Category Archives: politics

Harper meets Yanukovych in Ukraine: Asks about Holodomor & human rights

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who flew into Kyiv today to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and impressively asked tough questions regarding the Holodomor genocide and the pro-Russian regime’s crackdown on human rights:

Harper also focused on human rights issues during the meeting and made clear reference to an estimated 10 million deaths at the hands of Josef Stalin, The Canadian Press reports.

Yanukovych has been reluctant to recognize the genocide.

Human rights abuses seem to be a priority for Harper during his visit to Ukraine. He appeared emotional earlier in the day while visiting an outdoor site marking the genocide, and was scheduled to meet with those who have allegedly faced state intimidation due to their political views.

He also laid a symbolic jar of grain at a monument in honour of those who died in the 1932-1933 famine and is meeting with the leader of Ukraine’s opposition.

Yanukovych has faced accusations of attempting to control national media and using police to crack down on historians, academics and students.

Canada considers the event, known as Holodomor, to be a genocide. But Yanukovych chose his words carefully, instead referring to it as a "horrible event in the history of the Ukrainian people and in the history of our neighbouring peoples."

Later in the day, after meeting with opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Harper once again drove home his point.

"Our presence here and our meeting symbolizes the importance of democracy," he said, before going on to meetings with those who have allegedly faced state intimidation due to their political views.

Read the rest of the article

But the trip wasn’t all about righting Ukraine’s recent wrongs:

During the discussions Monday, the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow Canadian and Ukrainian citizens between 18 and 35 to travel and work for up to one year in each other’s countries.

"Our two countries have strong ties underpinned by the more than 1.2 million Ukrainian descendants living in Canada today," Harper said in a release.

"Today’s agreement will create exciting work and travel opportunities for our youth, forging new bonds between our countries for generations to come."

A very impressive showing by our Canadian PM. You can watch some video of it here

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to arrive in Ukraine on Monday

Update: Harper arrived Monday and asked Yanukovych some serious questions! 

The Canadian government has announced that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Ukraine from October 25 to 26:

The Prime Minister will also travel to Ukraine at the invitation of President Viktor Yanukovych.  “I look forward to my meetings with President Yanukovych and others, and to gaining a better understanding of Ukraine, the ancestral homeland of so many Canadians, with its unique society and culture.”

But the UCC warns that Ukraine has strayed from many democratic goals since President Yanukovych took over:

"Recent steps taken by Ukraine’s political leadership have seriously undermined the country’s constitution, its democratic institutions, the protection of its historical memory and national identity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. A continued deterioration of human and political rights in Ukraine, the weakening of its national sovereignty will have serious implications in the region and beyond. Any relations between Canada and Ukraine must be founded on the principles contained in the bilateral agreement signed in September 2009 "Priorities for Canada-Ukraine Relations – Road Map" including the provisions on democracy, human rights and the protection of Ukraine’s political sovereignty and territorial integrity. Canada’s leadership is critical in ensuring peace, prosperity, and that Ukraine will be able to pursue a fully independent, democratic and dignified existence," stated Grod.

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"In the current context, with signs that Ukraine’s language, history, and national identity are being threatened amid media reports indicating that the rule of law and democratic freedoms such as freedom of the press, assembly and speech are being stifled, it is important that these issues be raised at the most senior levels," stated Grod. "Canada has an opportunity to take a leadership position in response to this situation. Canada is widely respected in Ukraine as a model for democratic values and as a civil society, for its economic and social development, and its long-term support for Ukraine."

The last PM to visit Ukraine was Jean Chretien in 1999 and the latest representative was Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

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Ukrainian Canadian politician Vera Danyluk passes away

MONTREAL – She was a small-town mayor who reached the top of local municipal politics but never seemed overawed by any of it. She contemplated the idea of entering provincial politics, but decided against it after her husband worried the National Assembly in Quebec City would too often keep her away from their home in Town of Mount Royal.

Vera Danyluk, mother, community volunteer, mayor and former head of the Montreal Urban Community, died yesterday at the Montreal General Hospital after a battle with an illness described by city officials as "a very rare disorder."

Danyluk, 66, was surrounded by family in her hospital room when she died.

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Trent said Danyluk "was an extremely important role model for women," referring to her assuming the reins of the MUC at a time when women in politics were a rarity.

"She showed that if you’re going to be in municipal politics, you can do it with probity, with a sense of ethics, a sense of responsibility and you can work very hard.

"She almost single-handedly helped to raise the public opinion of municipal politicians in the Montreal area."

In a communique made public in the hours after her death, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, on his way to Rome to attend the canonization of Brother André, described Danyluk as "an exceptionally talented woman who was a great source of inspiration for all those who made a choice to enter municipal politics. We’ve lost an exceptional woman who dedicated her life to public service."

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Danyluk was a critic of forced municipal mergers carried out at the start of the decade, but her support of decentralization wasn’t limited to municipal administration. In the 1970s, not yet involved in politics, she co-founded the Women’s Committee on Public Safety after the attempted rape of an adolescent girl in T.M.R. That group called for a demerger of the Montreal Urban Community’s island-wide police, placing public security back in the hands of municipalities.

Elected chairperson of the Suburban Mayors’ Conference of Montreal in 1992, two years later she experienced what might be considered the greatest irony of her political career: After spending more than a decade criticizing the MUC, Danyluk, then 49, was named its chairperson, responsible for a budget of $1.2 billion and the 15,000 employees who provided the region’s public security and transit, restaurant and food inspection, water purification, air pollution monitoring and emergency co-ordination services.

Montreal Gazette [thanks Ukemonde]

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Former UCC Alberta President, ex-MLA Dave Broda dies in car crash (Updated)

From the Edmonton Journal:

Former Redwater MLA Dave Broda was killed in a road accident Sunday night.

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It is known that Broda attended a barbecue dinner near Mundare earlier Sunday evening. The event was sponsored by the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce.

"He was significantly involved in his community in many ways. He was a proud Canadian-Ukrainian," said Brian Gifford, chairman of Alberta’s Surface Rights Board.

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In 2002, when he was the chairman of the Advisory Council on Alberta-Ukraine Relations, Broda joined Klein on a five-day mission to Ukraine. It was the first official visit made by an Alberta premier to the eastern European country.

Read the rest of the article

Broda also served as President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta chapter in 2005 and was mentioned on their website:

It is with much sadness that the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council must share the news of the sudden passing of Mr. Dave Broda. Former UCC-APC President, and a former Member of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta, Dave was a dedicated volunteer in our community.  His wisdom, guidance and good nature will be very much missed by us all. On behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council, our Board of Directors and member organizations, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dave Broda. Dave will be remembered as a great Albertan and Ukrainian Canadian who loved this province and his Ukrainian heritage. He served his constituents and community honourably. He was a strong team player, an excellent communicator and problem-solver. His commitment to local communities and councils showed time and time again his dedication and passion towards his endeavours. We encourage everyone to watch for announcements of funeral arrangements. Vichnaya Pam’yat. Вічна Йому пам’ять. Daria Luciw, UCC-APC President

He was 65 years old.

Update: More from the Edmonton Sun:

Broda served as an MLA from 1997 to 2004. He was also president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Alberta branch and remained an active member in the local Ukrainian community.

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He was also proud of his Ukrainian roots, said Minister of Health and Wellness Gene Zwozdesky.

"Dave was a cultural and religious community-minded person," he said. "He enjoyed and was very proud of his Ukrainian roots. We often joked in Ukrainian and, on certain occasions, reflected on our trip to Ukraine when we helped organize the first trip by an Alberta premier to (the country) in 2002."

Broda’s legacy will be the report he penned in 1999 on long-term care in the province, Zwozdesky added.

Read the rest of the article

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Ukraine’s only independent TV stations to be taken off the air by Yanukovych government

Last month I posted that Ukrainians who want independent and fair TV news coverage only had Channel 5 (Kanal 5) and TVi left. Channel 5 played a crucial role during the Orange revolution and TVi was set up by a Russian media tycoon who was the first victim of Vladimir Putin’s squeeze on media in Russia. Recently a court has stripped them of their new broadcast frequencies:

The board claimed that the court hearing was being influenced by Ukrainian Security Service head Valery Khoroshkovsky. Khoroshkovky owns the rival media holding Inter Media Group, which has asked for a new tender for frequencies. Khoroshkovsky strongly denied exerting pressure on Channel 5 and demanded proof of the allegations made by its editorial board.

"What kind of direct proof one can have, other than the fact that Khoroshkovsky is one of the owners of Inter Media Group? He is the chief of the security service, a member of the Higher Council of Justice. His wife is the manager of Inter Media Group. Here you have double standards," Roman Skypin, a journalist who heads TVi’s information service, said in an interview with RFE/RL.

As a result TVi will remain a satellite channel with little coverage in Ukraine, and Channel 5, whose licence allows it to be mainly about entertainment, may not be able to retain its news programmes.

It’s not surprising that independent media would start to disappear when the Yanukovych government decided to sack the current head of the SBU (secret service) and replace him with a rival television network and media empire owner. It is clearly a conflict of interest and journalists are vying for an independent parliamentary commission to investigate as well as Khoroshkovsky’s dismissal.

The development follows weeks of growing complaints by journalists about the resurgence of censorship and heightens fears that a Kremlin-styled crackdown on media freedoms could be in the works five months into the presidency of the Moscow-friendly Viktor Yanukovich.

Oleh Rybachuk, a former presidential administration chief turned civic activist, said “censorship is re-emerging, and the opposition is not getting so much coverage. There are similarities to what [Vladimir] Putin did when he came to power. We are seeing Putin-style attempts to monopolise power.”

In 2012 Ukraine makes the transition to digital broadcast television, in which all the old analog channels will discontinue and TV stations must re-apply for these new digital frequencies. Telekritika, a media watchdog news website and magazine commented in her Kyiv Post interview ‘Power wants monopoly’:

TVi had prepared the frequency for itself. It is common practice here that after that there has to be a tender held. By agreement with the National Council and all market players, the initiator has historically received the most frequencies. But they had to share with others, too.
But Inter Group claimed most of these frequencies – and that’s unfair. [Having understood that the claim would not be satisfied], they withdrew their application, and then filed a lawsuit. It’s not very clear why.

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The desire of the new power to control and monopolize television is visible through many of its actions and through the quality of the news we have.

Khoroshkovsky is a member of the High Council of Justice. In any democratic country, undoubtedly, this kind of a court hearing, with major procedural violations, simply could not happen.

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Another point is that something needs to be changed at the National TV and Radio Council. These sorts of commercial disputes lead to the loss of news channels. This shows inadequate work of the National Council, which has to make sure that we have information channels, public TV and that the needs for Ukrainian-language media are satisfied. But it has never done it in a civilized way.

And finally some background on television and politics in Ukraine:

During the Presidency of President Kuchma Ukrainian television was more or less controlled by Kuchma while the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) controlled Inter TV[1]. After the Orange Revolution Ukrainian television became more free. In February 2009 the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting claimed that "political pressure on mass media increased in recent times through amending laws and other normative acts to strengthen influence on mass media and regulatory bodies in this sphere".

As of January 2009 Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko refused to appear in Inter TV-programmes "until journalists, management and owners of the TV channel stop destroying the freedom of speech and until they remember the essence of their profession – honesty, objectiveness, and unbiased stand".

Members of Ukraine’s media have banded together to form the ‘Stop Censorship!’ movement to protest these actions of flagrant censorship.

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