B.C. finally passes Holodomor Bill

Andriy Shevchenko, Alexandr Danyleiko at the signing of the Holodomor Bill. Photo: Myroslav Petriv.

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

Ten years after such legislation was initially introduced, and 12 years after the Ukrainian community in that province first started advocating for it, British Columbia finally passed a Holodomor Act recognizing the man-made famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide against the people of Ukraine and setting aside the fourth Saturday of each November as a day to commemorate this tragedy.

B.C. now joins the federal government as well as the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in doing so.

Why it took so long was due to the intransigence of previous Liberal administrations. It should be noted that the B.C. Liberal Party is not affiliated with the federal Liberal Party, but serves instead as an anti-NDP coalition of both Liberals and Conservatives. After being approached by B.C. Ukrainian community activists Myroslav Petriw and Jarema Kowalchuk, Bruce Ralston, New Democratic MLA for Surrey-Whalley first presented a Private Member’s Bill recognizing the Holodomor as genocide in 2009. This was allowed to die on the Order Paper by then-Premier Gordon Campbell.

On November 17, 2014, Ralston tried again. Two weeks prior to introducing this bill, he had written to then-Premier Christy Clark informing her of his intention and asking her to encourage her colleagues to give the unanimous consent required to pass it.

But in a letter dated the same day Ralston introduced the bill, Clark wrote back stating: “Although we fully support the intent of the proposed Act, as a government we do not believe it is necessary (to) duplicate the work of the federal government in this regard.”

That argument was really far fetched since not only had five other provincial governments passed similar legislation without concern about any supposed duplication, but B.C. itself had passed a Holocaust bill, despite the fact the federal government also had similar legislation in place. An attempt by Ukrainian News to get the Premier’s office to explain this apparent contradiction proved to no avail.

This time, Ralston, who is now minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, teamed up with Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who introduced the bill.

Weaver, who is not only of Ukrainian origin, but also the grandson of Holodomor survivor Alexander Krawchenko and nephew of Holodomor academic expert Dr. Bohdan Krawchenko, former Director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, introduced the bill in the legislature.

Speaking to it on Second Reading on October 28, he described how his grandfather was exiled to Vologda in northern Russia in 1930 for resisting collectivization. Ironically, that’s what saved him.

“It’s a cruel twist of fate that those, such as my grandfather’s family, who were exiled to northern Russia or Siberia for their resistance to collectivization and not allowed to return to their village, survived the 1930s because of this. For what unfolded in the Ukrainian villages was horrific. Collectivization was accelerated in the winter of 1930 to ‘31, and there was large-scale resistance. Revolts and uprisings broke out in many villages. …Draconian grain requisition quotas were set that included the confiscation of seed grain.”

The bill received Third and Final Reading on October 29.

The fact that B.C. finally passed a Holodomor Bill is due to the tenacity of the Ukrainian community there. For this we have to thank Petriw and Kowalchuk as well as Ukrainian Canadian Congress Vancouver Branch President Nataliya Jatskevich, Honorary Consul Mir Huculak, and Lida Huzyk, just to mention a few. And it comes just in time for this year’s Holodomor commemoration, which will take place on November 23.

Remembrance of this horrific event is critical – not only because we must ensure that such actions are never again repeated, but also because the ramifications of the Holodomor reverberate today.

Going through the history and facts of Holodomor, it is clear that the Ukrainian population was targeted. Although other ethnic groups were also victims of the famine, the majority of the population that was killed off was Ukrainian.

The millions of Ukrainians that were wiped out as a result of the Holodomor, were then replaced with ethnic Russians. Those Ukrainians that managed to survive were prohibited to speak about the famine. Traumatized by the events of Holodomor, the remaining Ukrainians buried their culture along with their relatives lost during Holodomor, and assimilated more into the Russian culture, becoming “Russian speakers.”

It is the alleged defence of these “Russian speakers” that Russian President Vladimir Putin used as a pretext to launch his war against Ukraine. Therefore, there is a direct link between Joseph Stalin’s genocide of 1932-33 and Putin’s war of aggression today.

Thus, we not only need to commemorate the Holodomor, but we need to make the world aware of this act of genocide.

Because famine continues to be used as a weapon of mass murder in conflict situations around the world, and the successors to those who perpetrated the Holodomor continue in their efforts to destroy the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian national consciousness.