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Check Out Our The Ukrainian Community in Canada Essay


The first Ukrainians to come to the city of Toronto were mercenary soldiers who came to fight in the war of 1812. As a reward for their service in the de Meuron and de Watteville battalions , these soldiers were given land near the present day Perth, Ontario and Winnipeg. This paper seeks to discuss the Ukrainian community in Canada by looking at its relationship with the police and crime. The influence of the Ukrainian presence in Toronto is quite unmistakably; this is evidenced in shops, heritage institutions and cultural events. (Cap, K.)

The Ukrainian community in Canada

Ukrainians in Toronto make up over 10% of all Ukrainians living in Canada. In this community, the important role that the institution of the church plays cannot be understated. The first building to be erected by the Ukrainian community in Canada was a church. The St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Church was built from 1913-1914. It is interesting to note that a majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox by faith (89%) and 10% Eastern rite catholic; in Canada, the situation is quite different in that a majority of the Ukrainian immigrants came from a region in western Ukraine where the Ukrainian Catholic Church is dominant (Gregorovich, A.).

In the 20 years preceding world war 2, about 100,000 Ukrainians, who were mainly from the provinces of Bukovina and Galicia immigrated to Canada. Just like many immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe, these immigrants assumed often difficult jobs that were low paying in different sectors for example agriculture, mining, lumber and railway construction (Cap, K.).

The start of the First World War, the Canadian government transformed these hard working immigrants into "enemy aliens" thereby interning about 8000 Ukrainian immigrants; who then became forced laborers were then put to work across the country including the mines of British Columbia and the steel mills of Nova Scotia and Ontario. Some of these Ukrainian laborers died and others were killed in their attempts to escape from the labor camps. Despite the Canadian efforts at restitution, these events are a dark chapter in the history of Canada (Cap, K.).

Alleged War Criminals

In the recent past there have been widespread allegations and attacks against Ukrainians in the Diaspora. The case of Toronto has not been any different; this has made the Ukrainian community, including those in Toronto to develop a fear of crime and an uneasy relationship with the police. This problem has been further compounded by the obvious biased handling of Ukrainian topics by the Canadian mass media. The Canadian attorney general who also doubles up as the minister of justice formed an independent commission of inquiry whose duty was to conduct investigations regarding the alleged presence of war criminals in Canada that was to be headed by Mr. Justice Jules Deschnes. The document that outlined the terms of service of the commission had some parts that referred specifically to Nazi crimes. Joseph Mengele is mentioned and of the alleged activities in Nazi Germany. The document goes further and speaks about bringing to book "any such criminal currently residing in Canada" (Serbyn, R.).

According to members of the Ukrainian community, there seems to be an emphasis. In their view, "war criminals" have been reduced to "Nazi war criminals" and there has been a tendency to associate "Nazi criminals" with "Ukrainians". The Galician Division is false fully as being Hitler's elite guard and its identity as a combat unit is ignored. Despite the fact that Ukrainians saved a good number of Jews from extermination; some even lost their lives for sheltering the Jews who were being persecuted. The Ukrainian community is rarely credited with this. Furthermore, Ukrainians are never mentioned as having suffered as a result of oppression by both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (Serbyn, R.).

The mass media in Canada has played a pivotal role in portraying the Ukrainian community in Canada. This community is no longer identified with men with sheepskin coats; the new breed of Ukrainian Canadians who "appear" to be sinister in their motive and are criminal collaborators with the Nazi's. This negative image does not help in any way in giving the true image of the Ukrainian community in Canada (Serbyn,R.).

Many Ukrainians in the Diaspora have now developed a feeling that they have become an easy target or scapegoats in the hunt for war criminals who worked under the Nazi regime. The fact that the Ukrainians are economically weak, their access to the media is limited and they also have little political clout this makes them an easy target and to them, the danger is quite real. Ukrainian Canadians are by all means and purposes, this however, does not mean that they should remain voiceless as well. Even though history has imposed on them an inferiority complex, they must not take this lying down; instead, they should take full advantage of the North American way of life (Serbyn, R.).

The formation of this inquiry can be viewed to have been brought about by the efforts of the Jewish community to flush out and apprehend Nazi war criminals. The importance of bringing all people who are suspected of having committed war crimes to justice has been stresses by both members of the Jewish and Ukrainian communities. Mr. David Matas, the former chairman of the League for Human Rights of B'nai B'rith stated "Though this reports looks at the particular problem of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the author, of course , believes that all war criminals, all criminals against humanity, should be brought to justice" (Serbyn, R.).

In an interview with an Israeli radio station, Mr. Simon Wiesenthal, who is in charge of the Documentation Centre in Vienna, was first published by the Toronto Star and it noted "The Israeli radio quoted Mr. Wiesenthal as saying he believes 218 former Ukrainian officers of Hitler's SS (elite guard), which ran death camps in eastern Europe are living in Canada".  This news item greatly upset the Ukrainian community in Canada (Serbyn, R.).

The media's treatment of thee accusations did not come as a surprise to the Ukrainian community in Canada. Back in 1979, Simon Wiesenthal gave an interview to the Jerusalem Post that was later reported in Canada; in that interview, he blamed the Ukrainian community for the Canadian government's inaction on alleged war criminals who were residing in Canada. According to the Suburban, "Mr. Wiesenthal attributes the attitude of the Canadian government to the fact that Ukrainians who make up most of the war criminals are the second largest ethnic minority in Canada. They have political clout and no party wants to alienate them". This information was however erroneous as the number of Ukrainians in Canada was 500,000 and not one million. Furthermore, Ukrainians are not the second largest ethnic minority group because in terms of their numbers, they are ranked behind German Canadians and Italian Canadians (Serbyn, R.).

Community Policing

This is a new aspect of law enforcement based on the admonition that the institution that is the police force should no longer be militaristic (maintenance of order); legalistic (law officers) and professionalism (public servants) in the bureaucratic style of the past. In this model, the police should act as agents of consensus; this in the long run will make the different communities cooperative and this will in turn make these communities bearers of a sense of tradition. To achieve this, the police need to form a close working relationship with members of the community that consequently enables members to provide for their own security. Through such initiatives, the Ukrainian community can take advantage of this aspect to form a working relationship with the Toronto Police community. Such a relationship would quite literally be mutually beneficial to both groups; the uneasy relationship that is often characterized by a lot of tension will be improved and security will be improved  (Dolling, D., 1993).

The Ukrainian community especially in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada faces a myriad of challenges. This community can be better served by focusing on community institutions. One aspect of the Ukrainian community that has struggled with is the relationship between this community and the Jewish community. Ever since the holocaust, the relation between these two communities has undergone a metamorphosis, from resentment, to hostility and to toleration. These two peoples went through two different cataclysmic upheavals in Europe. Nazi Germany was responsible for the Jewish holocaust whereas the Ukrainians blamed the famine genocide on Communist Russia (Serbyn, R.).


The Ukrainian community makes up a significant population in Toronto and in Canada as a whole and their input into the fabric of the Canadian nation. The biased coverage of the issues that affect this community has definitely worked to their disadvantage. The fact that members of these community has suffered since the Second World War in the labor camps in Canada, through the rejuvenated hunt for war criminals and even the uneasy relationship with the police community, should foster the unity of this community. The new aspect of community policing is a new way in which the Ukrainian community can begin to build a new relationship with the police force. This will be an important stepping stone in efforts to redeem their image.

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