fully covered in the international media.

Here is the text of his speech, entitled "In the Aftermath of the Elections: Where Do We Go from Here?"

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman,

As Chief Election Observer for the International Election Observer Mission of the Ukrainian World Congress, I am pleased to report back to you on the degree of fairness of the parliamentary elections, as well as to consider where the Ukrainian nation that has emerged from the elections is heading and what influence we may bring to bear to support Ukrainian sovereignty and a return to democracy.

I would like to thank the Ukrainian World Congress, together with the Canada Ukraine Foundation and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, for having supported our Mission. Ours was the largest non-government supported Mission observing the elections in Ukraine. I believe it proved its usefulness by providing an independent viewpoint, unconstrained by any political considerations. I hope that the findings of the Mission will support the useful work the UWC is doing in presenting the views of the Ukrainian diaspora to governments concerned with Ukraine. I hope that the UWC will find it useful to support such observer missions for future Ukrainian elections.

Our Election Observer Mission began its work on July 12. When the Mission came under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian World Congress on September 17. The President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, and Tamara Olexy, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, became co-heads of Mission, while I the chief Observer. We fielded between three and five long- term observers to analyze the election campaign. For a long period, however, there were only three of us. I would like to pay a special tribute to the contributions of Peter Sochan and our Ukrainian adviser, Virginia Dronova. For the elections themselves, we brought in 250 short-term observers from approximately 20 countries.

We found that the elections did not meet the minimum requirements for international standards for democratic elections. We noted that the election campaign was characterized by:

  • the imprisonment of two major leaders of the opposition,
  • restricted media freedom,
  • non-transparent and uncontrolled election expenditures, including the use of government finances and government officials,
  • the gerrymandering of a significant number of electoral districts by the Central Electoral Commission, raising questions about the Commission’s independence and impartiality,
  • the skewed membership of the Electoral Commissions at the constituency and polling station levels, leading to doubts about their ability to produce credible election results,
  • the blatant bribery of voters,
  • a growing number of incidents, often involving the authorities, of harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, violence, principally directed against the opposition.

On voting day, our observers reported several serious violations, such as duplicate ballot boxes, a great surplus of ballots at some polling stations, and a shortage at others. In past elections, surplus ballots have been used for fraudulent purposes.

After the elections, our observers continued to monitor the uncompleted counting of the ballots in several constituencies. They condemned the falsification of the election results in several constituency Electoral Commissions. They pointed out the substantial discrepancies between the official protocols of voting results prepared by the polling stations and the final tallies posted by the Central Electoral Commission. They called on the Central Electoral Commission to avoid formal recognition of illegitimate election results and Ukrainian authorities to respect the rule of law.

On November 5 in Kyiv, opposition leaders demanded that officials recount votes in 13 constituencies, where, according to the tally in the polling stations, the opposition had won, but which the Central Electoral Commission had proclaimed, were victories for the pro-government parties. The election authorities offered, subject to the approval of parliament, to rerun the vote in five of these constituencies.

In undertaking the role as Chief Observer of the Mission, I considered that one of the roles of international observer missions should be to exercise a restraining influence of the official conduct of the election campaign by drawing attention to abuses of the authorities.

To some extent, international pressure, allied with domestic opposition, did have some influence. Spurious criminal charges were dropped against the manager of the one remaining national independent television station TVI. A law on criminal libel was abandoned. In response to the complaint of a leading weekly, Ukrainsky Tizhden, that its distribution was being hampered following criticism of the government, the Prime Minister called on news agents to permit the free distribution of all publications. Parliament is likely to approve new elections in five ridings where the District Electoral Commissions sought to falsify results.

Although it is not certain, the vigour of Ukraine’s human rights organizations, the strength of the opposition, and international exposure, may have also had some influence in keeping the elections partially free. The reversion to authoritarianism could have gone further. The opposition, in part for reasons I will go into later, did at the end receive a more balanced coverage on television. In spite of hindrances, the opposition was able to run a vigorous campaign. The public will was, although imperfectly, expressed in the results.

It appears, however, that where President Yanukovych has made certain gestures towards domestic and international opinion, he only did so if these gestures would not detract seriously from his principal goal of remaining in power.

The considerable incentives that the international community did offer for conducting honest elections and releasing the two major political prisoners, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, including support by the United States, the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the EU, and the Free Trade Agreement with Canada, while desirable, seem to have counted for less for President Yanukovych than the desire to obtain, in spite of growing discontent, a majority in parliament of at least 226, and if possible, the 300 necessary to amend the constitution, apparently so that he could be re-elected as President by parliament, instead of by the population, when his term is up in 2015.

In fact, the Party of Regions lost between 25–30 percent of its votes (2 million voters) compared to the elections of 2006 and 2007. According to the official figures for all but five of the seats, the Party of Regions won only 185 seats. The Party will, however, attempt to create a majority by absorbing its clones among the independent candidates, who took 43 seats, and the small parties, which got six. The Party of Regions will then likely use its usual tactics of bribe and blackmail to rob deputies from the opposition parties. The principal opposition party, Batkivschyna, got 101 seats, UDAR, received 40, and Svoboda, 37. The Party of Regions had hoped to have the Communists, who obtained 32 seats, as a coalition partner. They, however, have declined.

Whatever the success of these manoeuvres, the structure that emerges may be prone to splitting. It will certainly will likely fall short of the majority needed to change the constitution.

Yanukovych’s hold on power has a purpose. After the Russian revolution, when Lenin saw that no other country would succumb to communism, he adopted the policy of socialism within one country. President Yanukovych has stood Lenin’s policy on its head. He has adopted the policy of capitalism within one Family. He has set out to enrich his immediate Family, not only at a cost to the country, but also at the expense of his erstwhile oligarch allies. Formerly highly placed government officials have estimated to us that every year the Yanukovych Family is draining for its own purposes billions of dollars from government revenues. What is more, the Family is also trespassing on the wealth of Yanukpovych’s oligarch allies. The discontent that the Yanukovych Family’s greediness is arousing in the general population, and the ill will that it is generating among the oligarchs, suggest that this policy cannot be pursued successfully without increasing repression.

Among some of Yanukovych’s band of associates, several factors, possibly a fear of increased repression, certainly, a growing resentment at the grasp of the Family, concern that Ukraine may miss the boat with Europe, and possibly growing popular discontent, have in turn, the potential to lead them to break with the President, destabilizing Ukrainian politics. In the recent parliamentary elections, certain oligarchs appear to have sought to encourage a hung parliament in order to force the Yanukovych administration to compromise with the opposition so as to weaken his control and lead to economic reforms and other policies acceptable to the West. The financing they have provided to opposition parties may have gone beyond their traditional support for technical or fictitious parties, a tactic originally designed to divide the opposition vote. In addition, in the latter weeks of the campaign, some of the oligarch television stations started to give a more balanced coverage to the various parties.

These gestures of independence by some of the oligarchs, combined with other signs of tension within Yanukovych’s erstwhile circle of allies, have given rise to the suspicion among Yanukovych’s former partners that Yanukovych may be tempted to do a deal with the Russians by agreeing to join the Russian dominated Eurasian Customs Union in return for Russian help in re-establishing control over his associates.

Yanukovych would, however, according to one report, only contemplate a sellout to Russia if he had lost all hope of receiving backing from the West, and especially from the United States.

There is considerable evidence that the relationship between Yanukovych and Putin is highly acrimonious. Yanukovych would likely only consider a surrender to Putin as a remedy of last resort.

In return, we see some signs that some in the EU are considering how the EU could regain influence with the Yanukovych administration to as to persuade the President to carry out genuine reforms. They wish to get out of the blind ally in which the EU finds itself, in which no progress can be made on the Association and Free Trade Agreement without the release of the political prisoners and free elections. Because of these conditions, the EU now has effectively few levers over Yanukovych.

The UWC might therefore encourage the EU to show flexibility in its policy towards Ukraine.

Andrew Wilson, a Senior Policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has suggested looking for possibilities to split off from the Association Agreement areas in which progress can be made and to go forward on bilateral co-operation by member states.

As a counterweight to agreeing to move ahead in some fields, Wilson has proposed that the EU countries should refuse to provide visas to supporters of the Family suspected of criminal activities or human rights violations, and should investigate for malfeasance companies closely associated with the Family.

When we consider the outcome of the elections, and the apparent aims of the President, what lessons should we draw for Canadian and US policy toward Ukraine?

We must avoid the tendency to give up on Ukraine. It is important that both countries should continue to be involved in Ukraine in supporting Ukrainian independence, in promoting democratic and economic reforms where possible, and in strengthening the civil society. We should maintain an active aid policy. Furthermore, Canada might co-ordinate with the EU its policy on concluding the Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine. The proposed Canada–Ukraine Free Trade Agreement, as one member of Yanukovych’s team remarked, does not count for much by itself. In our opinion, in co-ordination with the EU’s policy it however does matter.

As a means of exerting pressure for good behaviour on the Yanukovych regime, in the absence of many other levers, the West might also consider the idea of targeted sanctions against certain members of President Yanukovych’s entourage. Our impression in Ukraine was that the possibility of targeted sanctions of any sort has, more than any other measure, got supporters and members of the Yanukovych clan spooked. This fear may account in part for the increased willingness of certain oligarchs to reconsider their relationship with Yanukovych.

Canada might consider refusing visas to supporters of the Family suspected of criminal activities or human rights violations. Canada should however, co-ordinate such a policy with its allies. Otherwise, it would be open to retaliation. The United States has formally ruled out targeted sanctions against Ukraine at this stage. The United States is, however, refusing visas to Ukrainians suspected of gross criminal activities, The British have refused a visa to a person suspected of human rights violations. Canada could also keep, in conjunction with its allies, a close eye on the practices of companies belonging to members of the family.

If the political situation in Ukraine continues on its downward course, the West should not wait until it is too late before taking action. The United States did impose targeted sanctions on certain Ukrainians after the second round of the election of 2004, the round that precipitated the Orange revolution. The parliamentary elections of 2012 approach the elections of 2004 in dirtiness.

Above all, we must be prepared to be in Ukraine for the long haul. Until now, our policy toward Ukraine has been buttressed by the often unspoken assumption that we would help lead Ukraine by easy stages to becoming a stable democratic country with a prosperous market economy. In making this assumption we may have underestimated the difficulties created for Ukraine by its difficult history. Unlike the countries in Eastern Central Europe that became independent at the same time, Ukraine had, at the moment of independence, only been obliquely affected by the evolution of the Western culture from authoritarianism to pluralism. Ukraine had little tradition of the backbone of democracy, which is the separation of powers. The country had had no previous experience as an independent state or, since the First World War, as a market economy. It had few of the government structures needed to run a state.

There are very few European counties that have smoothly made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Most making the journey before the advent of the EU, have fallen back at least once. Ukraine has not had the benefit of an offer of EU membership, an offer that has eased the way to democracy for so many other counties in eastern Central Europe and the Balkans.

In contrast, Ukraine has faced frequent Russian interference in its internal affairs and is now under pressure to join not only the Eurasian Customs Union, but also the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). These structures would give Russia strong voice over the economies, the finances, and the defence of the other members, and accord Russia the right to intervene militarily to keep the other states in line.

An independent Ukraine free from Russian domination remains important for both stability in Europe and the possibility of the West eventually reaching an understanding with Russia. The relationship between Russia and Ukraine is likely to remain difficult for the foreseeable future. Relations between successor states often remain unsettled for a long period of time. Furthermore, the Russian imperial tradition conceives of Ukraine as being a part of Russia.

Should Russia succeed in re-establishing its hegemony over Ukraine, it could prolong the instability of the area, prevent the spread of democracy, divide Europe, and, by offending our consciences, make it difficult for the West to achieve reconciliation with Russia.

In view of these factors, the West should remain engaged in the area. Canada especially should stay involved in Ukraine, if it wishes to contribute to stability in Eastern Europe, and to help overcome the division of the continent.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Member of Parliament one of 100s of Canadians monitoring elections in Ukraine

 
James Bezan, Member of Parliament (MP) for Selkirk-Interlake, travelled to Ukraine this week to take part in the largest election observation mission assembled by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). This is the second time MP Bezan will act as an election observer in Ukraine.

OSCE Parliamentary Association (PA) Vice-President Walburga Habsburg Douglas, (Sweden MP) Special Co-ordinator for the short-term OSCE observer mission, has asked Mr. Bezan to be the regional co-ordinator of the OSCE PA team being deployed in the Chernivtsi oblast.
 
“Free and fair elections are essential for a healthy and vibrant democracy,” said Mr. Bezan. “It will be an encouraging step forward for the great country of Ukraine should it be able to conduct elections free of intimidation, fraud or voter suppression.” 
 
Bezan will be coordinating the flow of information from election observers back to Ms. Habsburg Douglas and the team in Kyiv. Ms. Habsburg Douglas also appointed Mr. Bezan as a member of the OSCE PA Advisory Board for the Ukrainian election.

He is also acting as the team leader of the Canadian OSCE Parliamentary delegation, which consists of parliamentarians from all official parties in both the House of Commons and the Senate. 
 
The Canadian delegation is part of more than 100 parliamentary observers from the OSCE PA, and more than 600 volunteer long term observers from the OSCE, all for the October 28 election.

Canadian parliamentarians will assist the OSCE in assessing the fairness of the elections and whether Ukraine will uphold its commitments to free elections as established in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. 
 
A further 500 volunteer Canadian observers have also been deployed by CanDem, supported by the Government of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addessed the CanDem group before their departure. Excerpts of the speech (received courtesy Irena Bell of the Ukrainian radio program in Ottawa, and the PMO) aired on the Nanaimo edition of Nash Holos this past Wednesday, and will also air on this weekend's Vancouver and international editions.
 
Audio files will be available at the Nash Holos website.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Canada Troubled by Irregularities in Ukrainian Electoral Campaign

In response to the first interim report of the Mission Canada–Ukraine Elections 2012 electoral observation mission, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, issued the following statement:

“The Canadian election observation mission’s initial findings regarding the parliamentary election campaign under way in Ukraine are troubling," said  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation.

“Free and fair elections that represent the will of the Ukrainian people are still possible. It is not too late. We call on Ukrainian officials to address all irregularities in the electoral process thoroughly and as a matter of immediate priority.

“Canada stands strong as a supporter of the Ukrainian people as they seek to build a nation based on democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. We will continue to closely monitor further reporting from electoral observers on the ground as the Ukrainian parliamentary elections approach, and will continue to raise these issues with the government of Ukraine.”

The report released today outlines a range of concerns with the present campaign, including allegations of restrictions on media freedom, procedural irregularities, incidents of vote-buying and undue pressure on candidates and campaign staff.

Mission Canada–Ukraine Elections 2012 is deploying 65 long-term and 365 short-term observers to monitor the October 28 parliamentary elections in Ukraine. The project is organized by CANADEM with the financial support of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

New director chosen for the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies

Dr. Volodymyr Kravchenko
New CIUS director.
Volodymyr Kravchenko, a well-known specialist in Ukrainian historiography and a professor of history at the V. N. Karazin National University of Kharkiv, Ukraine, is the new director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta.

Professor Kravchenko has taught history at universities in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, the US and Canada. He is the current president of the International Association for the Humanities and the author of about 150 publications, including five monographs.

Professor Kravchenko is also known as a promoter of Ukrainian studies. He is a founder and chair of the Department of Ukrainian Studies at the Kharkiv University, a founder and editor-in-chief of the journal Skhid-Zakhid (East-West), a member of the National Committee of Historians of Ukraine, and director of the Kowalsky Eastern Ukrainian Institute.
Professor Kravchenko was appointed CIUS director after an international search, and replaces Dr. Zenon Kohut, who has semi-retired. (Listen to conversation with Dr. Kohut here.) 

The new director intends to promote modernization of Ukrainian studies in the world, as well as to teach history and historiography of Eastern Europe at the University of Alberta.

The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies is a leading centre of Ukrainian studies outside Ukraine that conducts research and scholarship in Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian studies. More information about the institute is available at the CIUS website.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Canada congratulates Ukraine on Independence

Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper today the following statement on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence:
 
“Today we celebrate the 21st anniversary of the momentous occasion when Ukraine gained its independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on August 24, 1991.

“Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s secession. Since then, our two countries have enjoyed a strong and productive working relationship, enhanced by our signing of a declaration affirming our ‘Special Partnership’ as friends and allies.

“Our relationship with Ukraine continues to be strengthened through ongoing negotiations towards a free trade agreement, and Canada remains focused on supporting Ukraine’s democratic transformation and economic reforms.

“Today is also an occasion to celebrate the immense contributions that the more than 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent make to our country in every area of endeavour. The Ukrainian Canadian community cherish values such as democracy and the rule of law, values which our country holds most dear.

“Canada committed to send 500 election observers to Ukraine for their upcoming election in October, many of which come from the Ukrainian Canadian community. In joining with international partners to help ensure a free and fair election, we can help promote democracy in Ukraine and around the world.”

“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer Ukrainians and Canadians of Ukrainian heritage celebrating this important occasion my best wishes for a most memorable anniversary.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Canadians of European heritage commemorate Black Ribbon Day acros Canada today

August 23 marks the date of signing the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact, and it has become the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of communism and Nazism.

In Canada, a movement called Black Ribbon Day is starting to gain momentum as an annual commemoration. Our federal government acknowledges it, and today issued this statement:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement today to mark Black Ribbon Day, the national day of remembrance for the victims of Communism and Nazism in Europe: 
“Today, we take the time to offer our sympathy and support to those who have been victims of Communism and Nazi totalitarianism, and to remember those persecuted who are no longer with us.  
“Canada has long been a beacon of hope for those looking to flee the heavy hand of dictatorships and oppressive regimes. 
“The marking of Black Ribbon Day in Canada shows that our country condemns crimes against humanity, and that we will forever and always be a stalwart champion for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, also issued a statement of support for this commemoration.

Hopefully future prime ministers and governments will continue to issue such statements and show their support every year on this date.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Act is not as well known in North America as it should be. Which is unfortunate. Much can be learned from it by those who seek to prevent and end war. Provided, of course, that they can see past their own ideology to the patterns that human nature has created over the millenia.

According to Wikipedia:
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact is also known as the Nazi–Soviet Pact, Hitler–Stalin Pact, German–Soviet Non-aggression Pact and sometimes the Nazi–Soviet Alliance.
At the beginning of the 1930s, the Nazi Party's rise to power increased tensions between Germany, the Soviet Union and other countries with ethnic Slavs, which were considered "Untermenschen" according to Nazi racial ideology.
Moreover, the anti-Semitic Nazis associated ethnic Jews with both communism and financial capitalism, both of which they opposed.
In 1934, Hitler himself had spoken of an inescapable battle against both Pan-Slavism and Neo-Slavism, the victory in which would lead to "permanent mastery of the world", though he stated that they would "walk part of the road with the Russians, if that will help us."
Well politics does make strange bedfellows. And, obviously, fickle ones.

But as these 20th century totalitarians played their parlour games, millions died horrible deaths.

The thing is, though, that the totalitarians didn't do it on their own. They couldn't possibly. They had to employ useful idiots, many of whom by the time they got to the killing fields, realized too late that they had been duped and conned.

Others (like those today) remained in denial, in blind adherence to their ideologies.

At 7pm tonight Vancouver's Central and Eastern European communities will gather at St. Peter's Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church on 6520 Oak St. (SE corner of Oak and 49th) to remember the victims of Nazism and Communism.

Many members of Vancouver's Ukrainian community have first-hand experience of the horrific consequences of this diabolical pact. Somehow they managed to survive the useful idiots in the employ of both of these evil totalitarian regimes.

One can only hope that Black Ribbon Day and the presence of survivors at the gatherings will help to ensure that history will not soon repeat itself.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Musical trip down memory lane: Ой Марічко чічері

One of the things I love (possibly the most!) about hosting Nash Holos is the opportunity to share Ukrainian music I love with listeners of the show.

Here's one I shared this week.



I have the song on a CD I picked up in Ukraine a few weeks ago. It's a compilation of 200 mp3s of tracks recorded back in the day.

There is little IMHO to wax nostalgic over in the soviet era. But if memory serves me, there was more appreciation for Ukrainian folk music. Probably as a result of that appreciation, more of it was being produced in contemporary arrangements like this.

OTOH it could be a global trend in our era away from indigenous folk music towards bland commercial conformity in the music industry, thanks to well-heeled promoters and smart marketers.

Thank goodness for people who market gems like this ... and put them up on YouTube!

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Canada Concerned About Detention of Ukrainian Opposition Leaders

“The August 17, 2012, conviction of former minister of the interior Yuri Lutsenko is the latest example of apparent political bias in the prosecution of Ukrainian opposition figures, and it raises serious concerns about the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in a statement dated August 22, 2012

“This trend calls into question the willingness of Ukraine to hold elections that are truly free and fair. Our government has committed unprecedented support to ensuring that elections this fall are free, fair and fully representative of the democratic will of Ukrainian voters.

“While welcoming news of the conditional release of former acting minister of defence Valeriy Ivashchenko, we call on the Ukrainian government to release Yuri Lutsenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.

“Canada stands with the people of Ukraine as they seek to build a nation founded on the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

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Monday, July 30, 2012

On the ground in Ukraine with HART

According to this article, Ukraine will spend millions of dollars for cooperating with 'diasporans.'

Ukrainian tax dollars will go to cover the travel expenses of "friends of the government" who visit Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, even Brazil ... ostensibly to network with the Ukrainian diaspora.

I imagine few of those footing the bill consider there is much likelihood of many such “ambassadors” actually coming face-to-face with a "diasporan" in such places as Miami or the French Riviera.

Meanwhile on the ground in Ukraine, I'm currently seeing first hand the conditions in which beleaguered taxpayers live, and the breathtaking incompetence of those in charge of collecting and spending their tax hryvias.

So incompetent and indifferent are these stewards of the public purse that impoverished Ukrainians have to rely on foreign charities for a leg up and a shot at a decent standard of living.

My host organization for this trip, HART (Humanitarian Aid Response Team out of Calgary), is quite unlike the elitist sycophants jetsetting and hobnobbing at the expense of hard-working Ukrainian citizens.

I arrived in Lviv on July 18 and have already had several jaw-dropping experiences ... both good and bad, happy and sad. My host, Lloyd Cenaiko, the founder of HART keeps assuring me that I will have very many more during the rest of our time together here.

HART raises funds in western Canada… from mostly non-Ukrainian evangelical Christians. And 100% of funds raised goes to Ukrainians in need who are off the radar of the local authorities, and the diaspora for that matter. (Funds to cover administrative costs are raised separately.)

HART supports local organizations (primarily evangelical churches) that set up soup kitchens for street children, summer camps for orphans, and programs for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, hardened criminals, the handicapped, trafficked women, orphans, and other disadvantaged Ukrainians.

Particularly astonishing is a hugely successful prison ministry run by evangelicals. As a result of their efforts, hundreds of hardened criminals are now leading normal, productive lives and contributing to the communities in which they live.

Fimiam Church in Lutsk, Ukraine
The church I visited in Lutsk on Friday operates the only program in western Ukraine which supports the handicapped. (Update: This refers to a rehab program offered free of charge, particularly for the physically handicapped. Details in my interview with Lloyd.)

They also built a playground and soccer field which is available to the greater community of some 20,000 people. It is the only recreational area for kids in the area. As in most Ukrainian cities, such civic services as parks are low on the priority list of city officials.

Sadly, those willing to do the work encounter roadblock after roadblock set up by officials and the elites who influence them.

Inside of activity tent
These include (shamefully) clerics in traditional churches who envy the success of the huge and growing evangelical churches and their outreach programs. They obviously don't like the competition ... yet refuse to roll up their sleeves and do similar work themselves. (I believe the term is: dog in the manger.)

After visiting Fimiam Church in Lutsk we dropped off Canadian volunteers from Three Hills, AB at a summer Bible camp a couple of hours past Lutsk.

Hot water shower!
The camp was primitive but teeming with Ukrainian ingenuity! They set up sleeping tents and had a great eating/activity tent and the cooking tent was pretty skookum.

The outhouse was a hole in the floor, but they rigged up a hot water shower ... there in the middle of nowhere! We thought they were kidding when they told us about it in Lutsk. Sometime's it's hard to tell when Ukrainians are joking and when they are serious. LOL
To get to the camp, we drove on atrocious roads, and through a terribly poverty-stricken village inhabited by mostly alcoholic men and their wives and children struggling to make some kind of a life for themselves. The houses reminded me of my grandparents' old homestead khata I vaguely recall from my childhood days in Saskatchewan, after the spiders and mice had taken over residence. Very sad.

Yet, interestingly, there were lovely flower gardens in just about every yard (planted of course by the women). And vegetable gardens, and lots of geese. A reflection, perhaps, of the enduring beauty of the Ukrainian soul struggling to survive against all odds.

Today (Sunday) I was at an evangelical church that had been a TV factory in the soviet era. Ironically, it was a originally a church that the soviets trashed and converted to a factory that ran 24/7. Miraculously, some lovely arched windows and a bit of stained glass survived the pillage.

There is much renovation left to do and the congregation has a huge vision for social outreach. Another irony – most of the money comes from a Calgary church working with HART. An evangelical church, that is - not a Ukrainian Catholic or Orthodox church. However a Ukrainian Catholic church in Calgary has expressed interest in working with HART, so hopefully that will change.

There is a gargantuan amount of work to be done "in the trenches" to raise the standard of living in Ukraine to anything resembling what diasporans in the west take for granted.

It is ironic, and sad, how much of it is being taken up by non-Ukrainians and people of Ukrainian descent (like the founder of HART) outside the established Ukrainian community. The saddest part is how many people in the diaspora wrap themselves in the Ukrainian flag and then go hobnobbing with the very political elites whose corruption they publicly decry.

This trip, my third to Ukraine, is marked by a stark contrast between heartbreaking poverty and a shining hope for the future.

HART invited me to Ukraine to see what they do on the ground here. I am particularly intrigued with their child sponsor program, one of the most successful to have been established.

The cost to sponsor a child in Ukraine is $1 a day, which converts (at the current exchange rate) to about 8 hryvnias. The average salary of most families who are sponsored is about 300 hryvnias a month.

I am asking Nash Holos listeners and other readers of this blog to consider sponsoring a Ukrainian child through HART.

For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, a Canadian or American can almost double the household income of an impoverished Ukrainian family, and give a Ukrainian child not only the gift of practical necessities, but also of hope for the future.

As Lloyd Cenaiko, the founder of HART, often points out, it is only by accident of birth that Canadians of Ukrainian descent are not experiencing the hardships and hopelessness that so many native Ukrainians do.

Please join me in sponsoring a Ukrainian child, if for no other reason than to express gratitude for the good fortune to be born in a land of opportunity – and for having the opportunity to “give back” to our ancestral homeland.

It's the least those of us in the diaspora can do.

Plus, you can be assured that every cent of your donation will end up in the hands of those for whom it is intended ... and not the ruling elite and their friends.

You can find a link to HART’s child sponsor program at the Nash Holos website.

More later ... 

Next stop: somewhere in the Carpathian mountains.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Borsch is officially a dish of Ukrainian origin

But, apparently, not everyone knows that!

Recently I came across a recipe for borscht [sic], a traditional cold beet soup. It’s from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

The author describes it as a cool sweet-and-sour soup which was particularly popular in Lithuania, and is now one of the great Jewish standbys of the restaurant trade.

She does mention that there are lots of different Russian and Ukrainian versions of borsch (Ukrainians drop the "t").

Still, someone really should enlighten the author to the fact that it’s *our* soup. It even says so in Wikipedia!

As the grandaughter and great-granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants, I was raised on borsch. Different kinds ... meat, meatless, with cream, cream-less, rhubarb, potluck, you name it. So I consider myself a bit of a connoissuer. And in my experience, borsch was always hot.

The first time I learned there was such a thing as cold borsch was when I was a young adult, still (relatively) fresh off the farm and living in Winnipeg.

I popped in to visit a new friend, who happened to be Jewish. When I rang her doorbell, I caught her noshing on (of all things) cold borsch ... straight out of a Manischewitz jar!

At the time what she was eating seemed as foreign to me as sashimi or goat curry (neither of which I’ve yet acquired a taste for).

For one thing ... who ever heard of store-bought borsch? Never mind cold, but with nothing but beets and broth yet. Not a shred of cabbage or beans or potato to be seen. Let alone chopped dill!

Besides, as far as I was concerned, the only kind of beets that came in a jar was the pickled kind. So ... cold borsch in a jar? That was just plain weird.

I’ve learned (and eaten) much since then, and there’s even a Ukrainian deli in my family now that sells the stuff ... the hot variety of course. (And it is the best borsch you have ever tasted!)

As for the cold variety, Sylvia Pidraziuk Molnar recently shared her recipe for chilled borsch on Nash Holos. It is one of over 200 authentic Ukrainian recipes that Sylvia (a retired Vancouver cook and cooking instructor extraordinaire) has shared with Nash Holos listeners over the years. You can find the recipe here.

Meanwhile, the Jewish version for cold borscht (borsch) that I came across is here. And if you'd like to check out the book, it's available on Amazon. Here's the info and title again: The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York.

Reading this article and the recipe brought back fond memories of my friend Marci, with whom I’ve unfortunately lost touch.

If we ever manage to re-connect I certainly hope that, in addition to the memories and catch-up stories, we will share a bowl of borsch.

Which version ... hot or cold, Jewish or Ukrainian ... well, only the future knows. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Thoughts on doing live radio in Nanaimo

It was incredible!

It's been a long time since I felt that nervous, though. I've reached a point where I've learned to take life in stride, so not much rattles me anymore. Or so I thought!

In this day and age of social media which allows everyone their 15 minutes or seconds (or hours for that matter) of fame, you may be scratching your head over why I'm making such a big deal out of this. Especially since the conventional wisdom of the day seems to be that traditional radio has become irrelevant and is all but dead save for a few niche broadcasters keeping the medium on life support.

On that I beg to differ.

When I first took Nash Holos online I saw a lot of potential for niche broadcasters. I also saw that the window of opportunity would not stay open for long, because it would only be a matter of time before the "big guys" in the broadcasting industry would jump on the cyber-bandwagon and elbow the "little guys" (and gals) back out of the way. And at that point, I reckoned, we'd all be back to the same-old same-old as far as promoting Ukrainian culture to mainstream audiences.

Well, it looks like we've reached that point. Or OTOH, maybe there was no point to be reached. Maybe I'm the crazy one and didn't get anywhere except tired from spinning my wheels? I've often wondered about that, especially of late.

Taking Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio on live radio in Nanaimo, however, has put such thoughts right out of my mind.

Sure, the old technology of radio may be on its deathbed. The day of pushing physical buttons and levers on a mixing board may be going the way of reel-to-reel and vinyl.

Yet, speaking of the latter, vinyl has now acquired the equivalent of a cult following along with a level of cachet and status that it never had, nor could have had, when vinyl LPs were ubiquitous. There was a time when we valued them so little that we left them in the sun to warp or melt, and put coins atop needles to keep them from skipping. Those were the days!

Today technology is changing at break-neck speed, and it's forcing the entertainment and communications industries to change their delivery methods as well.

Meanwhile, it's easier than ever now to confuse the medium with the message, especially if you're on the receiving end. But it can be confusing for those of us on the sending end as well.

The messengers who can avoid the confusion will prevail, however, regardless of the medium. So to my mind, there is still opportunity in the radio biz. It may be a different window that's opening now, but it's wide open.

As for the technology, change is ineveitable of course, and I'm trying to keep up with it. But meanwhile, I consider myself veryfortunate to have this opportunity to enjoy the "good old days" of radio broadcasting technology for a little longer.

I'm not expecting my learning curve to last very long, so I hope you'll join me live in Nanaimo Wednesdays at 12 noon on CHLY 101.7fm ... and the new co-hosts I'll be introducing soon. If you're not in range of the signal, you can listen online or catch the podcast.

And if you don't already, please make sure to tune in to the long-standing program prepared in advance (with love!) airing Sundays on AM1320 CHMB Vancouver (in its new time slot of 5 pm PST), and the international version that airs on the PCJ Radio network on AM, FM and Shortwave around the world.

If you do, I'd like to thank you once again from the bottom of my heart for being a loyal listener of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio ... and in the process supporting and sharing Ukrainian culture with the world.

Podcast links for all three versions of the show are at the Nash Holos website.

Friday, June 01, 2012

New time slot for Vancouver edition of Nash Holos

Effective June 3, 2012 tune in at 5 pm PST on AM1320 CHMB Vancouver for Nash Holos Ukrainiian Roots Radio in our new time slot.

No changes to programming or any thing else.

For more information on Nash Holos, and to download the latest podcasts, visit our website.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio goes live in Nanaimo

From now on every Wednesday at 12 noon, Radio Malaspina will air Nash Holos live on CHLY 101.7fm!

This is a new experience for me, as the show has always been pre-recorded. It harkens back to the days prior to going digital in 2002, when the show was done "live to tape."

It was almost like doing the show live, but the tape could be stopped to edit on the fly and re-record a section if desired.

Can't do that with live radio, tho! So it's a new adventure.

On my debut show I didn't do a lot of talking, mostly I was getting used to the rhythm of all the controls with the mixing board, computer and CD player. I sat in the day before on Fresh Cutz, hosted by Dylan Perry. Typical of all pros, he made it look deceptively easy!

I am grateful to the lovely Ashta, who took the time to give me a wonderful introduction at the start of the show, and some help with the controls. The rest of the show was back to back music, with Ukrainian Food Flair (potato cabbage roll filling) and Ukraine News Outlook with a feature on feminism in Ukraine.

Ashta went back to her duties shortly after the intro, and then Dylan took over supervision of this nervous and confused live radio rookie. About 10 minutes or so later, a call came in from a listener excited to hear the show because it reminded her of her baba, who was a loyal listener of Nash Holos.

It's a small world. The caller happened to be Kerilie McDowall, host of the Monday afternoon jazz show Rhythm'a'ning!

All the folks I've met at CHLY are absolutely wonderful. They've been helpful and supportive and have gone out of their way to make me feel at home. Another reason to love this great little city!

In addition to Dylan's show, Ashta has invited me to sit in on the show she co-hosts, People First Radio. On Saturday I'll be sitting in on a bit of The LoveCast hosted by Dave O'Rama, and rest assured I will be angling for an invite to sit in on Kerilie's show and BobbieBeCool's as well. And who knows what else. (If I'm not careful, I'll end up spending most of my time there!)

Podcasts of these shows, and most others on CHLY, can be found on the podcast listings (here) on the station's website.

To provide the podcasts, the station works with a Victoria company called Daily Splice. Dylan helped me to get myself setup there, and a podcast of the live Nanaimo edition of Nash Holos can be accessed directly (here) or via iTunes (here).

For the second live show, I'll be taking the plunge behind the mic as well. So, stay tuned!

To those tuning in to the live broadcast, thanks for your patience and your support. It means more than you can ever know. :-)

This is an exciting development at Nash Holos, to have the show now syndicated nationally in Canada. The flagship show continues to air, as it has since 2000, on AM1320 CHMB Vancouver on Sundays at 5pm PST (new time effective June 3, 2012). The international syndication on the Taiwan-based PCJ Radio network also continues on AM, FM and shortwave radio aournd the world in 20+ countries, with the latest expansion being on Malta University Broadcasting 103.7fm  Saturdays at 9 pm following the BBC News Hour, effective June 9, 2012.

Talk to you next Wednesday, live from Nanaimo!

Maintaining broadcast standards in the face of public pressure

I am so proud to be associated with AM1320 CHMB in Vancouver.

Today they sent out a press release citing an issue with an advocacy group in Vancouver that wanted to run an ad on the station calling for a public demonstration to protest the Chinese government on the anniversary of Tiannamen Square.

The statement said that the group refused to make changes to their script to correct a factual error and comply with the station's broadcast policy, so the station refused their business.

I absolutely agree with and support station management's firm refusal to bow to public pressure. As hard as it may be, any broadcaster worth his or her salt has to remain above political advocacy in order to provide balanced coverage of events and issues of interest to their listeners.

This is something that I strive to do on my own show, despite criticism and pressure from some members of the Ukrainian community to take a political stand on this issue or that. While I may do so personally, doing so as a broadcaster is tantamount to peddling propaganda.

I know this mindset is old school and out of step with a lot of media activists today, but so be it. I have never been one to follow the crowd. I am just gratified that the folks at CHMB are of like mind, and will not be bullied into violating time-honoured broadcast policy for the sake of political correctness or expediency, and in the process compromise their integrity and shortchange their audiences.

Here is the text of the press release:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MEDIA RELEASE

May 31, 2012

CHMB AM1320 Response to Media Advisory issued by Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement

Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement requested to place a commercial ad with the station to commemorate the June 4th incident.

Any radio station reserves the right to request any commercial advertisers to change or adjust the advertising content. This is an industry practice. Upon review of the creative provided by the Society on 28 May 2012, our station requested two revisions to part of the script, one of which is not factual, and the other because it is against our radio station’s broadcast policy.

Our mandate is to provide quality programming to our listeners, and be a responsible broadcaster.

Our decision to request for a revision of the advertiser's script is in accordance with our policy not to promote any kind of public gathering in a realistic manner that will lead to a demonstration from any organization.

The station has no stance on the June 4th issue. Our news team has and will continue to cover issues that are news worthy.

Media Contact:
Tinhanei Lee, Business Development Director of Mainstream Broadcasting Corporation
604-263-1320 x118
Email

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Canadian parliamentary committee shares details of visit to Ukraine

On this week’s edition of Nash Holos:
 
Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Ukraine last week to get a firsthand look at the situation regarding human rights, politically motivated selective justice, and the rule of law on the ground in Ukraine.
 
The Hon. Bob Dechert, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and The Hon. Ralph Goodale, Liberal M.P. for Wascana, shared their experiences and observations with political commentator Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Simon Kouklevsky of Ukrainian Time radio in Montreal, and myself.
 
Topics included the delegations failed attempt to visit the jailed ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko, Canada’s free-trade agreement with Ukraine, and why NGOs are “cautiously optimistic” about upcoming elections in Ukraine.
 
The call airs on this week’s edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. Local Vancouver podcast archived at www.nashholos.com (International Edition at www.pcjmedia.com/nash-holos.)
 
Or tune in tonight to the live broadcast at 6pm PST on AM1320CHMB Vancouver (streaming www.am1320.com).
 
Also on the show:
  • Recipe for elegant stuffed beef patties
  • Latest news on jailing of ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and plans for oil drilling in Ukraine
  • Music by UB, Tyt i Tam, Pryvit, Oksana Mukha, Millenia, Mickey & Bunny, The Ukrainian Connection.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Nash Holos archives updated to 29April2012.

Audio files & music lineup available at www.nashholos.com

Here’s what’s on:

Ukrainian Food Flair ... with Sylvia Molnar:

• Spinach as an aid for weight loss
• Sylvia’s recipe for spinach patties

Ukraine News Outlook ... with Keith Perron:

• Bombings in Ukraine
• Is Ukraine ready for Euro2012?

Special Chornobyl Feature

• Keith Perron and Jonathan Marks on the role that amateur radio played in undermining the soviet regime and exposing the facts of the 1986 Chernobyl explosion to the world


Other items of interest:

• Proverb of the Week
• Upcoming local events
• Great Ukrainian music!

Artists:

Molodtsi (Winnipeg)
Millenia (Edmonton)
Tyt i Tam (Saskatoon)
• Ludwig (UK)
• Taras Petronenko (Ukraine)
• Boris Sichon (BC)
• Rebecca Sichon  (BC)
Canadian Rhythm Masters (Winnipeg)

Audio files & music lineup available at www.nashholos.com

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Край - A great Ukrainian musical tradition!


Nice to have a front-row seat to a musical moment of "living history" in Ukraine!

Sofia Rotaru version from 1979:



The sentiment and tradition carried on by a new generation:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Living with the aftermath of Chernobyl

Chornobyl (also Chernobyl), site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is one of the most radioactive areas on the planet.

According to an April 26, 2006 article in The Guardian, the fallout damage was roughly the equivalent of 400 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. 

When the core of reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26, 1986  it caused fires, a nuclear meltdown, and sent out a radioactive cloud that blanketed Ukraine, Belarus, Scandinavia and Western Europe.

The official Soviet death toll was 31 people. However in reality, the actual toll is more likely in the area of 250,000 and rising.

Soviet authorities had hoped (and tried) to keep the world ignorant of the accident. However, word soon began to spread via amateur (HAM and shortwave) radio, confirming the source of the sudden and substantially increased amounts of radiation in the atmosphere.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster drastically transformed the lives of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus. Even today, Ukraine continues to cope with the long-term health, economic and environmental consequences of this preventable disaster.

Ukrainian American writer and film-maker Irene Zabytko is the author of The Sky Unwashed, a novel about the the elderly people who insist on living, as they always have, in their homes in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, the highly irradiated 30 kilometer area surrounding the site of the 1986 explosion. (Available through Amazon.)

She has also spent several years documenting this tragedy on film, featuring their lives in a documentary film she is spearheading, called Life In The Dead Zone.

Irene and her film crew at Wheat Street Productions, Inc. have already released an award-winning film short, Epiphany At Chornobyl, based on the soon-to-be-released documentary. Here's the trailer:




More information about the film can be found at the film's website.

Irene is still in need of funding to complete her project. Please consider supporting her efforts with a donation.

On May 1, 2011, Irene was a guest on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. We talked about her film and her travels to the Chornobyl Dead Zone to research and shoot the film. You can listen to the interview here.

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Human beings are not good at learning from the mistakes of the past. But at least on this day in history, once a year, let us not forget ... and let us not make light of the awful legacy it left behind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Canadian MP speaks out against Ukrainian government's recent attack on Tymoshenko

During Question Period in the House of Commons today, James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, for an update on the state of affairs in Ukraine. 

MP Bezan has been vocal on the human rights situation in Ukraine during its period of democratic regression, and has called for strong actions to be taken against the Ukrainian government. 

Highlighting the Ukrainian government’s dismal record as of late, MP Bezan specifically brought to light allegations of physical abuse of former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko in his question to Minister Baird.

“There have been reports that former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymenshenko was injured while forcibly removed from her prison cell. This is yet another example of the mistreatment that Ms. Tymoshenko has faced at the hands of the Ukrainian authorities.”

Ukrainian authorities deny it of course. But, according to a recent BBC article, they don't have a lot of credibility these days in the west.

In addition to Ms. Tymoshenko, MP Bezan also shed light on the increasing number of political prisoners in Ukraine stating that, “Last week we learned of yet another disturbing arrest in Ukraine of former defence minister, Valeriy Ivashchenko, who was sentenced to five years in prison. The situation of Ms. Tymoshenko and other political prisoners in Ukraine is deeply concerning.”

Minister Baird responded, “Our government is deeply troubled by the latest report emanating from Ukraine on Ms. Tymoshenko’s situation. We call upon the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that Ms. Tymoshenko receives the medical attention and treatment that is needed for her well-being.”

Baird added, “The current trend of politically motivated prosecutions and persecutions in Ukraine is unacceptable. These acts undermine the institutions upon which a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society depends. We call upon the Ukrainian government to strengthen its democratic institutions and respect the rights of its citizens.” 

Last week, Minister Bezan called on the Canadian government to impose economic sanctions against Ukraine in response to the Ukrainian government's ongoing and escalating human rights abuses.

Canada recognizes Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky's courageous actions

Today Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney introduced a motion in the House of Commons expressing Canada's recognition of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky's courageous actions and compassion for his oppressed Jewish Ukrainian countrymen during World War II.

The motion was passed unanimously.

“Metropolitan Sheptytsky is an enduring example of commitment to fundamental human rights as humankind's highest obligation,” said Minister Kenney.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky (1865-1944) of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the leader of Western Ukraine's largest faith group during the Second World War. Throughout this darkest period of Europe's history, he spoke out eloquently against anti-Jewish violence and urged his congregants in a famous homily: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. He rescued and provided shelter to Jews by allowing them to hide in Ukrainian monasteries, saving over 160 of his compatriots.

This morning, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (MASI) at St. Paul University in Ottawa held a symposium to examine Sheptytsky’s ethical action in extreme conditions.

The event, organized by the Toronto-based Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative, in cooperation with the MASI, hosted a delegation of representatives of the Jewish community along with leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Adventist churches, along with the leader of the Ukrainian Islamic community.

They were present in the House when Minister Kenney proposed the motion.

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