Ignatieff alienates many Ukrainian-Canadians
By Oksana Bashuk Hepburn,
In his little book Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, Michael Ignatieff, now leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, belittles Ukrainians: “Ukrainian independence conjures up images of embroidered peasant shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments ...” and reverts to historic self-aggrandisement of the oppressor over the hoi polloi.
“My difficulty in taking Ukraine (its sovereignty) seriously goes deeper ... I’m also what Ukrainians call a Great Russian, and there is a trace of old Russian disdain for these ‘little Russians.’ ”
Such chauvinism, couched in
redneck language coming from a Canadian as late as 1995, is shocking,
particularly in light of exposed genocides of Ukrainians under imperialism from
Rather than apologize,
Other than underscore the
belligerent nature of
Instead of mending fences with the Ukrainian Canadian community and, for that matter, most liberal-minded Canadians, who would squirm at the tone and content of his little tome’s messages were they familiar with it, Ignatieff has made things worse.
A few weeks ago, he turfed Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Liberal MP for Etobicoke Centre and Critic for Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism, from the shadow cabinet. Wrzesnewskyj was the only voice of Ukrainian-Canadians in the group. Now they have none.
It is the leader’s prerogative to make appointments, a determination based on many factors. Appeal to voters, past performance, regard in the party and favours owing all figure in the decisions, but regional representation and equal access of Canadians to power sharing is not to be overlooked lightly.
In his decision, Ignatieff seems to have let his “blood and belonging” to the Great Russian syndrome get in the way. He dismissed not just an MP but, once again, the entire Ukrainian-Canadian community as being unworthy of serious treatment, and with it their contribution to making Canada an agricultural powerhouse; their present numbers and influence in the West; and a winsome Liberal emissary with access to Canada’s Central and East European communities.
Not a prescient start of a winner. Ignatieff might have done better by asking Wrzesnewskyj to organize a meeting with the leaders of the Ukrainian Canadian community and admitting the Russian “colonial-speak” in his monogram is outdated and dangerous.
This would have done more
to mend fences with Canadians who abhor Soviet crimes against humanity. More,
it would have shown the Liberal leader is steeped in
But Ignatieff chose
This behaviour has more in common with the arrogant Russian rather than Canadian politician. This should worry Liberals and all Canadians.
Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is the retired president of U*CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc. and a political commentator.