Opinion by Marijka Stadnyk, Toronto.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s commitment to the people of Etobicoke Centre and the Ukrainian Canadian community is deeply rooted in his background, upbringing and work ethic. Borys is principled and humble, often shying away from self-promotion. And so, I write as a long-time resident of Etobicoke Centre and member of the Ukrainian community in Toronto, where Borys has led our community and riding with integrity, vision and compassion. His commitment to our community is second to none as is his record of accomplishment.
What really makes Borys stand out as a candidate to support? Borys is the ONLY candidate to publicly call for Canada to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons, instead of waiting for allies to act, as the other political parties are doing. Second, Borys has called, with the support of his Party, for Russia to be removed from the SWIFT banking system, an important tool in financially crippling Russia and isolating it from the global economy. Finally, Borys challenged the Conservative government’s selective sanctions by calling for immediate sanctions against individuals who are close Putin cronies with extensive “business interests” in Canada – Vladimir Yakunin, Igor Sechin (Rosneft) and Sergey Chemezov (Rostec). These individuals are on our allies’ sanction lists, but were selectively left out of the sanctions list of the Conservative government.
Borys’ record shows that he has actively supported the Ukrainian Canadian community and Ukraine, not for years, but for decades, both as a Parliamentarian (2004-2011) and as activist member of the community. Borys’ deep passion for Ukraine began in the early stages of Ukraine’s struggle for independence when he helped organize and finance the Rukh Movement (People’s Movement of Ukraine), a fledgling pro-independence political party. Borys was actively engaged in helping the people of Ukraine fight for democracy, independence and freedom at that time. He continued by strategically working to counter negative communist propaganda during the independence movement, and traveled to eastern Ukraine to produce and distribute printed material in support of the “yes” side during the referendum that resulted in a majority of Ukrainians voting for independence, including those living in Crimea.
During the 2004 Presidential Elections (Orange Revolution), Borys was instrumental in persuading the Canadian government to send Canada’s first large observer mission to Ukraine, numbering 500 Election Observers. With Borys’ guidance, Prime Minister Paul Martin, became the first International Leader to tell Putin to stay out of Ukrainian affairs.
I remember how hard Borys worked on that file, over the objections of his own party members. Through his family foundation, $250,000 was directed to finance the training of Ukraine’s domestic election monitors prior to the Presidential election. One of many motions introduced by Borys in the House of Commons was to target sanctions against Leonid Kuchma and the government of Ukraine at the time.
In 2007, Borys became the first Member of Parliament to introduce legislation to commemorate the Holodomor (Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Remembrance Day Act). He was later instrumental in fast-tracking the passage of a similar Bill (Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor Memorial Day Act) and negotiated all-party support for its passage. At a joint session of Canada’s House of Commons and Senate he was recognized for his service to Ukraine when the “Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise” was presented to him by the President of Ukraine.
Borys continued his activism and philanthropy by initiating the Sambir Project, a memorial to the Jews of Sambir who were exterminated during the Holocaust. He also invited Mustafa Dzhemilev, Leader of the Crimean Tatars to appear in the House of Commons to publicize the plight of Crimean Tatars who were being persecuted by Russian ethnic forces in Crimea. More recently, Borys promoted and raised funding for Professor P. Robert Magosci’s book “This Blessed Land: Crimea and the Crimean Tatars” to raise awareness of their tragic history.
In 2010, Borys introduced Bill C-500 to prohibit trafficking and trade in human organs and body parts which victimized vulnerable ethnic communities. He also introduced “Boris’ Law”, in memory of slain Etobicoke Centre teen Boris Cikovic, which would have made bail conditions tougher for crimes committed while in the possession of a firearm. In 2011, Borys raised international awareness of the politically-motivated arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko by securing an invitation for her to address the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Numerous philanthropic initiatives have been supported through the “Dopomoha Ukraini” fund under Borys’ leadership. This family foundation has been instrumental in directing funding for many important projects, including: research into Ukrainian national movements, republication of books about Ukrainians who perished in the Holocaust, establishing Ukrainian language libraries in eastern Ukraine, a donation of $100,000 to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, the delivery of “Ukrainian News” to every sitting M.P. and Senator and a donation of $500,000 to the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre. Many more humanitarian and education projects were also launched over the years.
Borys has continued to demonstrate his strong commitment to Ukraine through his Anti-Terrorist Operations (ATO) work. To date, he produced, printed and distributed 24,000 copies of a civil defense manual called “Total Resistance”, also funded by “Dopomoha Ukraini”.
Borys is bold and passionate. His tenacity and integrity as a Member of Parliament put Ukraine on the map. Borys’ record in the House of Commons and in our community speaks volumes. For Borys, Ukraine has been more than just a passing interest; he has always been, and will continue to be there for Ukraine, and for our community!
Regardless of which party is elected on October 19th, we need Borys in Ottawa to continue to advocate for what is right for Ukraine and Canada. Borys is not afraid to stand up in the House of Commons for what is right for his constituents, especially when it comes to Ukraine. Borys has earned our support. For residents of Etobicoke Centre, the choice is easy. Vote for Borys, the candidate who has a proven and long-standing record in our community, the candidate who has always been there for Ukraine, and our community!