Amidst NaziGate the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) has largely escaped scrutiny. But the powerful lobby group should be queried about their support for the former SS soldier applauded by Parliament and its Canadian government connections.
After six days of remaining mum about the Jaroslav Hunka scandal the UCC released a cryptic statement that doesn’t mention the 14th Waffen-SS Galicia Division veteran Canadian politicians celebrated. Instead, it notes, “there are difficult and painful pages in the shared history of the communities who made their home in Ukraine. The UCC acknowledges that recent events that brought these pages to the forefront have caused pain and anguish.”
Yet the UCC has significant ties to Hunka. He’s listed on the organization’s site as a “supporter” and Hunka donates annually, giving the UCC $5,200 since 2013. In 2003 Hunka represented the UCC at the 8th Ukrainian World Congress in Kiyv and in 2007 the group gave the former Nazi soldier a Medal of Merit (alongside several dozen other 14thWaffen-SS veterans). The Ukrainian ambassador to Canada in the post ‘Orange Revolution’ government was a special guest at the ceremony and gave a celebratory speech.
In the late 1940s the UCC campaigned to have Canada accept members of the Waffen-SS’s Galicia Division and the UCC, which is an umbrella organization, actually represented Waffen SS members who came to Canada after World War II. In “The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and its Fascist Roots” Richard Sanders writes, “this association of Nazi SS soldiers was openly listed on the UCC website as one of its national member organisations. The Ukrainian SS is still given a prominent place of honour at some UCC events. For example, at UCC Edmonton’s annual commemoration of the Holodomor in 2016, a Ukrainian WWII veteran stood behind the speaker’s podium holding the infamous Waffen SS flag.” Recent UCC Remembrance Day statements have claimed the Galicia Division was among those who “sacrificed and risked their lives for peace and freedom around the world.”
In 1940 McKenzie King’s Liberal government facilitated the creation of the UCC to undercut more socialist and internationalist elements within the community. Sanders explains, “their explicit goal in orchestrating the creation of this umbrella organisation was to rally all anticommunist Ukrainians into one body in order to squash the then-powerful influence of leftwing Ukrainians whose forebears had come to Canada during earlier waves of migration.” Over the years Ottawa has provided various forms of financial and other support to the UCC. In so doing, they’ve helped the organization maintain its hegemony over Ukrainian Canadian politics and its sizable international influence.
Throughout the Cold War the UCC worked to undermine the USSR. They played an important role in establishing the anti-Soviet Ukrainian World Congress in 1967 and in 1989 Chrystia Freeland represented the UCC at a 1989 congress of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian People’s Front.
Since independence the UCC has become influential in Ukraine. It has mobilized significant resources for Western oriented civil society groups in a country that has by far the lowest per capita GDP in Europe. They’ve sent observers to all of Ukraine’s elections and in 2004 500 UCC (as well as 500 other official Canadian) observers played an important role in the pro-Western ‘Orange Revolution’.
Immediately after Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in 2010 the UCC began demonizing him and pushing Yanukovych, who wanted neutrality, to join NATO. UCC head Paul Grod and other representatives of the ultranationalist organization accompanied prime minister Stephen Harper during his October 2010 visit to Ukraine. In announcing their participation, the UCC release claimed, “recent steps taken by Ukraine’s political leadership have seriously undermined the country’s constitution, its democratic institutions, the protection of its historical memory and national identity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Early in the protests that ultimately toppled Yanukovych Grod visited Maidan square with foreign affairs minister John Baird. From the stage Grod announced Baird’s presence and support for the protesters, which led many to chant “Thank you Canada”.
After Yanukovych was ousted war broke out in the east of the country. The UCC pushed for sending arms and other assistance to forces in Kyiv. A year later France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine negotiated the Minsk II peace agreement to end the violence and division by granting greater autonomy to the Donbas region. Echoing the far-right Ukrainian position, Grod told Canada’s Standing Committee on National Defence in 2017 that Minsk II was “stale-dated” and would never be implemented.
In recent months the UCC’s fascistic tendencies have repeatedly been on display. At the start of this year, they launched a concerted lobbying campaign to shut down those criticizing NATO policy. The head of the organization openly demanded the Toronto Public Library cancel a room booking for a June 4 event on “The war in Ukraine and how to stop it”.
As a result of NaziGate the Ukrainian Canadian Congress should receive greater scrutiny. Honouring Waffen SS members is an insult to the millions of Canadian who fought Hitler and the tens of millions who were killed by Nazi violence in eastern Europe. Why does the Canadian government have ongoing close relations with such an organization?
The sickening stench from Members of Parliament cheering a Nazi is not confined to the House of Commons.