SPEECHES BY PREMIER KATHLEEN WYNNE AND MPP YVAN BAKER AT THE HOLODOMOR EDUCATION RECEPTION AND LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AT QUEEN’S PARK IN TORONTO ON MAY 26, 2015

Published Tuesday, June 02 2015

Remarks by Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, at the Holodomor Reception

 

Hello, Bonjour, Ahnee, Bojoo. Dobruy den.

As always, I want to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

Thank you, Yvan, for that introduction, and for everything you do for the Ukrainian community.  I want to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto Branch and the League of Ukrainian

Canadians for inviting me. It is an honour to be here with you this evening to remember that which we should never forget.

 

In her account of the Holodomor, survivor Ewdokia Opariek said, and I quote…"If we forget about these kinds of things, we do such an injustice to everyone. The truth needs to be told."

 

This horrific man-made famine that starved and killed millions of Ukrainian people under Soviet rule is a tragedy — a tragedy that is difficult to comprehend. When we see pictures and hear survivor’s stories, it’s difficult to make sense of how humans could inflict such cruel acts on other humans. But moments in history that horrify should not be forgotten. We have a responsibility to remember the criminal abuse inflicted on the Ukrainian people. And a responsibility to ensure that horrors like the Holodomor do not happen again.

 

I am proud that Canada was the first country to recognize this tragedy as an act of genocide. And since 2009, Ontario has commemorated this unforgettable moment in human history through Holodomor Memorial Day.

 

I want to acknowledge Dave Levac for introducing the bill that resulted in this day of remembrance.  Dave is a great supporter of the Ukrainian people in his community. We are incredibly fortunate that Ontario is home to a large number of people who trace their roots back to Ukraine.

 

In fact, more Ukrainian-Canadians call Ontario home than any other province. And one of your most lasting contributions to our country is the push for the recognition of Canadian multiculturalism. As early as the 1960s, Ukrainian community leaders advocated for government to embrace the concept of Canadian multiculturalism.Canada is a country that draws its strength from the multiplicity of cultures and Ontario has always relied on the strength of its many

diverse communities. Our province is enriched by the Ukrainian-Canadian community’s immense contributions. Your rich, vibrant culture and traditions help make this the best place to live, work and raise a family.

 

Sadly, Ukrainians have not always been treated with the respect they deserve here in Canada. The War Measures Act, under which Canada opened internment camps where thousands of Ukrainian immigrants became forced labour, is taught as part of Ontario’s high school curriculum. We have a duty to protect the memory of these people, and to remember other unspeakable acts Ukrainian people have suffered over the years —  so we have also ensured

students across Ontario also learn about the Holodomor at school by making it part of the curriculum. Remembering these moments is particularly important when we see what is happening in Ukraine now.

 

As we gather today, I know that your thoughts are also with the people of Ukraine. They are defending an independence that was painstakingly earned 24 years ago, after centuries of struggle. The rights and freedoms we enjoy in Ontario compel us to stand up against democratic injustices. And we will continue to stand with Ukraine as it fights to keep its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

 

You are an inspiring example of the courage and persistence of Ukraine, and I want to thank you for everything you do for your community and for Ontario.

 

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch. Slava Ukraini!

 

Remarks by MPP Yvan Baker at the Legislative Assembly

We have a number of guests from the Ukrainian Canadian community here today, and I’d like to speak about the Holodomor.

Mr. Speaker, the Holodomor was a genocide that occurred in 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine. It was perpetrated by Joseph Stalin when he closed Ukraine’s borders and confiscated grain. He did so to destroy the Ukrainian population that was opposed to his rule. That’s the same freedom and independence that the people of Ukraine are fighting for today. During that time 17 people per minute, 1,000 per hour and 25,000 per day were dying of famine. The world was silent and millions died as a result.

In the gallery today we have two survivors of the Holodomor. My grandmother was a survivor of the Holodomor. She once told me that she hoped that the victims of the Holodomor would not only be remembered but honoured. “Honoured” means not just remembering and commemorating, but learning from our mistakes as a global community and taking the steps to make sure something like this never happens again. That is why it is so important that young people in Ontario learn about the Holodomor.

That’s why I’m so proud to stand here today with leaders of the Ukrainian Canadian community who worked towards that goal for so long, with you, Mr. Speaker, and other members of the Legislature who co-sponsored a bill to recognize the Holodomor; and with our Premier and our Minister of Education, who have ensured that the Holodomor will be in the Ontario curriculum so that every young person learns about the Holodomor.

Today, I hope we take this opportunity to commemorate and remember, but also redouble our efforts to ensure that a tragedy like this, a tragedy like the one that’s happening in Ukraine right now, never happens again.

Let us do as my grandmother would have asked, as all of the survivors and victims would ask if they were here today: Let us remember the victims. Let us commemorate the victims. Let us honour them.