Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology
Chair: The Honourable Lorna Marsden
Issue No. 31
Third and last Proceedings on: Bill C-63, An Act to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Ottawa, Tuesday, January 22, 1991
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-63, to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; Bill C-37, to establish the Canadian Heritage Languages Foundation; and Bill C-260, to amend the Canada Pension Plan (spousal agreement), met this day at 10 a.m. to give consideration to the bills.
Hon. Lorna Marsden (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, we will deal first with Bill C-62, to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. With us are representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Dr. Rudzik, I understand you have a statement to make on the bill, and then we will have questions.
Dr. Orest H.T. Rudzik, Vice-President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress Commission on Civil Liberties: Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. We come before you this morning on behalf of the Ukrainian community in Canada. The organization that we come from is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress with its headquarters in Winnipeg and with representation throughout Canada.
Since the first organized arrival of Ukrainians began into Canada, particularly into western Canada back in 1891, the community has grown to its present size of approximately one million members, one million Canadians of whom, it is interesting to note, approximately 95 per cent are Canadian-born. It is not in any real sense any longer an immigrant community. In a sense, we pride ourselves on being a settler nation, certainly as far as the Prairies are concerned.
The particular organization from which we come is an umbrella organization. It pulls together a variety of social, ecclesiastical, political and cultural groups and tries to act as a spokesman for their interests. It is in that capacity that we come before you today. I am the Vice-President of the National Executive. I come from Toronto. To my immediate right is Professor Luciuk, a professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and our research director for one of our task force committees known as the Civil Liberties Commission.
As most organizations function these days, so do we. We have a number of task force committees which are delegated to perform specific mandates and we come before you under the aegis of the Civil Liberties Commission. To my immediate left is Mr. Andrew Hluchowecky, Director of our Information Bureau, which is just down the street from you at 180 Elgin Street. It is normally a short walk, but this morning it is a bit of a gauntlet. I am a native Torontonian and keep forgetting that Ottawa can really do it to you, when winter comes, much more than Toronto.
Some of us were involved at the initiatory and exploratory stages of what later became Bill C-63. At that time I had the privilege of being deputy chair of an advisory body to the government, known as the Canadian Multicultural Advisory Council. At that time we were very involved, and very happy to see a successful eventuality to the Canadian Multicultural Act. We were also very much involved with what was a pressing social historical issue, that of the Japanese internment in Canada during World War II. Towards the end of our tenure on the committee we were most pleased to see that the government had responded to that long-standing problem in a highly equitable fashion. One of the results of that settlement, if I may call it that, was the discussion that eventually led to the proposals contained in the bill that is before you, and that was to direct some of the funds that would be provided to settle the question of redress for the Japanese-Canadian community into a foundation that would stand as a kind of resource from that point on, not just to commemorate the Japanese incident but indeed to draw attention to the difficulties that any society experiences in terms of racism, including ours.
It is highly appropriate, then, that we come before you today with an issue that bears looking into, because it has some striking analogies to the Japanese-Canadian issue. If I can put it simply and directly, we come before you to ensure that the bill, when enacted, will have a substantiality to it in terms of what it is that we are concerned with.
The bill is what I would call an instrumental bill rather than a substantial bill. It is a bill that directs itself to set up a structure, a foundation. The mandate of that foundation is almost taken as self-evident, and it is in this regard that we come before you in order to flush in, if I can put it that way, what our concerns are with the issue of racism.
Briefly put, racism to us is something that we have experienced. It is an issue that is very much a vital contemporary problem, but it also has a necessary historical dimension. Indeed, the Japanese settlement was a reflection of that historical dimension. We, at one time, were considered to be a group that was targeted in what were inescapably racial terms.
The social and political consequences were such that, when the country went into a state of crisis during World War I, our community paid for it very dearly. We became hunted, incarcerated and deprived of our rights. This happened to us not only as immigrants but as native born in almost exactly the same way as it happened to the Japanese. In fact, ironically we were a model for the Japanese, so to speak. If the government had been looking for precedents in 1940 and 1941, it could have found them in 1914 and 1915.
It is for this reason that we come before you today, Madam Chairman, to point out the historic dimension of racism, how it has occurred, and how it is extremely important to keep in mind that race is not only a question of one's pigmentation, one's accent or one's religious beliefs. It can be an arbitrary, unilateral decision on the part of the powers that be. If I had been in Toronto in 1914, for all serious purposes I would not have been considered white because I was Ukrainian. In order to make this tellingly, I would ask my colleague, Professor Luciuk, to give you some of the documentation. We have prepared a brief for you which demonstrates how racism can apply and how it can be an instrument that is essentially a question of power; political power, religious power, or whatever kind of power. For this laudably projected foundation to have its proper scope, we would hope that this historic dimension would be a part of its thinking and awareness.
Perhaps I could direct you to Professor Luciuk and have him provide some far more erudite and learned background than I have at my fingertips. We would then happily invite questions from you as to the applicability of our position and any further issues you might see emerging from our brief.
Professor L. Luciuk, Research Director, Ukrainian Canadian Congress Commission on Civil Liberties: Thank you, Dr. Rudzik. Madam Chairman and members of the committee, I am a Professor of Geography at Queen's University and also a Professor in the Politics Department at the Royal Military College in Kingston.
The reason I am here as part of this delegation is to underscore some of the points that Dr. Rudzik has already made with respect to the nature of racism in Canadian society, both past and present. Quite commonly we associate racism with visible minorities. As my colleague has already underscored, the experience of racism has often affected what we might want to term as "non-visible minorities," groups that to all intents and purposes, in terms of skin colour or cultural habits, might be defined as "white" today, but in the past, and not the distant past, were not considered to be part of the dominant mainstream society of this country.
There have been systematic and nation-wide violations of the rights of Canada's Ukrainian community, almost from the beginning of the immigration period which began in 1891. I am sure some of you are aware that this year and into next year, Canadian Ukrainians will be celebrating the centennial of their settlement in this country. Over that period of 100 years there have been some very unfortunate dark episodes in Canadian history that have not been properly stressed in Canadian textbooks and the education system.
To perhaps suggest something of the nature of the racist attitudes that were taken toward Ukrainian Canadians and others during those early years of immigration, I would like to read a few quotations from a book published by Professor Jaroslav Petryshyn from Grande Prairie College. The book is entitled Peasants in the Promised Land, Canada and the Ukrainians, 1891-1914. It was published by James Lorimer and Company in Toronto in 1985. Professor Petryshyn cites the editor of the Ottawa Anglo-saxon, in an article published on June 9, 1889, at the very early stages of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. The editor, Clive Phillips Wolley, stated:
When he spoke of the "SCUM" he was referring to Ukrainian immigrants.
The editor of the Belleville Intelligencer on March 18,1899, wrote the following:
I think those two quotations sum up the nature of the xenophobic and racist responses to Canadian Ukrainian immigrants in the early part of this century, and perhaps even thereafter.
As my friend Dr. Rudzik has pointed out, it was somewhat later that the greatest violation of Canadian Ukrainian human rights and civil liberties took place. This was during World War I, specifically between 1914 and 1920, when the Ukrainian-Canadian community, then some 171,000 strong in terms of immigrants and larger in terms of natural increase, was subjected overnight to being categorized as enemy aliens. The reason for this was that most of those Ukrainian immigrants had migrated to Canada, being attracted here by promises of freedom and free land, and had come in one large wave beginning in 1891 stretching to 1914. They settled primarily in the western part of Canada, although by 1904 there were settlements throughout central and north-central Canada as well.
These people had come from western Ukraine territories then occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result, with the outbreak of the war when Canada found itself on the side of Great Britain, these people, without any reflection, were described as enemy aliens and subjected to a series of rather repressive measures. We estimate that some 5,000 were incarcerated in 26 concentration camps spread across Canada. Another 80,000 plus were forced to register as enemy aliens and forced to report regularly to the police authorities.
In 1917, the vast majority of Canada's Ukrainians were disenfranchised. Newspapers were censured. The fledgling left-wing organizations of the community were suppressed. After the conclusion of the war in 1918 these camps were kept open for another two years as selected community leaders and others were deported. The property and valuables of these individuals were often confiscated and never returned. All of this took place within a climate of terror. From evidence we have been able to dig up in RCMP files, we know that as late as World War II many Ukrainian-Canadian leaders were "still in fear of the barbed-wire fence". In other words, they were still in fear of being interned as they were in World War I.
All of this happened despite the fact that in January and February of 1915 the British government, through its Foreign Office, alerted the Canadian government to the fact that these Ukrainians were in no way to be considered enemy aliens, that they were in fact friendly aliens and should be given preferential treatment. Quite to the contrary, they were mistreated.
All of this was sanctioned under the terms of the War Measures Act of 1914, the very same piece of legislation that was used again in 1941 against our fellow Japanese Canadians that Dr. Rudzik referred to, and again in 1970 against some French Canadians. As late as January 10 there was an editorial in The Globe and Mail entitled, "If Canada Goes to War," which pointed out that many of our Arab and Muslim Canadians are also very concerned that similar legislation and measures may be taken against them in light of what is taking place in the Persian Gulf.
I do not want to dwell on these historical facts too long, as there is a brief explanation of the issues in the booklet you have in the information package in front of you. Perhaps I can end the historical part of the presentation on that note.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress certainly welcomes the formation of the proposed Race Relations Foundation. As we note in our covering letter, we would ask that this foundation be given a broad mandate to include incidents of racism both past and present that affect both visible and non-visible minorities. We believe that there is clear and compelling evidence of the fact that other ethnic religious and cultural groups in history, not simply those who are visible, as we sometimes call them, have been subjected to discrimination and xenophobia both from within society as a whole and from within the government, both in the past and at present. We hope that the foundation will reflect that in its mandate and be given the broadest possible mandate to ensure that all these episodes are fairly treated. We believe that by being given such a mandate the foundation will be made much more acceptable to many other Canadians who perhaps might object if the mandate is restricted. We certainly would ask for proportional representation on any board of directors of such a foundation to ensure that both non-visible and visible minorities are treated fairly.
We hope that the foundation itself will be colour-blind, so it will not only be welcomed by all Canadians but will progressively serve the interests of nation building for the many different peoples and many different races, creeds and colours who have come to make Canada their home.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. We only have ten minutes and I know there will be some questions. First, let me clarify your last statement. Are you suggesting that Bill C-63 is not colour-blind? Is there anything in this bill that you find offensive? As it now stands, it includes full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins.
Dr. Rudzik: Not at all, Madam Chairman. Perhaps we are underlining the obvious. I think the educative process that the bill contemplates has to start with the foundation itself. If one is walking along Bloor and Yonge and asks the man on the street about a race relations foundation, understandably it will be assimilated to concerns with police work, with the current situation at Jane St. and Finch in Toronto, which is unquestionably a problem. The onus is on communities such as ours that have had historical experience of some of these problems to assure that when we talk about race we are not restricting it to a mere moment in time, that it is a much more complex problem. Yes, you are perfectly right. I do not think there is anything within the bill itself in that regard. We are perfectly pleased with the bill. It is a good one. As I said, it is an instrumental bill. It sets up a foundation. What we would like to do is go on record as to our understanding of what racism has involved and what the particular complexity of problems are which face us in trying to put together a very exciting country, one which is multicultural in its temperament.
Senator Thériault: Madam Chairman, I suppose I could say that I am from a minority. I am an Acadian and French speaking. I have gone through a rough time in my life. I have been told in the capital of my own province to speak "white" more than once. I believe that minorities will always have to fight for their rights.
I agree with all the requests from all the minorities because when they speak I see some of me in what they say. On the other hand, every time we legislate it seems to me that we cause problems. My people were not interned in the war of 1914. As a whole, this country is a great one. If I am not mistaken it is one of your own who is the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mazankowski.
Dr. Rudzik: He is an honourary Ukrainian. His background happens to be Polish. But he came from a town where Ukrainian was spoken.
Senator Thériault: Still, he is from another minority. I think this country is great. The immigrants who have made this great country have found freedom and opportunities. They have done very well on the whole. I do not know what the answer to the problem is. I am not sure that more legislation will make it better. I am convinced - and this is only a personal opinion which does not involve politics at all - that paying compensation to Japanese Canadians was a mistake. If some money is given to some group, then how can we justify not giving it to every group? In my humble opinion, if any people in this country are owed money, they are our native people. We should be repaying them for the next million years for what we have done to them.
Do you believe that we help the situation when we pass more and more legislation trying to take care of all our racial and minority problems?
Dr. Rudzik: Senator, you have raised a whole range of interesting issues. I would like to focus on two of them in order to try to provide you with some response.
First, I agree with you that attitudes cannot be legislated. But you can certainly make certain attitudes, how shall I put it, unfashionable and deplorable. I think racism amongst most of our fellow Canadians is a little bit like spiritual body odour. It is something which is unacceptable in public. People take baths and they don't make racist comments. Yet, there is still a great deal of racism which lurks and which can come out. I think it is a question of education and of creating attitudes. This bill is directed to that purpose. It is not to tell people how to behave but rather to educate people.
You talked about throwing money at a problem. It depends on how it is thrown, if that is the right phrase. If it can be proved, as I hope we will be able to, and as I think the Japanese Canadians proved, that the community itself was handicapped by what happened to it, and if it can be proved that it suffered because of governmental action, then the government by creating such foundations as this, as well as by raising awareness, can help bring that community into a fuller participation in Canadian life.
I agree that Canada is a marvellous country. We helped to build it. We have paid our dues. We are very happy to be here, particularly Ukrainians. If my parents had not come here in the 1920s, who knows where I would be today. Perhaps I would be enjoying the hospitality of the Gorbachev regime somewhere in the Far East. It can be demonstrated that the community was handicapped by what happened to it, just as your community was broken up and, ironically, helped to found the United States. Is it not Louisiana that in a sense is rooted in the Acadian experience? Is it not proper, then, that a country that is affluent should permit a safety net for its less fortunate citizens and do the same thing for such a community which can prove it has suffered because of governmental action?
Senator Thériault: Is there not a danger of the other thing happening? That is what bothers me. Every country in the world has minorities in one way or another, including France, England and the United States. They have all been handled in different ways. This country brought in the Chinese to build the railroad, and they had to pay a head tax. When can we say once and for all, "Look, you are all here and we welcome you. We all love one another and you are Canadians." If the country has two official languages, should there be rights for all others? I sometimes think that we are making the problem worse for ourselves and for the minorities.
The Chairman: Senator Thériault, I am sorry to interrupt you. I am going to allow that to stand as a philosophical statement since we do not have time to engage in a debate, although you have raised important issues.
Senator Robertson: I wish to apologize to the committee for arriving a few minutes late. There was a problem with my flight.
I agree with you about vehicles for better understanding. We cannot legislate change, but somehow or other we can work toward better understanding. I do not have my documentation with me. It is still in my office since I came directly from my flight to the meeting. My question is: Is your organization, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, a member of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council.
Dr. Rudzik: Yes, it is.
Senator Robertson: I find it interesting because while you are very supportive of the bill, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council had some very harsh things to say about it. There seems to be some division in the interpretation and how it is being expressed on behalf of the membership. I do not know where it falls apart.
The Chairman: Do you want to comment on that, or shall we proceed?
Dr. Rudzik: I do not wish to comment, Madam Chairman.
Senator Kinsella: I wish to thank the witnesses for coming here this morning. It is important to underscore the point you are making, namely, the concept of race, as you spoke to it, which embraces the UNESCO concept of phrasing, something which I think Bill C-63 does also. The interpretation is that race is a sociological concept, and through the use of that term we include all those who would be disadvantaged by some perception or another. I think you make a very important point and I am glad to have it on the record.
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