Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mr. Harper goes to Ukraine

U of A history and classics professor David Marples has written extensively on Ukraine for many years and I try to read everything he writes.  We are lucky in Edmonton to have such an astute academic providing occasional journalism on a country that means a lot to many Canadians of Ukrainian descent. 

Prime Minister Harper's recent visit to Ukraine was important and timely.  Professor Marples has written an excellent synopsis of Ukrainian politics under newly elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who is deemed as pro-Russian, compared to his pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Ukraine this week has offered some clear signals that Canada is concerned about recent developments in Ukrainian politics, particularly violations of human rights, a pro-Russian orientation, and the growing accumulation of power in the hands of President Viktor Yanukovych.

"In taking such a clear stance, Harper's position departs from that of countries of the European Union, which appear to be concerned primarily about regional stability and favour warmer relations with Russia. The EU's motivation, ostensibly, is the need for reliable imports of Russian gas and oil, which were disrupted frequently during the administration of Yanukovych's predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.

"The Canadian prime minister seemed more at ease during his visit to L'viv on the second day of his tour than during official meetings in Kyiv. 

On Holodomor, the Great Ukrainian Famine in the early 30's caused by the Stalin Soviet regime:
"“One of the great crimes of history,” Mr. Harper said later. “I hope always that it will remind the Ukrainian people of the importance of their freedom, their democracy and their independence, and of the necessity of always defending those things.”  More...
"Ukrainian independence conjures up images of embroidered peasant shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phony cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites" (p. 106). "My difficulty in taking Ukraine seriously goes deeper than just my cosmopolitan suspicion of nationalists everywhere. Somewhere inside, I'm also what Ukrainians call a Great Russian, and there is a trace of old Russian disdain for these 'little Russian'"
I now ask, with the Harper government's strong pro-Israel stance in the Middle East, and in sending a strong message and development funding to Ukraine, strong messaging to China on human rights, amongst other free-trade initiatives, is there any other leader right now in the free world promoting freedom and democracy the way Prime Minister Harper has, even in the last six months?
My grandfather, who emigrated from Ukraine into Canada just before communism took over, must be happy as heck in heaven knowing where Canada stands with his homeland.


Edmund Onward James said...

My mother is from Ukraine, she and my father (Polish/Belarus) were forced labour for the Nazis, taken from their villages when they were teenagers.

Father has passed away but mother, 83 year-old proud Canadian citizen, has great respect for Canada but little for Ignatieff. Of course, there was a time of the Coassacks and poor treatment of Jewish Ukranians, but those days have changed. The country was attemtping a form of democracy... but has slid back.

She is pleased that Prime Minister Harper visited the old country. Old for her. The memories. But she is also pleased Ukraine has modernized.

Hoarfrost said...

I grew up in Toronto with buddies who were the children of wartime (WW2) Ukraine immigrants who had no biased bone in their bodies that I could detect. As an adult I was transfered to the prairies where I learned another part of the Ukrainian Canadian experience. Those western Ukrainian settlers became the proud backbone of our country. Latterly, I lived in Ottawa where I lived among my beloved Ukrainian neighbours even though they were silly servants.

As a person with British heritage I rejoice that these wonderful people can share in that heritage. But be advised that here in Canada we are creating our own new and fair heritage with all, without the so-called Human rights Commisssion that seems to divide us.