Dr. Natalia Lishchyna of Oakville, ON is well known in the Ukrainian Canadian community. On top of being a successful chiropractor, Natalia has recently entered the political arena at the municipal level when she was elected Councillor for the Town of Oakville in a July 2015 by-election. In this article, we would like to uncover the person behind Natalia’s successful career, what motivates her, how she balances family life and busy career and what she is doing and planning to do at Town Council.
Natalia was born in Western Ukraine and immigrated to Canada in 1980 with her parents and brother. The family was reunited with her paternal grandparents who came to Canada after the war and were living in Hamilton at the time. In that city with a large Ukrainian community she was brought up in the spirit of her homeland – she went to a Ukrainian immersion school and danced with Chaika Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. Natalia met her husband Taras at a Ukrainian zabava and they have been married for over 19 years. Taras Lishchyna’s father is the late Leonid Lishchyna, a well-known leader in the Ukrainian community who has been among the principals at the youth organization ODUM and an editor with the Moloda Ukraina magazine. Natalia, who was very fond of her father-in-law, says that he often encouraged her to “step out of her comfort zone and go for it”. Natalia and Taras have two children who are also involved in the Ukrainian community through Saturday school, dancing and ODUM camps.
Dr. Natalia Lishchyna’s professional track record is impressive. In Canada, she completed a university degree (Hon. Bachelor of Science) at McMaster as well as a professional degree (Doctor of Chiropractic) from CMCC, and she also holds a Masters of Science from Bournemouth University. She is an Assistant Professor at a chiropractic school in Toronto and supervises interns in a teaching clinic in Oakville. As a faculty member, she has presented her research across the globe including Australia, Brazil, Portugal and South Africa. In 2011, Dr. Lishchyna became the second woman to hold the position of President in 82 years of the Ontario Chiropractic Association’s existence. She says that this opportunity allowed her to interact with the Provincial government on a number of primary care initiatives within the Ministry of Health. As a leader in her profession, she felt it was important to be a good role model and encouraged other women to stand for board positions.
Taras and Natalia moved to Oakville in 2003. Being a community oriented person, she got involved in many different volunteer opportunities where she met many people including those interested in politics. She joined a number of boards, both charity-related and political. This is when Natalia’s political aspirations started to realize. She has had a long interest in politics probably because of growing up in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union and then immigrating to Canada. “Even at an early age (8 or 9) I could tell the difference that freedom and democracy made in people’s lives. I grew up knowing the importance of voting in elections – it’s a privilege that so many young people take for granted”, says Natalia.
This past March, Natalia’s local Councillor in Ward 6 (this is the ward she lives in in Oakville) passed away suddenly and Council decided to have a by-election. Natalia says that many of her political friends encouraged her to run for the position. Taras and her kids were supportive so she decided to do it. The campaign lasted for two months: “I knocked on thousands of doors introducing myself to Ward 6 residents. I had a great campaign team that was incredibly supportive. Having a well-organized campaign is very important and this made all the difference.” In the end, Dr. Natalia Lishchyna achieved a landslide victory – she received almost 52% of the votes amongst a group of ten candidates. On Monday July 20th, 2015, she was sworn in as Ward 6 Oakville Town Councillor and attended her first official Council meeting. Natalia credits her husband Taras for much of her professional and political success. She often gives young professional women advice that choosing a supportive life partner is one of most important decisions they will make in their journey to achieve success personally and professionally.
Natalia singles out the following priorities for her work as a Town Councillor. First and foremost, she is advocating for economic development and work/live initiatives to create local jobs and expand the tax base by encouraging businesses to establish and expand in Oakville. She emphasizes the need to maintain fiscal responsibility by controlling debt and keeping tax increases to parity with cost of living. She supports investment in infrastructure renewal, a Town wide traffic plan to reduce speeding and grid-lock, and improvements in public transit. She also champions sports partnerships, to foster stronger free-play and organized recreation for the Town’s youth. As a soccer mom and health care practitioner, she understands the benefits of physical activity that sports provide.
Noise pollution coming from Pearson Airport air traffic has recently become a pressing issue in the north end of Natalia’s ward. Natalia with her Council colleagues along with residents are working together to encourage NavCan to implement air noise mitigation solutions. She is grateful that so many residents are engaged to make their community better.
Natalia says there is a vibrant Ukrainian community in Oakville with two churches and a Ukrainian Saturday school. The Oakville Ukrainian Festival held in the fall under the auspices of St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church has a wonderful reputation in Oakville where people can enjoy traditional Ukrainian food, explore local Ukrainian arts and crafts, and be entertained by various Ukrainian dance ensembles. St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre is a local hub for events and is well known for its beautiful location and amenities. Natalia says that Ukrainian Canadians are people who work hard, contribute to community and are patriotic in standing in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Natalia, like many Ukrainian Canadians, is worried about the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. She has high hopes that the Poroshenko government will tackle corruption, turn the country’s economy around, win the war and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Spoken like a true patriot!
You can follow Natalia on Twitter @DrNataliaL and CouncillorNatalia on Facebook.