Paul Grod: Community Should Stay United

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) was established 75 years ago and, being an umbrella organization, unities all Ukrainian Canadian organizations, including the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, Canada-Ukraine Foundation, PLAST, and others. The Congress itself has a well-developed structure with six provincial councils and eighteen local branches throughout Canada.

Paul Grod became President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress seven years ago. Over these years, the Congress stives to raise the Ukrainian community’s profile in the country. These efforts seem to be bearing fruit and Paul Grod is winning recognition from the wider public, and has built strong relationships with the Government of Canada. As the Power and Influence magazine put it in its Spring 2014 issue, “While the engaged Ukrainian-Canadian community of more than 1.2 million has always had some clout with the federal government, Mr. Grod has energized and organized it to a level not seen before…” Paul Grod was ranked #21 in the magazine’s spring 2014 rating of the top 100 people influencing Canada’s global future, while the Congress ranked first in the category of Diaspora & Civil Society organizations.

In this difficult time for Ukraine and for Ukrainian Canadians, there are a number of issues arising in the community which the New Pathway recently discussed with Paul Grod. Mr. Grod started with the emphasis of the need to preserve and strengthen the community’s unity. He believes that the strong, coordinated and unified message from the Ukrainian Canadian community is the reason why Canada has been the most outspoken and active friend of Ukraine globally for many years, and, particularly, during the Maidan and war in Donbas.

During the interview, Paul Grod specifically emphasized positive experiences in strengthening and widening the organized Ukrainian Canadian community. For example, the National Arts Council was recently created within the UCC to connect the Ukrainian Canadian artistic community to the political scene. The UCC has recently established new branches, in particular, in Durham Region, Ontario, and in Brandon and Dauphin & Parklands, Manitoba.

The UCC is making efforts to engage the wider community of recent Ukrainian immigrants. What would have only recently been quite hard to imagine, the UCC is now reaching out to the Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrants.

Paul Grod has had a number of meetings with community organizations in North Toronto. He recently gave a keynote address at a 500-people banquet of the Canadian Russian Speaking Alliance where he stressed that the two Ukrainian communities, Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking ones, should work together. According to Grod, many Russian-speaking Ukrainians at the banquet expressed to him their will to help Ukraine and get involved in the Ukrainian community.

Paul Grod believes that there are similarities between the older and the newest waves of Ukrainian immigrants – both of them may not be very fluent in the Ukrainian language but both of them feel passionate about Ukraine, especially in the times of war. He believes that the Ukrainian language issue, which has been dividing Ukrainians in Canada for a long time, should not serve as a barrier for Russian speakers to enter the community anymore. Grod stated that “We have to foster the Ukrainian language, we can’t allow it to isolate others.” This should help pull Russian- and English-speaking Ukrainians alike into the Ukrainian Canadian community…a message for Russian-speaking Ukrainian Canadians: “We welcome you with open arms.”

The same can be said about cultural and religious differences. Paul Grod provided an example of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who probably go to Russian Orthodox churches in Canada because they feel more at home there. While secular organizations, and the UCC in particular, are not the ones to tell the Ukrainian churches how to organize their service, he believes that taking into account those differences may be the way which could attract more Ukrainians. Grod had a message for Russian-speaking Ukrainian Canadians: “We welcome you with open arms.”

Sanctions against Russia

The UCC is in constant communication with the Ukrainian government. This week, Paul Grod travels to Ukraine and meets with the President, the Prime Minister, the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, other key government and non-government officials. The Congress is thus well-positioned to provide information about Ukraine’s needs. Based on this information, the UCC has recently issued several calls to action where it called for deeper sectoral sanctions against Russia, military aid and economic support for Ukraine.

UCC calls for deeper sectoral sanctions against Russia, military aid and economic support for Ukraine.

Grod said that he believes that Canada’s sanctions against Russia should be of a deep sectoral nature, they need to handicap Russia’s whole energy and financial sectors, not just some banks or energy companies. According to Grod, it has to be ensured that Canadian investment funds do not have investments in Russian companies, for instance, in the natural gas monopolist Gazprom, that key Rusian officials cannot enter Canada. This would provide the example for the whole world to follow while Ukraine is under a direct military attack by Russia.

Assistance to Ukraine
Grod believes that the government has to calibrate its efforts with the UCC as the body which has the most current information about Ukraine’s needs. According to Grod, Ukraine needs more bullet-proof vests and advanced communication equipment.

And, even more importantly, Ukraine needs lethal weapons. Grod believes that Canada should lead NATO, which has been very reluctant in this respect, in providing weapons to Ukraine. The UCC has called on the Government of Canada to push NATO during its summit in Wales in September to provide “force equalization” in defensive weapons in the Donbas.

In terms of economic aid to Ukraine, Paul Grod, in particular, called out to Canadian companies, which have strong expertise in energy technologies, to help Ukraine achieve energy independence. He believes that this expertise has not yet been tapped into and that moving forward in this area would be a win-win situation for Canadian companies.

Ukraine has a wealth of energy resources, as well as numerous potential projects in energy conservation, which Canadian companies need an access to. To achieve that, Canada can do a lot more in terms of trade and investment promotion in Ukraine. Paul Grod praised the head of the latest Canadian trade mission to Ukraine, Minister Ed Fast, for his recent statement calling Canadian companies to abstain from doing business in Russia.

When talking about whether the Ukrainian side is delivering on its part in economic relationships with Canada, and in particular, in the negotiations on the free trade agreement, Paul Grod said that one needs to take into account the country’s current situation. Although the UCC is impartial and non-partisan in its opinion about the current Ukrainian government, Grod believes that Petro Poroshenko and the ministers should be given time to manage the huge tasks facing the country.