NP-UN Western Bureau.
Retiring Edmonton Strathcona MP Linda Duncan was presented with the Executive Hetman Award at the banquet, held at St. John’s Cultural Centre, October 6.
The award was presented by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council for her support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Canadian Community.
“It’s been my honour and privilege during my eleven years in parliament to advocate on behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian community and Ukraine towards strengthened democracy, human rights, peace and security. This included monitoring elections, participating in a parliamentary delegation examining rule of law and democracy, serving on the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, and hosting Ukrainian interns in my parliamentary office,” she stated on her Facebook page.
First elected in 2008, Duncan has been an active member of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG) since then. She has participated in a number of emergency and other debates on Ukraine during the course of her tenure, participated in two election monitoring missions in Ukraine, met numerous times in Ottawa with government delegations from Ukraine, met several times with Mustafa Dzhemilev (Chairman of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatars and Commissioner to the President of Ukraine for the Affairs of Crimean Tatars), and participated in events expressing support for their rights.
Her first visit to Ukraine was as a member of a study mission of the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs examining the erosion of democracy and rule of law under the government of then President Viktor Yanukovych. The committee met with representatives of the national, regional and local governments, human rights organizations, media, and family and legal counsel for arrested or expelled elected officials. It tabled a report in Parliament calling for reforms including a supplementary report by the NDP calling for additional action by Canada.
Another major cause she championed was that of film director Oleh Sentsov who was arrested by the Russians for opposing their illegal annexation of Crimea. Numerous Western governments and human rights agencies demanded his release. In May, 2018, Sentsov started a hunger strike in demanding the release of 64 Ukrainian political prisoners being held by Russia. When a group of concerned citizens in Edmonton started an online parliamentary petition urging the Canadian government to take more forceful action for his and other prisoners’ release, Duncan was more than happy to sponsor it in the House of Commons.
But the one Ukraine program Duncan really took to heart is the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program. Started in 1991, this program provides an opportunity for Ukrainian students to learn about the principles of democratic government and parliamentary procedures in Canada. During the Program, Ukrainian students work and study in the Parliament of Canada, as well as gain experience from which generations of Canadian, American and West European students have benefited. “I cannot understate the value of that exercise. I had up to six interns that came to work with me in my office,” said Duncan.
Executive Awards, which have only been presented only four times earlier, are special recognitions of outstanding service to the community. Last year one was presented to long-time Ukrainian community activist Bohdan Romaniuk from Calgary.
Romaniuk has served on the Executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association (UCPBA) of Calgary for 11 years, six of them as President. He was also a member of the Advisory Council on Alberta Ukraine Relations (ACAUR) helping to advise on issues influencing Ukrainians in the Alberta Diaspora and in Ukraine and is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
The previous year, the awards were focussed on actions which gave exemplary support to Ukraine in its current crisis.
The recipients were:
Commander of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Lieutenant General Paul Wynnyk, for the support the Canadian Army has given Ukraine in providing training, under Operation Unifier, to Ukrainian troops fighting pro-Russian terrorists in the Donbas;
Edmonton firefighter Kevin Royle for organizing the provision of retired fire-fighting equipment and gear to Ukrainian firefighters.
Iryna and Oleksiy Karpenko, prominent artists from the Edmonton community, who organized the ”Art for Aid” Project, in which over 23 artists participated, donating their works to be sold at special events to purchase much needed humanitarian aid and supplies to volunteer Ukrainian soldiers.
In 2011 these awards were presented to just-retired Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie, “to honour contributions to the sphere of politics by the former Premier, Ed Stelmach, as well as the dedicated volunteer activities of Marie Stelmach.”
In 2007, they were presented to the late Roman Brytan and Marco Levytsky in honour of their then-25 years of service to the Ukrainian media in Edmonton – Brytan as producer of the Ukrainian Program on World FM Radio, and Levytsky as editor of Ukrainian News.