Angry anti-government protesters in Ukraine toppled a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in the centre of Kyiv on Sunday and blockaded key government buildings amid huge street protests, raising the stakes in an escalating standoff with President Viktor Yanukovych.
The biggest protest in the former Soviet republic since Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004 led the government to fire back. It announced an investigation of opposition leaders for an alleged attempt to seize power and warned the demonstrators they could face criminal charges.
The West pressed for a peaceful settlement.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flooded the centre of Kyiv, the capital, to demand Yanukovych’s ouster after he ditched ties with the European Union in favour of Russia and sent police to break up an earlier protest in the nearly three-week standoff.
The latest in the struggles for Ukrainian-Canadian issues such as the Holodomor and WW1 Internment to be included in the upcoming Canadian Museum of Human Rights continues to get worse:
After fighting for a spot at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Ukrainian-Canadians are asking just how much respect coverage of the Holodomor will receive when it’s located right next to the bathroom.
Stories of the Holodomor have "either been ignored or minimalized" and the history of Ukrainian-Canadian internment camps will be addressed only by "a nondescript picture" rather than a full-fledged exhibit.
The subject of the Holodomor is relegated to a minor panel in a small obscure gallery near the museum’s public toilets.
"This is offensive, intolerable and jeopardizes the credibility of the museum to provide a balanced and objective perspective of key Canadian and global human rights stories," said the release from spokeswoman Darla Penner.
"The Holodomor is the lens through which the museum can teach the crimes of communism which were responsible for the subjugation, persecution and destruction of tens of millions of people."
UCC President Paul Grod released details of the museum’s current plans in a video the group posted last month, here are some notes I made on it:
(At around 5:50) Grod says that WW1 Internment will not have a kiosk/exhibit, only a picture on the wall above Japanese Internment.
There will be a separate Holocaust room, which will include genocide discussion – the Lemkin model with background discussion, and the Holodomor will be discussed among other genocides.
The Holodomor will be featured in a separate "Hope and Hardwork" room, on the second floor, with "high-traffic location to the toilets" (at 9:00). The room will contain the 5 Canadian-recognized genocides, including the Holocaust (which has its own room as well).
The UCC has new demands: A dedicated kiosk for Internment, and to showcase the effect of War Measures Act for immigrants to Canada.
The UCC initially supported the museum 10 years ago, when promised to support prominent displays for the Holodomor and WW1 Internment. Last year though the museum decided not to have a permanent Holodomor display after all. The UCC, along with other groups like the UCCLA who started a postcard campaign, have urged Canadians to contact their MPs to support inclusiveness and no community be elevated above others.
A Ukrainian-Catholic has been picked to lead a new federal office with a mandate to promote religious tolerance globally, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday followed through on an election promise made almost two years ago.
Andrew Bennett, 40, a former federal bureaucrat and Ukrainian Catholic sub-deacon, has been named the first ambassador to head the Office of Religious Freedom, an agency the Conservative Party promised in the last federal election campaign. The measure, inspired in part by the 2011 assassination of an outspoken Christian cabinet minister in Pakistan, was popular with evangelical Christian supporters of the Conservatives and some immigrant groups courted by the party.
Dr. Bennett is also a religious leader. He serves as sub-deacon and cantor with the Holy Cross Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy and St. John the Baptist Ukrainian-Catholic Shrine in Ottawa.
In addition, he is in the process of completing a part-time degree in theology in Eastern Christian Studies at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.
If you watched our Ukrainian programming recently– mainly Kontakt and ForumTV (formerly Svitohliad), you saw so many government officials and events featured you’d think they were the ones watching the programs. Well it turns out they do!
The Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister, spent $463,300 last January on a two-year contract with the same ethnic media monitoring company that Citizenship has paid almost $750,000 over the past three years.
"We monitor cultural news media to assess the effectiveness of government of Canada communications," Rivet told The Canadian Press.
The reports are shared across the government, he added.
That’s a lot of money to spend just to pay people to monitor newspapers – especially in a time of self-professed ‘austerity’ (if it really even exists) that takes away much needed funding from important areas like science and the environment.
There may be "editorial and opinion that perhaps isn’t always expressed in traditional media," Ziniak said. "If they’re paying attention to that, that’s good.
"If they’re using it towards political means — and no one’s naive enough to think not — then obviously that’s another issue altogether."
The media monitoring firms are given a list of keywords to scour in ethnic media and the results often go beyond news items directly related to the federal government.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office says the monitoring is done at the discretion of the department.
So the message seems pretty clear: The government is watching you, Ukrainian media. Those press releases better make their rounds and those interviews better be coming… or else?
From the UCCLA:
On 13 October 2012 the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association reburied the remains of two Ukrainian Canadians, Michael Bahry and Thomas Konyk, executed at the Peterborough County Jail on 14 January 1920. While it is not clear whether Konyk was ever interned, Bahry probably was, and certainly both suffered judicial execution not only because they were members of the mis-named "Russian Gang"
(all tried for the murder of Philip Yanoff during the course of a bungled burglary attempt at a quarry near Havelock, Ontario) but because of the anti-foreigner prejudice and xenophobia widespread during Canada’s first national internment operations. The remains of Bahry and Konyk were exhumed for anthropological research purposes and later stored at the University of Western Ontario. In co-operation with the latter, and the Beechwood National Cemetery, they have finally come to rest in peace in hallowed ground, their mortal remains secured with the blessings of Rev Dr Petro Galadza.
Recently an op-ed about the ‘gang’, penned by UCCLA’s Director of Research Lubomyr Luciuk, made the rounds of various Sun-owned newspapers across the province:
The newspapers dubbed them “the Russian Gang.” But they weren’t Russians.
Their names were Michael Bahry, Thomas Konyk, Alexander Martiniuk, Filip Rotinsky and Sam Zalusky. Three came from Ukrainian lands east of the Zbruch river border, and two from its west bank, so some carried passports issued by the Tsarist Russian Empire, while others were subjects of Austro-Hungary. All were Ukrainian by nationality.
These geopolitical details mattered once the First World War broke out, in August 1914. Imperial Russia was an ally of the British Empire, while the Austro-Hungarian monarchy stood with Germany. So “Austrians” were branded as “enemy aliens,” and suffered internment, disenfranchisement, and other indignities.
As the Office of Internment Operations archives are incomplete, we don’t know what happened to every member of the “Russian Gang” between 1914 and 1919. It’s not hard to imagine each of them falling victim to the virulent anti-foreigner prejudices of those days.
In Bahry’s case he appears to have been arrested as an “enemy alien,” age 15, held first in a “receiving station” set up in Montreal, from where he was transported to Valcartier and, in April 1915, on to a larger internment camp at Spirit Lake, in Quebec’s remote Abitibi region.
In June 1916, Bahry was paroled into the custody of Lane Brothers Limited, as a labourer on the Welland Canal. We know this detail because a man called Nikolas, who claimed to be his father, and who had also suffered internment, at Petawawa and later in Kapuskasing, tried to claim Michael’s possessions on April 22, 1920. How father and son were separated is not known, nor is what happened to Nikolas thereafter. No Bahry descendants have been located.
What we do know is that on the night of June 22, 1919 the “Russian Gang” liquored up, donned masks, and raided a bunkhouse near a quarry owned by the Canadian Rock Company, just outside Havelock, Ont. One robber, Konyk, was carrying a loaded pistol. It discharged and a Macedonian worker, Philip Yanoff, was hit, bleeding to death as the thieves made off with about $100. They didn’t get far.
Tried and found guilty, Martiniuk, Rotinsky, and Zalusky got life in Kingston Penitentiary. Bahry and Konyk received death sentences.
Nine clergymen appealed to the Minister of Justice on Dec. 8, 1919, reporting that “confidential interviews with the condemned men” left them convinced “no murder was intended,” that the shot fired was “accidental,” that these young men were “possessed of a spirit of deep contrition.”
While not wishing “for a moment [to] lose sight of the fact that great care is being taken by the Government in dealing with the restlessness of the country and its cause,” nor to “minimize the danger and menace of the foreigner,” they pleaded for the prisoners’ lives, beseeching the Minister to deport them: “As a great Nation we can afford to spare life.”
Their prayer was rejected, as was a last-minute telegraphed plea from Konyk’s lawyer, Mr. P.T. Ahern, who affirmed his client was holding the gun when it went off, that Zalusky – not Bahry – was the ringleader, remonstrating that these facts warranted sparing Bahry his meeting on the morrow with the hangman. It was not to be.
A double execution was carried out in the Peterborough County Jail on Jan. 14, 1920, Ukrainian New Year’s Eve on the Julian calendar. Arthur Ellis, one of Canada’s most notorious hangmen, presided. The scaffold’s crossbeam, constructed of weather-beaten timbers resurrected from the jail’s storeroom, could be seen just above the prison walls, the Peterborough Daily Review reporting how this “gruesome spectacle” had “attracted a number of the morbidly curious.”
Following their judicial execution the felons were laid in coffins, heads to the west, conforming to an old belief that when our Saviour returns it will happen in the east, the geography of their placement allowing the dead to walk toward Him at the Second Coming.
Until August 1994, Michael and Thomas were all but forgotten. Then they were disinterred during an archaeological survey conducted 80 years after the Great War began. Their skeletons were removed to the University of Western Ontario and examined carefully. Learned papers were penned about how they met their ends through the “long drop,” the mechanics of which would “not have necessarily resulted in instantaneous death in all cases [although] unconsciousness was probably immediate.”
When we discovered what befell these “enemy aliens” we passed no judgement on how others, long before our time, decided their fate. Yet we were determined to give these two young men, convicted criminals if you will, shelter in hallowed ground, for that is a Christian duty.
Before they were hanged, Konyk and Bahry were photographed, and Michael received a bouquet from the Ladies Guild of St John’s Church, prompting his final words: “These are the last flowers I will ever see in my life.” So as we lowered them back into the earth we placed flowers on the simple boxes that now shroud them.
At that very moment a preternatural silence descended upon Ottawa’s Beechwood National Cemetery, interrupted only by the singing of two birds, perched somewhere nearby. Responding to them our small company sang a Ukrainian dirge, “Do you see, my brother?” Written in 1910, it would have been a melody familiar to Bahry and Konyk, its mournful words evoking the metaphorical image of the cranes that migrate annually out of Ukraine, many fated never to return, to instead die in foreign lands, far away.
Bahry and Konyk will now rest in peace until that final Day of Judgement that awaits us all.