Speech delivered by Ian Wilson, National Archivist of Canada
at the Event marking the 10th Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence (Ukrainian Night)
January 30, 2002, National Archives of Canada
Your Excellency Dr. Scherbak, members of the diplomatic community, distinguished guests, mesdames et messieurs
Welcome, Bienvenue, Vitaemo!
This celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Ukrainian independence is an opportunity for the Archives to salute and enjoy a vital part of our Canadian heritage. At the National Archives of Canada heritage is our business and our passion. Its preservation and making it accessible to all Canadians is our mandate.
Ten years ago, at a State Dinner in Kiev, Canada’s then Governor General, the Right Honourable Ramon Hnatyshyn, of Ukrainian descent, had this to say:
"In the past century, Ukrainian-Canadians have become an integral part and an influential force in Canadian life, helping to shape our country’s economy, its public service, its culture...They have helped create prosperity, not just for themselves, but for all Canadians."
The first wave of immigration brought over 150,000 Ukrainians to Canada between 1896 and 1914. Today Canada boasts one million citizens of Ukrainian descent - one of the largest ethnocultural communities in the country. The following are but a few well-known names: Wayne Gretzky, William Kurelek, Roy Romanov, John Sopinka, Roberta Bondar, George Ryga, Luba Goy and Steve Podborski.
Ukrainian-Candians are an integral part of our national fabric.
Unfortunately in the first decades of the past century they had to meet the challenges of discrimination. They were among the first settlers from Eastern Europe to arrive in a country where most previous immigrants had come from the United Kingdom, the United States and Western Europe.
During the First World War some 5,000 Ukrainians, not yet naturalized citizens, were interned as "enemy aliens" in 26 labour camps across Canada. At the same time, 10,000 Ukrainian-Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During the Second World War more than 34,000 served Canada overseas.
Independence for Ukraine has been a central issue in the Ukrainian-Canadian community since the 1920s. A fact that is well-documented in the hundreds of records
of Ukrainian organizations, family and individual collections we hold at the National Archives. Please visit the display in the auditorium foyer, organized by two of our archivists.
Some of the documents on show are presently held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Governor General and have been generously loaned for tonight’s celebration.
The "stories" that we are privileged to have at the National Archives and make available, form, I believe, one of the world’s most multi-faceted cultural and historical mosaics.
We offer all researchers, private and professional, Canadian or from abroad, access to the information held in our millions of photos, computer files, diaries, paintings, maps, letters, films and TV programs. They may come in person or link to our Internet site, www.archives.ca. Last year more than 73 million hits and 1.7 million user sessions made it one of the most popular federal government sites.
A search of the Web for "Ukrainian studies in Canada" reveals 21,200 sites. A search for "Ukrainian archives in Canada" yields 10,900 sites. There can be no doubt that Canada and Ukraine share deep and long-lasting bonds.
To paraphrase the national poet of Ukraine, Taras Shevchenko : "Think, read and learn about other people, but do not forget your own". The National Archives is an important part of Canada’s memory, we will not forget.
In closing, I want to thank you for coming, and Happy Anniversary Ukraine!
For additional information, please contact:
Alla Okomaniuk, Press Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine
310 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J9
Tel. (613) 230-2961, fax (613) 230-2400
2002 02 26