Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday: Ukrainian Canadians deserve thanks | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

One can argue, as Bashuk Hepburn does, for greater recognition of Ukrainian Canadian contributions. After all, they played an important role in settling the West and successfully pushing for multiculturalism in addition to the many individual contributions.

At the same time, the lack of singling out their contribution indicates just how much Ukrainian Canadians are part of the ‘mainstream’ and ironically, just how much their contribution has been recognized.

I don’t understand her comment about Indigenous peoples – comes across as a cheap shot – recognition of their circumstances isn’t at the expense of other communities:

Ukrainians were among the first non-Anglo-Celtic or French minorities to arrive here. Being first is tough. Hardship and discrimination were as brutal then as they are today in the most unfortunate countries. There were no roads, no hospitals, schools or churches. Officials allocated some of the worst land to the “men in sheepskin coats,” and mocked their dress, language and ethnic origin. The internment of Ukrainians during World War I is now seen as a dark moment in Canada’s history.

It can be said, therefore, that Canada learned how to be a “kinder and gentler society” on the backs of the hundreds of thousands that poured in from Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century. Their experiences led directly to the development of human rights and multiculturalism for Canada.

So why, on its big birthday, is their outstanding contribution not acknowledged? Has multiculturalism lost its place? Has it become less valuable as other diverse groups – women, visible minorities, the disabled, the LGBT community – advance?

As always, the squeaky wheels get the grease. The Native Indian nations, for instance, received considerable attention during the birthday celebrations. Most likely it’s because they asserted themselves. They erected an illegal but most prominent teepee on the Parliament grounds that they claim to be their land.

Under-recognition is a form of discrimination too. Dr. Bondar and Mr. Kutryk must not be thrown into an Anglo-Celtic/French melting pot that removes these astronauts’ distinct Ukrainian identity. To do so is to go backwards. It is not Canadian. It is wrong. It dishonors and diminishes the work of Messrs. Tarnopolsky, Yuzyk and Rudnyckyj.

Multi-diverse Canadians – that’s all of them – are strengthened when one of their own succeeds: A young woman is inspired to become an astronaut because a woman who is Ukrainian Canadian – a double minority – made it to the stars. Such success proves that Canada works for all.

Going forward, more work is needed in coming to grips with the notion of unity in multicultural diversity. This is particularly pressing as the world’s population shifts among countries at unprecedented rates due to economic imperatives, wars and climate change.

Canadians, comprising 200 different ethnic groups, live this daily. The Ukrainians in Canada led the way with human rights and multiculturalism. Perhaps they will lead in dealing with this issue as well. First, however, they need to be recognized both at home and abroad for these world-changing contributions.

Source: Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday: Ukrainian Canadians deserve thanks | The Ukrainian Weekly

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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