Prime Minister Stephen Harper with the Barvinok dance ensemble
November 8th, 2013, the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism addressed the opening ceremonies of the XXIV Triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians. On November 9th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was interviewed by Mr. Jurij Klufas at a “Conversation with the Prime Minister”, held at a banquet at the Congress.
Below are excerpts from the Prime Minister’s conversation with Mr. Jurij Klufas.
JURIJ KLUFAS: Well, it was mentioned earlier, Mr. Temerty read, and we would like to acknowledge obviously the fact that your government proceeded with redress for internment. And it was actually, it was a campaign platform issue still back in 2004. And also, your government was a world leader in recognizing the Holodomor as an act of genocide.
It would be interesting to know how you came about steering both of these issues through.
PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: Well, we’ve tried as a government to really put a lot more emphasis on freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law and obviously values in our foreign policy, but also to improve Canadians’ understanding of those things in our own society.
Certainly James Bezan, some of you know, with some Ukrainian Canadian background, he was a big driver for us to recognize the Holodomor for what it was, you know.
I don’t think we should talk around this. You know, if I can make a little comment about this. Obviously, you know that I grew up here in Toronto, and had a number of Ukrainian Canadian friends, and so I was very aware of the history of the Ukrainian people and the kind of events we had seen – the famine, the Holodomor and other great tragedies of Ukrainian history, not to mention the Soviet dictatorship that was still in place when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s.
So this is, as you know, is obviously by Ukrainian Canadians, and has been brought here. It is a part of our history and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
And I think, if I can talk personally here, I think one of the things that really troubles me is that when we look at the two great evils of the 20th century, Fascism and Communism, there has been a full reckoning in terms of western civilization of the terrible nature and terrible events of Fascism.
But unfortunately in some circles, there is still a tendency to try and downplay the terrible awful things, the tens of millions of people who died because of Communist ideology and Communist dictatorship.
And I don’t think anybody in Canadian political life, anybody who values the kind of freedom and democracy that we have come to love and cherish and understand in this country, anybody in leadership positions should ever, ever downplay the terrible things that Communism and Communist dictatorships have done. It’s important they are recognized and that we come to terms with them and that we make a vow that certainly in Canadian foreign policy we will never turn a blind eye to those things again.
JURIJ KLUFAS: So in light of that narrative, maybe you could explain a little bit to us about the victims of Communism monument that you’re spearheading for placement in Ottawa in a very, very prominent position.
PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: Yes, this has been, you know, we’re here on November the 9th, which as many of you know is actually something that should have a much greater prominence. I know we held an event several years in Ottawa to mark the 20th anniversary. It was 2009, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and that’s what today is, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which really was the beginning of the end of Soviet Communism as we know it. And of course ultimately part and parcel of Ukraine finally gaining its freedom, I’m proud to say, under a previous conservative government, the first democratic country in the world to recognize the independence of Ukraine was the government of Canada.
And, you know, given that history and given that there are so many people in Canada who have family and personal backgrounds from Communist countries that understand the true terror that that was and has been for so many people I think it’s important as we recognize the Holocaust and recognize other events that we build this into the Canadian narrative.
So the government has been very supportive of Tribute to Liberty and the building of the monument and I am personally very committed to it as well.
For the full transcript of the event please go to http://www.ucc.ca/2013/11/12/prime-minister-harper-addressed-the-xxiv-triennial-congress-of-ukrainian-canadians/