Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau Chief.
Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin brought a sombre note to the festive tributes that dominated the speeches at the banquet celebrating the opening of Ukraine’s Consulate in Edmonton, September 7.
“I would love to tell you something reassuring here. But we are in the middle of a real fight. We need you in this fight,” he said speaking in English without a prepared text.
“I’m not going to give up under any circumstances. None of us is going to give up. Because it is about us. But it’s also about every one of you. It’s not only about Ukrainians. It involves all of you. Because our success is also your success. And any kind of defeat, would be a real defeat for everyone. For everybody who shares our values,” he added at the event, which was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council.
However, Ukraine ultimately expects to win in its struggle with Russia, he noted.
“At the end of the day many around the world will learn from us, Ukrainians. About our resiliency, about real partnership, about real bravery, about commitment. Commitment to Ukraine. Commitment to God.”
The war with Russia is about “breaking up an empire that existed for centuries… It’s about a free, democratic and European Ukraine”.
Klimkin touched on many subjects during his address, including the appointment by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Edmonton’s Bishop Ilarion as a special Exarch to oversee preparation of the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
“At the end of the day there should be only one Orthodox Church in Ukraine… because without that there is no sense of being a real country and a real nation,” he stated
Klimkin also stressed the need for every one in the country to learn Ukrainian, noting this does not infringe upon the rights of ethnic minorities,
“It’s about everybody. Every Ukrainian should… speak Ukrainian, because it’s about us and understanding what kind of country, he or she lives in,” he said.
Klimkin emphasized how important Canadian aid to Ukraine was, in particular Operation Unifier, under which Canadian Armed Forces personnel train Ukrainian soldiers.
He said a real emotional moment for him was the visit to the Holodomor monument at Edmonton’s City Hall – the first such monument erected anywhere in the world.
“Without Holodomor, our history would have been different, very different” he said.
Klimkin, for whom this was the first visit to Edmonton, concluded by saying the whole day had been a very special one for him “Very moving. With many friendships. With many real people… God bless you all, God bless your families. Slava Ukrayini!” as the crowd rose up in a standing ovation, with a resounding “Heroyam slava!”, response.
He was introduced by Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko who described him as the architect of the Ukraine-EU partnership agreement adding:
“This man day by day has been fighting an extraordinary diplomatic battle against Russia. We had a lot of wonderful, witty meetings through the day. Most of the time he has to talk about the war, about life and death, about existensial threats. He builds international coalition in support of Ukraine (and Canada has a unique role to play in it) and sometimes he has to face the evil – the Kremlin leadership, obsessed with was and interference. When this man walks to the podium, please, greet him as someone who has been passionally fighting this battle on behalf of Ukraine, Canada, Europe, on behalf of the free world.”
Alberta’s Lieutenant-Governor Lois Mitchel spoke about the important role Consular Corps do and the value of the new Consulate.
“This new professional Consulate for Edmonton will certainly help to open doors and foster new developments for Albertans and Ukrainians alike, and I’m looking forward to seeing that work take place in the months and years ahead,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the federal government, Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault, said the opening of the Ukrainian Consulate in Edmonton will greatly improve access to services for Ukrainian citizens residing in western Canada.
“The new Consulate will also facilitate and enhance the development of cultural, social, economic and trade linkages between Canada and Ukraine. I am thrilled that Ukraine’s new Consulate has also opened in the province where Ukrainians first settled in Canada over 125 years ago!
“This consulate is a very important and welcome step as we continue to strengthen the ties of Canada and Ukraine.
“Canada is among the strongest international supporters of Ukraine and its democratic and economic reform processes. To support Ukraine’s reforms and its development needs in order to reduce poverty in the country, Canada is promoting sustainable economic growth and supporting the rule of law and democratic governance,” he said.
Boissonnault also read a letter from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland who deeply regretted not being able to attend as she was locked into the NAFTA negotiations.
“As a proud Ukrainian Canadian myself I am pleased to see the continued development of a dynamic and multifaceted relationship between Canada and Ukraine. Canada holds it relations with Ukraine in great esteem, while we remain unwavering in our support for Ukraine and Ukrainian people. The entry into force of the Canada Ukraine Free trade agreement on August 1 remains a notable milestone in our bilateral relationship that will further foster our close relationship and friendship,” she stated.
Representing the provincial government, Economic Development and International Trade Minister Deron Bilous stated: “We very excited when we first heard that Ukraine was planning to open a consulate in Alberta.
“As Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, I have a strong focus on international relations and trade – and that includes relations with Ukraine.
“That’s why I was so proud to lead a trade delegation there last year, and help strengthen partnerships and opportunities for businesses in both our countries.
And as someone of Ukrainian heritage, I’m proud to have a platform to showcase the impact Albertans of Ukrainian descent have had on our province’s culture and economy.”
Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney thanked Ambassador Shevchenko for bringing Ukraine officially to Alberta, reflected upon Operation Unified which he initiated as defence minister in 2015, commended Ukrainians Canadians for their determination to maintain language and culture and underscored the role Ukrainian pioneers played in developing Alberta.
“Alberta would not be what it is were it not for the hundreds of thousands of big dreamers and hard workers who made Alberta their home over the past 130 years. Who (1896 Minister of the Interior) Clifford Sifton went out and sought at the turn of the last century. He said that Canada and the Canadian Prairies need hard working people and big families and endless work ethic to settle the Canadian Prairies. He called them the men in sheepskin coats and they came by the tens of thousand overcoming tremendous adversity to create communities in Alberta and especially in this part of the Canadian Prairies,” he said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson noted that the opening of the consulate was not only a very important point in the relationship between Ukraine and Canada by a Very important point in the story of Edmonton.
“It would not be possible without the vision and the foresight and the hard work of the folks who have made today possible and this is of course Minister Klimkin and Ambassador Shevchenko, but it’s also the work of every one in this room. This would not happen were it not for the strength of the Ukrainian community here in this city and in this province and in this country,” he said.
“The opening of this Consulate is an important event not only for Western Canada, but for our whole country. The ties between the Ukrainian and Canadian people grow stronger every day, as this new Consulate exemplifies. My family arrived in Canada in 1949 — my Dido, Baba, and my Tato came to Canada to build a new life — and thanks to this country’s multicultural tolerance [and openness to diversity], they were able to join and foster a strong Ukrainian community.,” said Ukrainian Canadian Congress National Vice President Andrea Kopylech.
“As Ukraine continues to stand strong against Russia’s aggression, all of us here are united with you, and our families, our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, especially the men and women bravely serving in the armed forces on the front lines. We ask God to protect Ukraine and her people and we pray for a decisive victory in this war and reassertion of Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” she added.
“We are here to celebrate the opening of a Ukrainian Consulate – which will serve Western Canada, and the growing Ukrainian community here. It is often said that Canada is the most Ukrainian country outside Ukraine, which is no doubt true. I would add also that Alberta is the most Ukrainian province in Canada – and so it is a great honour for our city and province to host a Ukrainian consulate,” said UCC Alberta President Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz, in closing off the evening.
“In addition to providing much-needed permanent services to Ukrainian citizens living in Western Canada, the new Consulate will strengthen economic ties between our two countries.
“Earlier this year, we honoured the Canadian soldiers who deployed from Alberta to Ukraine on Operation Unifier to help train Ukrainian forces who are defending Ukraine from Russia’s aggression. As the Canadian military has played an important role in strengthening Ukraine’s security, so too will Canadian investment play an important role in strengthening Ukraine’s economy.
“With the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Ukrainian business and investors have an enormous opportunity to ensure growing prosperity for both our peoples. And we know that the opening of the Consulate will do much to encourage these growing linkages between Canada and Ukraine,” she added.
Later she told NP-UN that there was a terrific committee behind the organization of that plus the flag-raising and ribbon cutting that took place the same day.
“UCC-APC was the lead on all. The majority of committee members were very active for the last 3 months in pulling this together. I am grateful for everyone who worked with us in pulling this together. The embassy cleared all to ensure we followed protocol. UCC APC funded all of the events and hoping we at least break even. We are also hosting the Consulate until they are up and running. We also took lead in helping them find a home for the future,” she said.
Entertainment at the banquet was provided by the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, the Ruta vocal ensemble, the Spivohrai children’s choir from Saskatoon, Solomyia Myc, Natalia Kostiuk and animated artist Dariya Tym.
Masters of Ceremony for the occasion were Danylo Moussienko and Ivanka Soletsky.