Minister Freeland's Grandfather,
"It takes a village to raise a Nazi" (old African proverb, slightly modified)
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This issue (#68) deals with the mass internment of Ukrainian Canadians, this community's left-right split and the mainstream racist, xenophobic anti-communism of progressive "Social Gospellers" (like the CCF's J.S. Woodsworth) who were so captivated by their false beliefs that they carried out the genocide of First Nations and turned a blind eye to government repression during the 20th-century "Red Scare."
In case they have somehow forgotten, it might be worth reminding Peter Kent, Paul Grod, Chrystia Freeland, and others who are stepping forward to embarrass themselves with outrageous denials and accusations against the victims of Nazism, that Canada is currently engaged an important process called "Truth and Reconciliation." Priding itself on "Canadian values," the Government of Canada claims to be facing the historical reality of its huge role in the genocide of Indigenous peoples.
This cultural process of "Truth and Reconciliation" is also needed to face up to the very real complicity of Canadians in other horrendous genocides. We need to be able to acknowledge that proud Canadians, like Michael Chomiak, played an absolutely pivotal role in helping to run the Nazi's fake news machine. The lies spread through Ukrainian newspapers that were edited by Chrystia Freeland's grandfather did, after all, help to justify and rationalise the Holocaust, and the mass murders of Poles and Soviets.
Although the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the mass murders of WWII were both facilitated by huge institutionalised processes, it must also be recognised that they were carried out on the ground by ordinary individuals. Most of these people, like those belonging to the well-meaning Christian communities that created, administered and then covered up the horrors of Canada's Residential Schools, had become convinced that their actions were necessary to promote the civilisation, Christianisation and Canadianisation of inferior peoples.
Remarkably there are still Canadians, like Senator Lynn Beyak, who make excuses for Canada's genocide of Indigenous peoples. She, for instance, wants to embrace the positive impacts of the Residential School system such as the Christianity it forced on Indigenous children. Commenting on Beyak's remarks, Romeo Saganash an NDP MP and Residential School survivor said: "It equals saying what Hitler did to the Jewish [people] was good .... I think she should resign .... If one reads the definition of genocide under the UN convention, it's pretty clear to that effect that forcibly removing children … constitutes genocide."[i]
Interestingly, Senator Beyak's husband of 32 years, Tony Beyak (1948-2002), was a deeply religious Ukrainian-Canadian used-car salesman who served two terms as president of the Fort Francis Chamber of Commerce.[ii] When Lynn Beyak made a donation to the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism," she did so in his memory. The online comment which she posted when making the donation reads: "In memory of our dear Tony Beyak, from his loving family."[iii] The board of directors for this controversial anti-communist memorial includes Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.[iv]
Although most Canadians should by now know that this country was founded on a xenophobic system of racist apartheid based on a west-European supremacist propaganda, it is still fashionable to rationalise away such past crimes by saying that we cannot judge our forebears actions based on the advanced moral understandings that we now possess. This feeble excuse ignores the seemingly obvious fact that many people in the past knew full well, for example, that Residential Schools were a profound crime. For example, Indigenous and Metis people knew that they were victims of Canada's dehumanising political, legal, economic and religious systems, of which Residential Schools were only one manifestation. Excusing the perpetrators of past genocides by saying that people back then just didn't know any better, is an insult to survivors of Canada's genocide, and their families.
But past cries for justice fell on deaf Canadian ears. What's worse, authorities responded by punishing those who dared to expose or push back against Canada's genocide of Indigenous people. How much have times changed? Nowadays, when people dare to expose the truth about Canadians who collaborated with the Nazis, they are accused of colluding with the Russians to undermine Canadian democracy. Do the mass media, and those politicians who emerged from careers in corporate news, have no shame? Would it have been acceptable to blame the Indians for trying to subvert Canada's "good government" every time someone tried to expose a major collaborator in the Residential School program?
It is incumbent upon us all to struggle to understand how sincere, well-intentioned people can become complicit in institutionalised processes which promote, excuse, carry out or whitewash such atrocities as genocide. Huge social institutions, such as the media, government, religions and corporations, have tremendous power to inspire widespread confidence and faith among masses of people. With such power they can create and perpetuate grand mythical narratives that inspire individuals to place the "cause" of their social group above all else. This passionate fixation on a righteous cause, movement or organisation ‑ whether nationalistic, religious or otherwise ‑ is a force so powerful that it can prevent people from recognising the harm that they are doing. People can become so captivated, heart and mind, by their commitment to their noble cause that ‑ for the "greater good" ‑ they will even commit war crimes, crimes against peace or crimes against humanity.
Such crimes are so huge that they cannot possibly be committed by just a few psychopathic individuals. To orchestrate these horrors, widescale social complicity is required. When bigotry and hatred become accepted and normalised within a culture, societies face the spectre of mass psychosis. There are of course a million shades of grey within the cultural syndromes which accept racism, apartheid, slavery, imperialism and other forms of exploitation, hatred and abuse, as the norm. Neither does such social madness happen suddenly. It is a heavily institutionalised cultural process that creeps up slowly from behind our backs. The result is that good, honest, decent people are trained ‑ often from an early age and throughout their lives ‑ to turn a blind eye to their society's complicity in grand schemes of social injustice.
We all need to understand how these cultural processes work ‑ and the roles played in them by individuals, organisations, governments and the media. While stopping moral panics while they occur is virtually impossible, a society may be able to prevent institutionalised psychoses from growing and taking hold. At the very least however a mature society needs to be able to recognise, acknowledge and reconcile itself with the institutionalised crimes that are part of its history. To do this, people need to have access to the truth and they need to be able to confront that truth without turning a blind eye.[v]
John Paul Tasker, "Senator's defence of residential schools akin to
excusing Holocaust, NDP MP says," CBC News, March 9, 2017.
[ii] His obituary reads, in part: "Tony had two specific goals in life. One was to be the best husband and father that he could be and the other was to own a small used car lot. He accomplished both, magnificently. He loved his God, his family and his work ...."
TONY CHARLES BEYAK,
Winnipeg Free Press, June 1, 2002.