VICTORIA, B.C. - A Private Member’s Bill from the B.C. Green Caucus passed unanimously today to honour those who died during the Holodomor - the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide of 1932-33. The legislation officially proclaims the fourth Saturday of November Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.
The bill was introduced by B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver and is the result of collaboration with Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, who introduced similar legislation in 2009.
“By enshrining Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day as an officially designated day in British Columbia, we are acknowledging and honouring the millions of people who were victims of this deliberate political strategy of starvation and we are asserting our collective pledge: never again,” said Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA from Oak Bay- Gordon Head. “My grandfather and his family were survivors of the Holodomor. He and his wife, together with my mother and her siblings, made their way to Canada after the Second World War. She told me stories of living in a refugee camp in southern Europe and a chicken coop in France as they made their way to safety.
“Since then thousands more Ukrainians have made Canada their home, adding to the diversity of this great nation and contributing to its culture and prosperity. I am proud to be counted among the descendants who have made British Columbia their home.”
While the government of Canada has legislation recognizing this day, B.C. has never formally had its own legislation doing so. The gesture was more than symbolic for the Canadian Ukrainian community in B.C., and Ukrainian delegates witnessed second and third readings to show their support, including: Andriy Shevchenko, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada; Oleksandr Danyleiko, Consul General of Ukraine to Edmonton; Lubomyr Huculak, Honorary Consul of Ukraine at Vancouver; and Mr. Oleksii Liashenko, Counsellor with the Embassy.
This bill is the result of the shared values of this minority government and the B.C. Green Caucus’ collaboration with the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. It will be implemented by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
“This legislation creating a memorial day for the victims and survivors of the Holodomor is the culmination of efforts spanning many years, starting with a private member’s bill I introduced back in 2009,” said Minister Ralston. “It is important that we take this time to reflect on this atrocity and pay homage to the survivors and their descendants living in B.C. who contribute so much to the strength and prosperity of this great province.”
“As we mourn the lives lost from one of the most heinous acts in history, we commit to stand together against hatred and violence in all its forms,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.“The official declaration of Holodomor Memorial Day in B.C. speaks to the determination and leadership of our government to learn from this terrible event in Ukrainian history and our resolve to stand up against racism, hate and discrimination here in B.C. and around the world.”
These principles transcend party lines, as evidenced by the unanimous support it received.
“Holomodor, or death by hunger, was inflicted upon millions of Ukrainian citizens in the early 1930’s by draconian communist party policy. It carries with it a tragic legacy which is only considered a genocide by 16 countries in the world,” said Tom Shypitka, MLA for Kootenay East. “By formally commemorating Holodomor Memorial Day, we take a firm stance alongside the people of Ukraine and all their descendants by recognizing this dark period in world history and ensuring that through knowledge and acceptance of the past, we will never allow similar atrocities to happen.”
“Ukrainians and their descendants- indeed all of us- must never forget the atrocity of the Holodomor,” said MLA Weaver, “lest we forget. This legislation represents our commitment to remember our collective responsibility to challenge hatred and intolerance and to protect the vulnerable people in our society.
The mood was celebratory once the House stood after third reading.
“But today is also about life. It is about celebrating the beautiful, strong people who have added so much to British Columbia - to our economy, our food, our music. We are a great symphony of cultures here in this province. Today, we ensure that the light from the millions who died is never extinguished from our consciousness even as we celebrate their legacy.”
MLA Weaver, Minister Ralston, Minister Beare, MLA Shypitka, and the Ukrainian delegates gathered after the house recessed in the Ned DeBeck Lounge to listen to the Victoria-based LUNA Ukrainian Ensemble.
- The Ukrainian Famine and Genocide killed between three and four million Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933 as part of Joseph Stalin’s plan to eliminate a democratic independence movement.
- The atrocities, including the total deaths, were covered up by Soviet authorities for decades.
- The survivors and their descendants have contributed to their communities across Canada and in BC.
- B.C. has annually proclaimed Holodomor Day the fourth Saturday in November under the Federal legislation. This legislation removes the need to annually proclaim this day by designating on the fourth Saturday in November Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day to exist in perpetuity.