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Defunding the Myths and Cults of
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Defunding Cold War Canada
Table of Contents
Canada’s anti-Red, Cold War
propaganda in context
As children, Chrystia Freeland and her friend Paul Grod, former president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), like thousands of other Ukrainian nationalists around the world, were raised through the ranks of two scouting groups. Both are historically linked to the fascist Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). While Grod is a product of the Ukrainian Youth Association (UYA or SUM) which is affiliated with Stepan Bandera’s OUN(B), Freeland’s roots are in Plast with its ties to Andriy Melnyk’s OUN(M).
Both OUN factions, says historian Per Anders Rudling continue to raise their children "in ritualistic celebration" of Ukrainian national heroes including those political and military leaders who collaborated with the Nazis:
Children and adolescents, dressed in the brownshirts and black ties of the [Ukrainian Youth Association] SUM, the OUN(B) youth section, or the blue uniforms of the Plast were made to march in formation, decorate graves of the fallen heroes, perform militaristic and folkloristic hymns, and recite pledges of allegiance in front of nationalist memorials.1
At age nine, Freeland was signed up with Edmonton's Plast scouting troop. In 2013, when asked if it was influential in her childhood, she said:
Absolutely. Plast was a very important part of my life growing up and it is a very important part of my daughters’ lives. I grew up in a Ukrainian community and was active in Plast. Now my two daughters are active plastunky in New York (my son is only 3 years old). My elder daughter went to Lviv this summer for [Plast’s] 100th anniversary.2
Freeland joined Edmonton’s Plast troop in 1977. That year, her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, another intensely passionate Ukrainian nationalist, separated from her nonUkrainian husband and left Peace River, Alberta. Upon moving to Edmonton, Chrystia Freeland could become much closer to her mother’s father, Michael Chomiak (aka Mykhailo Khomiak), his other children and to their extended families. Chomiak had been the Nazi’s top Ukrainian-language news propagandist in Europe throughout WWII. Upon coming to Canada after the war he became deeply involved in Edmonton’s Ukrainian community, which makes up 14% of the city’s total population.3
Her move to Edmonton was a turning point in Freeland’s life because she became immersed in that community’s ubiquitous, Ukrainian enculturation programs. Besides joining Plast, she began classes in two Ukrainian education programs: Alberta’s government-funded, bilingual Ukrainian-English public school system, and the Ukrainian community’s ultrapatriotic, nationalist "Saturday schools."
At age 11, in 1979, Chrystia was interviewed by her mother’s brother, Bohdan Chomiak, son of Michael, for a nationalist Ukrainian newspaper, Student, which has been distributed to Ukrainian youth in universities across Canada since the late 1960s. Her uncle Bohdan asked Chrystia to compare the two Ukrainian education programs in which she was enrolled. She replied that
historically, geographically and gramatically [sic] speaking ... you learned more in the Saturday school.... One of the biggest differences though is that the Saturday schools are much more patriotic and religious, so that history will have a lot of facts about how brave and gallant the Ukrainian kings were. And it will usually be stressed. Sometimes they’ll talk about the negative points, but their perspective will be that of the Ukrainian nation.4 (Emphasis added.)
While this may be Freeland’s first appearance in print media, four members of her family (the children of Michael Chomiak) were involved in Student for about a decade. Her uncle Bohdan Chomiak had been on its staff (1972, 1978-80) and was a frequent contributor during the 1970s.5 His aunts (Chrystia, Natalka and Halyna Chomiak) were also active in the magazine. Freeland’s aunt, Chrystia Chomiak, edited issues of Student (1969-70) and was involved in organising, producing and publishing it (1973-74).6 Natalka Chomiak wrote for Student and worked for its publishers (1972-74), the Ukrainian Canadian Students Union (SUSK).7 Chrystia Freeland’s mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, also wrote for Student. In her late 20s in 1974, she penned an article giving insights into childhood "pressures" from her parents (Alexandra and Mykhailo) and the Ukrainian community:
[F]or me to grow up Ukrainian was to grow up with the idea that I was different and therefore special.... [We] were allowed only to speak Ukrainian at home.
While growing up we were under pressure from our parents to be aware of our Ukrainianism and to be proud of it. This pressure also came from the Ukrainian community. It was exerted in many ways. I and the other Ukrainian children that I knew were taught about the Ukraine — its history, beauty, culture and vast richness. Both our parents and the Ukrainian community pressured us to marry Ukrainians and to keep working in Ukrainian organizations. As a distant goal, we looked forward to the liberation of Ukraine and I can remember childhood dreams of leading armies down the mountain sides. This pressure to remain proudly nationalistic was very necessary. It counter-acted the dominant social pressure from the general society to assimilate.8 (Emphasis added.)
Halyna who went into law, like her father Michael Chomiak, moved to Ukraine to help draft its postSoviet constitution (1992-2002). Her work there was funded by George Soros.9
Chomiak’s children and grandchildren could not help but be deeply affected by the belief system in which they were all but totally immersed. From an early age, they were inculcated into nationalistic Ukrainian culture not only by family and friends, Ukrainian schools and Plast, but by a myriad of other nationalist groups and the cultural events and activities that they organised. The Ukrainian Catholic church was also influential. As Freeland said of her mother, "when we were growing up, she insisted my sister and I go to church every Sunday with our grandfather."10
From childhood on, Freeland’s enculturation into the cause of Ukrainian nationalism was practically inescapable. It is little wonder then that as an adult, her commitment and dedication to this cause has been relentless. Aided by her intelligence, her command of language, her extreme confidence and personal chutzpah, Freeland became an outspoken voice promoting the mythic narratives of Ukrainian nationalism. Her grandfather would surely have been proud of her skills as a mass media news propagandist, and as a politician implementing the Russophobic and antisocialist policies that dominate their community.
Freeland has also passed on the tradition to her own family. She has for example involved her children in a Toronto festival which is likely the world’s largest Ukrainian nationalist event outside Ukraine. (The local branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) has received $667,000 since 2009 to organize this event.11) In 2013, when Freeland was the Liberal Party’s "star candidate" running for parliament, she was honoured to be the festival’s Parade Marshal. Heading the parade were a boy and girl in traditional Ukrainian dress carrying the event’s official banner. Then came veterans bearing the flags of Ukraine, Canada, the US and NATO. Behind them was a military-style band with 40 uniformed youth marching in formation. Next in line was Freeland waving from a vintage white Cadillac with her young children. Another military-style band soon marched by with 60 uniformed members12 of the UYA. This affiliate of the League of Ukrainian Canadians represents the OUN(B) faction of Ukrainian nationalists. As such, these Bandera youth are taught to hail their fascist war hero with cult-like reverence.
Toronto’s Ukrainian Festival has everything to be expected from these annual family events: music, dancing, food, and politicians from all levels of government and Canada’s three largest political parties. It has also permitted fundraising for a far-right paramilitary group whose street fighters are known for brutal violence in Ukraine. Toronto’s 2014 Ukrainian Festival allowed Right Sector Canada to raise money to buy military equipment for their fighters in Ukraine. CBC’s TV news showed Right Sector’s table with images of Bandera.13 That year’s festival received a $99,700 Canadian government handout.14
In 2016, when Freeland marched with her children in this Ukrainian parade, Right Sector Canada marched close behind them. Among them, Ukrainian youth carried a banner bearing a large portrait of Bandera. The red and black battle flag of his Ukrainian Insurgent Army was held high.15 To hold that year’s parade, UCC-Toronto received $58,200 in federal government funds.16
As usual, Toronto’s 2016 parade enjoyed the avid participation of Ukrainian nationalist groups which glorify fascist army formations that collaborated with the Nazis. In this annual display of Ukrainian patriotism, hundreds of children and youth were joined by politicians (representing the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP), veterans, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada (Andriy Shevchenko), and uniformed members of the Bandera youth movement who filed by in-step behind the UYA marching band (Baturyn). (This band played at a celebration of Bandera's 100th birthday in Munich, Germany, in 2009.) The parade also featured such young role models as Miss Teenage Canada and Miss Ukraine Toronto. Children from Ukrainian schools and uniformed members of Toronto’s Plast troop also took part.17
This Toronto festival and similar events continue to demonstrate that Canada’s far-right Ukrainian diaspora is alive and well. This ethnonationalist community continues to thrive thanks in no small part to ongoing government funding that has funneled millions in grants to their right-wing member groups and events.
Thanks to state generosity, Canada’s Ukrainian nationalists have been able to foster their cultural traditions, beliefs and narratives through the ritualistic inculcation of children and youth. Dominated by anticommunist groups with fascist roots, this community’s young have not been made aware that some of their most highly-revered wartime heroes, organizations and movements were deeply engaged in collaborating with the Nazis. Those raised in this amnesic cultural milieu are proud to carry this flame of Ukrainian nationalism and to pass it on to future generations, just as it was passed—with government assistance—to them.
References and notes
2. "A conversation with Chrystia Freeland," Ukrainian Weekly, May 19, 2013, pp.9,17. http://bit.ly/UW-Freeland
3. The 2006 census said Edmonton had 145,000 Ukrainian Canadians (i.e. 45% of Alberta’s Ukrainian population).
Population by ethnic origins, 2006 (Edmonton) http://bit.ly/2006-census
4. Bohdan Chomiak, "Life inside the Ukrainian Schools," Student, Dec.1979, p.6. http://bit.ly/Free79
5. This search of Student’s back issues shows his active involvement (1972-80). http://bit.ly/B-Chom
7. Natalka Chomiak was SUSK’s Secretary (1972-1973) and one of three on its "Controlling Committee" (1973-1974). Some articles ran under her pseudonym "T.T." (1977-80). http://bit.ly/N-Chom
The July-1973 issue of Student (p.4) noted that she ran a SUSK summer program with $11,000 from the Canadian government (the equivalent of $66,500 in 2020) to produce TV shows and a national conference. The conference featured Trudeau’s External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp, who presented the government’s official position on the USSR. http://bit.ly/N-Chom2
8. Halya Chomiak, "In Response," Student, Jan. 1974, p.3. http://bit.ly/H-Chom
9. Marko Levytsky, "Ukrainian Legal Foundation’s Halyna Freeland ‘Independent thinking is hard to acquire,’" Apr. 29, 1999. http://bit.ly/HalSor
10. Chrystia Freeland, "The richness of her life," Financial Times, Jul. 13, 2007. http://bit.ly/CF-Mom
11. Grants & Contributions to Ukrainian Festivals from the Govt of Canada http://bit.ly/UkrFest
12. Parade / 2013 Toronto Ukrainian Festival www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPxtJLJtCVg
13. "Muted Ukrainian-Canadian celebrations,"
The National, CBC TV, August 23, 2014. www.cbc.ca/player/play/2495967253
• 1:20: A Ukrainian-Canadian youth says he may enlist in the Ukrainian military.
• 2:10: A Right Sector Canada spokesman, wearing camouflage, is interviewed at their fundraising table. On display are OUN-B battle flags and portraits of its fascist political and military leader, Stepan Bandera.
• 2:45: Then-Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, calls the Right Sector’s booth a ‘rumour,’ refuses to comment and says he is ‘proud’ to be there.
14. Grants & Contributions, op. cit.
15. Ukrainian Festival Parade, 2016, Toronto. www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKH78pJtf64
• 15:58: Freeland appears in the parade.
• 16:30: The Right Sector group appears.
16. Grants & Contributions, op. cit.
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