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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
Black Ribbon Day (BRD), Aug. 23:
Canada’s top Cold War propaganda export
The global Black Ribbon Day (BRD) crusade was spawned in 1985 by East European émigré groups in Toronto whose founders and leaders included Nazi collaborators and Holocaust perpetrators. BRD propaganda continues to smear the USSR with a Nazi brush by spreading disinformation about the Soviet-German nonaggression treaty of August 23, 1939. By exploiting the West’s ongoing Cold War phobias, BRD portrays Nazism and communism as diabolical twins. As BRD founder Markus Hess said in 1986, this treaty was "the high point in the evil of these two tyrannical regimes."1 This narrative even goes so far as to claim that Nazism and communism must take equal blame for causing WWII.
The émigré groups that spread BRD across Canada and the globe were linked to profascist networks like the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, World AntiCommunist League and the CIA-funded "Captive Nations" movement. Their efforts were soon joined by far-right lobby groups, mainstream politicians at all levels of government, and their likeminded mass media allies who eagerly joined the fray.
BRD has now spread globally and August 23 is has been officially memorialized in the US, Australia and Europe. In 2009, Canadian MPs unanimously affirmed BRD. Introduced by then-Liberal leader Bob Rae, the motion was co-authored by Estonian-Canadian Marcus Kolga of the Central and Eastern European Council.2 Since then, BRD laws—falsely equating the world’s most avidly-opposed, mortal enemies—have been passed in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia.
Black Ribbon Day (2014), published by the Research Institute of the Canadian Polish Congress (CPC or KPK), heaps sycophantic praise on the far-right movement that built this fervently anticommunist campaign. The book’s author, Edward Soltys, was the Institute’s president (1995-2011) and a CPC director (1997-2002).
Calling the CPC "the most noteworthy Polish Canadian antiCommunist bloc," Polish-Canadian historian Patryk Polec says it opposed Canada’s leftwing Polish groups. When 55,000 Poles with "a strong aversion to Communism" entered Canada (1945-52), he said, they "invigorated" the CPC, "transformed the Polish-Canadian community"and "lobbied the Canadian government to oppose Communism in Poland."3
As Zophia de Witt, longtime CPC-Manitoba president said: "Being communist is the worst sin that you could commit."4 Not surprisingly, the CPC has received $988,000 in government grants, and three of its member groups received $510,000 in 2018.5
BRD was the creation of Markus Hess, a Canadian of German-Estonian heritage. His preface to Soltys’s book details how he began BRD in 1985 by pitching his idea to Canada’s Toronto-based Estonian Central Council (ECC). Neither Hess nor Soltys mention that the ECC’s early leadership was rife with Nazi collaborators including former officers of Estonia’s Waffen SS. Neither did they reveal any of the other fascist links to émigré groups behind BRD’s success.
The Hess plan was to unite all "Captive Nations" groups by using an annual protest to focus public attention on antiSoviet fears and the Cold War loathing of communism. As a symbol, he picked the black ribbon of mourning. Once elected to the ECC’s board, Hess presented his plan to the group’s annual meeting which gave BRD its full blessing and support.6
As chair of ECC’s BRD committee, Hess "extend[ed]... the protest to all other enslaved [Soviet] peoples"7 by attending the Jan.-1986 meeting of Canada’s Committee of Captive European Nations. There he met leaders of three groups linked to Nazi collaborators: the ECC, the Lithuanian Canadian Community and the Latvian National Federation in Canada (LNAK) Wanting to fuel protest and animosity against their Soviet enemy, the Captive Nations Committee embraced Hess’ plan. Their alliance, aka the Group of Seven (G7), united far-right East Europeans from Czechoslovakia (Czechs and Slovaks), Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.
The BRD crusade got its next big break after Hess was attending an ECC-Toronto event in February 1986 and met the wife and son of Yaroslav Sokolyk, who was the president of Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Toronto. They arranged for Hess to present his plan to the Toronto-based World Congress of Free Ukrainians (WCFU) which was holding a meeting the next day. Sokolyk became a valuable ally for Hess' initiative and became "a co-founder of the Black Ribbon Day Committee."8 He was then chairman of the WCFU's Media and Public Relations Committee (1983-88). At that time the WCFU's president was Peter Savaryn, a veteran of the Nazi's Waffen SS Galicia.
Sokolyk later became the WCFU's Secretary General (1993-98) and a member of its Audit Committee (1998-08). For his service to this global organization, Sokolyk won it highest honour, the Medal of St. Volodymyr the Great. Sokolyk also served as president of the Eastern Eparchy of the Brotherhood of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada and as president of Plast-Toronto.9
Hess received a "vote of support" for BRD from the WCFU.10 This organization, now called the World Ukrainian Congress, is the leading global umbrella group for the far-right Ukrainian diaspora organizations. It reveres WWII fascist leaders such as Stepan Bandera with cult-like adoration. By joining the BRD committee, Sokolyk helped throw the weight of this worldwide movement behind Hess' cause.
Bandera’s faction of Ukrainian nationalists is still the strongest of Canada’s government-supported East European émigré groups. By the 1980s, Banderites had long been a leading force in the fight against socialists in their communities, and in support of Canada’s US/NATO-led, antiSoviet foreign policies. Dominated by those who had welcomed the Nazis as liberators in WWII, these émigré groups embraced Hess plan and were its driving force. "With their collaboration," says Soltys, "Hess idea moved forward with lightning speed."11
Each of Canada’s so-called Captive-Nations groups supplied volunteers to the BRD cause. Soltys details how these groups used their member lists, publications, radio and TV shows, meetings, public events and contacts with government, media and financiers to push the BRD agenda. They also sent delegates to BRD meetings. As a result, the G7 soon disbanded and was replaced by the BRD committee which took lead of Canada’s Captive Nations movement. LNAK’s president, Linard Lukks, who had led the G7, became secretary-treasurer of the International BRD Committee.12
Hess notes that at the first BRD meeting, delegates from G7 émigré groups decided to "reach outside of our communities." To achieve this they used the National Citizens’ Coalition (NCC). With 40,000 members, it was one of Canada’s most formidable, far-right forces. (Stephen Harper later became its president, 1998-2002.) Hess arranged to meet NCC vice president David Somerville, and he became what Hess refered to as his "brother in arms." Somerville contributed what Hess called his "knowledge, ... vision and strategies," and the "NCC’s generosity with regards to office space and assistance." This support spread BRD beyond its hardcore East European base. When Somerville suggested that August 23 be the BRD’s focal point, Hess says he made "an immediate executive decision and agreed."13 In his introduction to Soltys’ book, Somerville explains that before his meeting with Hess he had
a revelation ... to use the public’s preexisting revulsion for the Nazis to get them to feel similarly toward the Soviet Communists.... [I]n condemning both regimes simultaneously, it would be impossible for critics to attack us as right wing extremists or possible Nazi sympathizers.14 (Emphasis added)
To spread public "revulsion" against the Soviets, Hess and Somerville began an "organizational campaign" tour to the UK, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Funding for this BRD tour, says Hess, came from Stefan Roman.15 As Canada’s "Uranium King" billionaire, Roman was a lead force in the Canadian Slovak League and the Slovak World Congress, which glorified Slovakia’s Nazi puppet regime. During their tour, Hess and Somerville were welcomed by such leading profascists as Slava Stetsko, who met them at the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations’ (ABN) global HQ in Munich.16 (See photo, above.) Stetsko led the ABN, was an executive of the World AntiCommunist League and headed the Banderite Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. While in Munich, Hess and Somerville also broadcast "interviews at Radio Free Europe [RFE] into the Soviet Union regarding Black Ribbon Day."17 (RFE was the CIA’s largest Cold War propaganda mill.)
In 1986, the once-tiny BRD project spread wildly with "anti-Soviet rallies in the US, Australia, Sweden, France and Britain," and in "at least nine Canadian cities." At Toronto’s rally, thousands were addressed by Conservative MP and former Mayor David Crombie. Canada’s BRD protests also had government support through PM Brian Mulroney whose warm greetings were read out to the antiSoviet protesters across Canada. That year, the BRD group also produced $40,000 worth of TV ads (i.e., $83,000 in 2020) to equate the Soviets with Nazism. In response, the USSR, which had lost 27 million citizens to defeat Nazi Germany, issued an all-but-ignored media release titled "Hate Propaganda Day Sullies Canada." It correctly denounced BRD as "a blatantly dishonest anti-Soviet propaganda exercise." As mainstream journalist John Best reported: "From all indications, not least the outraged response from the Soviets, Black Ribbon Day was a huge success in its first year."18
The swift realization of Hess’ BRD dream proves that myth building can be "a huge success" if, as a tool for pushing official narratives, it is supported by politicians, the mass media and state-supported groups—even if they include those with close organizational and ideologicalconnections to Nazi collaborators.
1. "Right-wing group to protest insidious takeover by Soviets," Red Deer Advocate, Aug.7, 1986, p.3.. http://bit.ly/BRDevil
2. Adu Raudkivi, "Introducing the Central and East European Council," Eesti Elu (Estonian Life), Dec. 30, 2009. http://bit.ly/CEEC2009
3. Patryk Polec, "The Polish Canadian Communist Movement, 1918-1948," 2014, pp.17, 180. http://bit.ly/PPolec
4. Chris Clements, "Voluntary Ethnic Groups and the Cdn. Polish Congress’ Role in Cold War Canada," Oral History Forum, 35, 2015, p.5. http://bit.ly/CPCsin
5. Public Accounts Canada (1995, ‘97, ‘98, ‘04). Plus, three CPC member groups in Alberta (Polish-Canadian Society, Polish Veterans Society and Polish Combatants Assoc. #6, Edm.) received $510,000 in 2018. (Figures adjusted for inflation)
6. Markus Hess, "Some Memories," in Edward Soltys, Black Ribbon Day, 2014, pp.16-29.
7. Markus Hess, "Black Ribbon Day Memories," Culture & Life, Sum. 2011. (trans) http://bit.ly/HessBRD
8. Obituary, Yaroslav Sokolyk, Toronto Star, January 27, 2017.
9. In Memoriam Former Ukrainian World Congress Secretary General Yaroslav Sokolyk (1925-2017), UCC website, January 9, 2017.
10. Soltys, op. cit., pp. pp.19-20.
11. Ibid., pp.116-17.
12. Ibid., p.19. Lukks was G7 president (late ‘70s-early ‘80s); LNAK president (‘70s-‘80s); Baltic Federation of Canada’s vice president (mid ‘70s); and World Federation of Free Latvians president. (late ‘80s.)
13. Ibid., pp.20-21.
14. David Somerville, "Truths we must relearn," Soltys, ibid., p.32.
15. Hess 2014, ibid., pp.23.
16. ABN Correspondence, May-Jun. 1987, p.3. http://bit.ly/ABN-BRD
17. Hess 2014, op. cit.
18. John Best, "Black Ribbon Day likely to be permanent fixture," Star Phoenix, Sep. 3, 1986, p.4.http://bit.ly/ABN-86
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