New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj is among Canada’s most seasoned politicians: he has been elected MP for Etobicoke Centre four times. His 11 years of service at the House of Commons and his long years of service for the Canadian and global communities were celebrated at the Trident Banquet Hall in Etobicoke on October 3.
The celebration had one more theme: to promote candidacy of Yvan Baker who took the torch as the Liberal candidate for Etobicoke Centre from Wrzesnewskyj when the latter announced last year that he would not be running in the next federal election.
The event was MCed by former Liberal MPP and MP from Parkdale – High Park Gerard Kennedy and was attended by numerous dignitaries including former Prime Minister Paul Martin, Minister of Immigration and Wrzesnewskyj daughter’s God Father, Hon. Ahmed Hussen, MP James Maloney (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), President of Ukrainian World Congress Paul Grod, several former MPs and MPPs and others.
Baker, who has been Wrzesnewskyj’s “dedicated friend and fellow political traveller” since 2003, gave an insight in their long-term relationship. The relationship got off of a bit of a rocky start, in 1993, when Baker’s father Don Baker ran for MP in Parkdale-High Park as Progressive Conservative. The family turned to Wrzesnewskyj, who had a café at the time in the area, at Bloor and Kennedy, for support. Wrzesnewskyj declined because he supported the Liberal candidate Jessy Flis, who would win the election.
Fast forward three years, Wrzesnewskyj approached Baker with request to help him organize to select the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Coming from a PC family and having worked for several conservative candidates, Baker was surprised, at first. But Wrzesnewskyj’s choice of Paul Martin for the leader of Liberal Party changed Baker’s mind. Subsequently, Baker worked as an executive assistant to MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.
In his speech, Baker talked about cases where Wrzesnewskyj “made a difference”: his work in Ukraine during the Orange revolution; the work he did to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide in Parliament of Canada; his critical role in ensuring that Canada condemns Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, in trying to begin the conversation around mandatory minimum sentences and championing Canada’s first Ambassador for women, peace and security; his missions to Sudan and Somalia.
Baker also touched upon his thoughts of Paul Martin who converted him, “a young progressive conservative into a lifelong liberal”. Martin inspired Baker not just with words but with deeds: when Martin was running for party leadership he was Finance minister for a number of years and had put Canada’s finances in order “responsibly and compassionately”. As prime minister, Martin championed what we now know as G20, an important global forum on economy, security, human rights and climate change, said Baker. He also called Martin the first prime minister that started to act and speak in a meaningful way about the need to act to help the First Nations.
Baker’s favourite memory of Paul Martin is from 2004, when Russia interfered in Ukraine’s presidential election. During the press conference with the U.S. President George W. Bush, Martin said that there is no place for any interference in the democratic process, in any election and it includes from Russia. “This was the moment when millions of people in Ukraine were feeling very alone and eventually other Western leaders followed your lead and it made a difference,” said Baker. Martin responded to that “I remember Borys calling to me from Kyiv to warn Russia to stay out of the Ukrainian election. I took credit for it, but it was you, Borys.”
Paul Martin gave a passionate speech about Wrzesnewsky’s career and causes that mattered to both politicians through the years. Among other things, Martin credited Wrzesnewskyj for securing 500 Canadian observers for the re-run of the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine and seeking assurances that Canada would grant a refugee status to the then-Deputy Head of Ukraine’s Electoral Commission Yaroslav Davydovych, in case he gets oppressed for his principled position during the election. Martin also remembered Wrzesnewskyj’s role in establishing Parliamentary committees (“He was our best debator”) and in launching of the RCMP pension fund enquiry (“Borys went against all of the advice and called for a full judicial enquiry, it took enormous amount of courage and guts, and the fact is that he was right”). Referring to Wrzesnewskyj’s decision not to run in the election, Martin said, “Our hope is that you will continue to speak for Ukraine, for Europe, for women’s education in Africa.” He called Wrzesnewskyj a “world leader that he has been since he was elected,” and called for him “to continue to speak out and install this nation with the sense of responsibility and love that we must have for our fellow humans.”
In his speech, Wrzesnewskyj touched upon key events and memories of his long political career. He thanked his friends and colleagues for their help and contributions to the causes he pursued throughout his career. He called on everyone to get engaged and make sure that Yvan Baker in a few weeks “will take his rightful place in the House of Commons.” He said that being an elected representative is “an honourable profession” despite a lot of scepticism nowadays when it comes to politics and politicians.
Trident Banquet Hall’s main hall was packed with Wrzesnewskyj’s supporters and members of the Ukrainian Canadian and wider communities. Proceeds from the event went towards the Yvan Baker Campaign.