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The Origins of Multiculturalism in Canada: The Ukrainian Connection

A family of Ukrainian immigrants in Quebec City 1897

Multiculturalism arrived in Canada almost literally out of the blue. One moment we were improving our Bilingual and Bicultural character with a Royal Commission and the next moment all that was thrown out the window and a new concept adopted. I was alive during that period, but I must have been asleep, as were almost all of my fellow Canadians. I hardly noticed as the nature of the country was fundamentally changed.

Looking back I see Expo67 in Montreal as the theatre that deluded us all. It was a great world exposition. Anyone who attended was impressed with the swirl of ethnic diversity and colour, the music, the costumes, the pavilions, the delicious food and drink. Having a multicultural country seemed like a great idea. What we failed to realize was that the law governing the Exposition and the people who attended it was Canadian Criminal law which, in turn was based on English Common Law, British Parliamentary Traditions, English concepts of Liberal Democracy, the Separation of Church and State. We failed to realize that law itself is basically just codified culture. If we “opened” ourselves to all cultures and if we made them all equal to Canada’s identity, our laws, based on our English and French heritage, would eventually have to change into something else, our institutions would eventually have to reflect other values.

Just four years later, in 1971, Prime Minister Trudeau introduced his multiculturalism policy, which would, in effect, turn all of Canada into a world’s fair, announcing in Parliament:

It was the view of the royal commission, shared by the government and, I am sure, by all Canadians, that there cannot be one cultural policy for Canadians of British and French origin, another for the original peoples and yet a third for all others. For although there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other.

No one noticed as this train left the station where it was heading. In the train wreck that is multiculturalism in Canada, Pierre Trudeau has to take pride of place. It was the above cited on Oct. 8, 1971 on presenting the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which created Canada’s policy of multiculturalism.

But even a clever and willful prime minister can’t act on his own. Trudeau was supported encouraged and prodded by others who wanted to do away with French and English culture and replace it with a mosaic, including their own. Who were these “guilty men” who played a part in ruining the country?

I’ve found one answer in an article in the Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal by Julia Lalande. After giving some background on the reasons for the B&B commission, she moves to the role of the Ukrainian community in Canada, which was beginning to flex its muscles.

The problem for the Ukrainians about the Biculturalism commission, she says, was that it was about biculturalism:

Many groups that were part of the third force (the most vocal of which was the Ukrainian-Canadian community) were exasperated by the commission’s focus on bilingualism, but talk of biculturalism frustrated them even more.

To change the focus, the Ukrainians started a massive lobbying campaign to open biculturalism up and convert it, holus bolus into multiculturalism.

For Ukrainian Canadians, the early years of the discussion on multiculturalism coincided with the seventy-fifth anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada in 1966. By this time, Ukrainians had evolved into a strong community very much interested in the preservation of its language and traditions. In the 1960s, this concern with conserving their culture was expressed in their strenuous involvement in the multiculturalism debate. For example, Ukrainians made the most submissions to the B&B Commission, and they actively discussed the issue in the community and in their newspapers. Their submissions to the hearings of the B&B Commission, letters to politicians, speeches and addresses, as well as resolutions at community meetings offer insight into their position. The ideas — one could even call them demands — outlined in these sources can be classified into demands for participation, recognition, and equality.

This lobbying campaign must be what Heritage Canada describes as “many, particularly from Western Canada, mounted a campaign for recognition” without naming the “many” it refers to.

This leaves a fundamental question. Why would Ukrainians, of all people, want to redefine completely the cultural character of the country that gave them freedom, economic opportunity and safety? Didn’t they realize that celebrating multiple cultures as if they were all equally important to Canada’s identity, and as if the country had not been founded primarily by British culture, would weaken and eventually destroy the very laws and traditions which protected them?

Didn’t anyone think this through first beforehand? Or was it all painted Easter eggs as far as they were concerned? I can now put one name on the list of “guilty men”: It is Isydore Hlynka who, according to Wikipedia:

argued that Canada was in fact multilingual and multicultural, with two main working languages — Quebec’s working language being mainly French, and the rest of Canada having English as a working language. His presentation received major news coverage across Canada and set the tone for all other ethnic groups to follow.

But Dr. Hlynka was wrong, Canada’s common culture was not merely about “working languages”, but included as well a working set of liberal democratic institutions and traditions going back to Canada’s British origins, including the Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, English Common Law, the English Bill of Rights, universal suffrage, the jury system, Parliamentary democracy, capitalism and much more. It wasn’t just a language you were attacking, it was the whole ship of state; now sinking under your prescription.

Isydore Hlynka is described by Wikipedia as a pioneer in the concept of multiculturalism. It would be fairer to say he was the originator, prime mover and principle spokesperson for multiculturalism on behalf of the Ukrainian community in Canada. He worked tirelessly to promote the concept in letters, speeches and a newspaper column in The Ukrainian Voice under the pseudonym of Ivan Harmata. Most importantly, Dr. Hlynka presented the Ukrainian Canadian Committee’s submission to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. This said, to condense it to one sentence, that Canada was a multilingual and multicultural country and that the very concept of biculturalism — the subject of the Royal Commission — was an insult to one third of Canadians.

There was another important Ukrainian: Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj. Wikipedia again:

From 1963 to 1971, Rudnyckyj was a member of the Canadian Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and with others promoted the idea of a multilingual Canada which recognized the importance of regional languages. His contribution to the Fourth Book of the Report of the Royal Commission, which dealt with the needs and contributions of ‘other ethnic groups’ to Canadian society, was substantial and directly led to the promulgation of the new policy of ‘Multiculturalism’ by the federal government of Canada, and thereafter, by several provinces as well. In 1992, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

And another, Norman Augustine Cafik, appointed Minister of State for Multiculturalism by Trudeau in 1977. He was the second person of Ukrainian descent to be appointed to the Cabinet.

It was largely pressure from the Ukrainian community that led to Trudeau’s change in policy from biculturalism to multiculturalism. Isydore Hlynka pushed hard from the outside; Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj was the member of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism who wrote the 4th report recommending multiculturalism, and Norman Augustine Cafik was the government Minister who promoted multiculturalism in the years between the policy being adopted and the policy being placed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 27 of this Charter states:

This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

Where It All Went Wrong

All of the issues we deal with daily in Canada from CHRC abuse, to murders in Toronto, Sharia law, gun control, to the laxness of the courts, to the lack of a sense of national purpose; all of these issues are related in one way or another to a key decision made in Ottawa between 1968 and 1971.

That decision by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was to dump the original mandate of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism — which was to strengthen the French/English nature of Canada — and, instead, to turn the country into a multicultural non-entity.

Here’s the original mandate (my emphasis). The commission was ordered to:

inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contributions made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution.

Very commendably, it did report, specifically on language in 1967 and education in 1968. Trudeau responded with the Official Languages Act in 1969 which had three main objectives:

  • the equality of English and French in Parliament, within the Government of Canada, the federal administration and institutions subject to the Act;
  • the preservation and development of official language communities in Canada;
  • the equality of English and French in Canadian society.

Well and good, the bi-cultural nature of Canada was clearly going to be enhanced. So what happened next? Somehow, in the space of a few months, the direction Canada was to take for the next century and beyond was set. It was no longer to be French and English; it was to be French and the UN; a grab bag of cultures, concepts, customs and family practices from every corner of the globe. And there was the rub; the whole country had been running on English traditions; the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, Due Process, Parliamentary Government, English Common Law. Now other traditions, such as Sharia Law, were to be given equal billing, equal respect.

The chattering classes thought RCMP officers wearing turbans were great. They were to find that honour killings, polygamy, child brides, genital mutilation, sex slaves, airline terrorism and more were just around the corner. If all cultures were equal in the Multiculturalism Act, why should anyone have been surprised that the son of a misogynistic Algerian immigrant would go on a killing spree one year later because he didn’t like French culture?

According to the Free Library article on Multicultural Policy in Canada:

The commissioners heard about more than just English and French relations. Ethnic spokespersons everywhere argued that the old policy of assimilation was both unjust and a failure. They told the commissioners that immigrants and their children had endured the Great Depression side-by-side with other Canadians; they had sacrificed sons and daughters to the national war effort, and they now reaped the benefits of Canada’s economic revival and their own hard work. They might not be of English or French heritage, but they declared themselves to be not one bit less Canadian, and they would not be excluded from the public debate…They urged that a new model of citizen participation in the larger society be adopted — one that addressed the pluralism of ethnic groups that were part of the Canadian family. They offered a blueprint for a Canadian identity based on public acceptance of difference and support of cultural pluralism. Unlike the melting pot model of the United States, they preferred the idea of a cultural mosaic — unique parts fitting together into a unified whole. Ethnicity, they argued, did not undermine Canadian identity. It was Canadian identity.

What is most astounding about this page is the second sentence. These “spokespersons”, having arrived in Canada and taken advantage of the many social, economic, civic and political freedoms of this country argued that the policy which provided these benefits was “a failure”. Hello? How did this idea get any traction? Clearly the policy of English laws and customs — including in Quebec for the most part — was a roaring success. Why should this be ditched? Indeed, how could it be ditched? If, as I have said before, law is simply codified culture, how could different cultural norms be fitted into Canadian law? Either the culture has to change or the law has to change.

Dr. Hlynka died in 1983 so we can’t ask him what he thought then about the relationship between the culture he was promoting and the culture he was attacking, but fortunately his writings provide an insight into how his mind worked on this crucial question. Specifically, his book The Other Canadians, a compilation of his newspaper columns, shows what he believed the word “culture” meant and what he wanted it to mean for members of his community.

Before I analyze what Dr. Hlynka wrote, let’s discuss the relationship between culture and law, starting with Christmas. Christmas is a holy day of the Christian church, but it is also a legal holiday in Canada. It has this status because it is a statutory holiday for federally regulated employees. The holiday comes to us from England, as does the vast majority of our law, where it was adopted because England was Christian and Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. To put this sequence into the correct order, one can say that the people first adopted the practice, which became their culture, and the law followed the culture, codified it and made it mandatory.

This is the standard relationship between culture and law. Law is simply codified culture, practices written down and made into statutes in order to make them more universal. It is our luck as Canadians that the English over a thousand years, through the creation of a rival Christian church, through a brutal civil war, an experiment with fundamentalism and dictatorship, through the development of a body of law based on precedent, through the development of Parliamentary government and universal suffrage, through all this created a culture that provided safety, personal freedom and the fullest flowering of Democracy.

The fact that the English also developed an inclusive language, a capitalist monetary system, a dominating navy, literature, music and the arts was a parallel, but not crucial, addition. To put this another way, it was because of English rights and freedoms, as defined by English law, developed from English culture, that all else followed. You would not have seen the Union Jack on the shores of the New World if Englishmen were not free men, able to own property, invest in business and avail themselves of even-handed justice. Slaves do not, as a rule, become explorers.

When General Wolfe won the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and Britain conquered New France, it imposed English criminal law on the defeated colony and allowed it to keep its civil law (code). For the rest of what became Upper Canada, and then Canada itself, English Common Law was the law of the land, as it is, in large part, today. So regarding the basics — the law, the Parliamentary system, and the individual rights of Canadians — we are all riding on the same train going in the same direction, as too are the citizens of the United States, all inheritors of this same wonderful English ‘liberal democratic’ construction.

Language, food, music, religion and uncodified social practices continued in Quebec and the rest of Canada, but underneath it all, the giant engine of English legal and Parliamentary traditions rumbled on, as in the bowels of an ocean liner, driving the country forward towards a prosperous future.

Did Dr. Hlynka see this relationship? The evidence in The Other Canadians is that he did not. He writes on numerous occasions of the contributions of Ukrainian Canadians to the development of Canada, on the land, in the mines and industries and later in politics and business. But he gives all the credit to his people, not to the laws, practices and institutions which provided the structure for their relations with each other and earlier settlers. If you look at Ukrainians in Canada: The Formative Period, 1891-1924 by Oleh W. Gerus of the University of Manitoba, you’ll see the principal reason for the first wave of Ukrainian migration to Canada was economic, but that the two subsequent waves were primarily political; the second to get away from Polish and Russian overseers and the third to escape Soviet Communism. It should be remembered that Ukraine is the ‘breadbasket’ of eastern Europe with soil so rich it has its own name, Chernozem. There was never a problem with the land; it was a fertile as any place on earth. Nor was there a problem with the hard-working, family-oriented people of Ukraine. The problem was with the government, the laws, the political infrastructure that was largely imposed from abroad.

This brings us, via a long sea journey, to The Other Canadians and the views of Isydore Hlynka. In an article on April 25, 1979 he wrote:

The roots of French Canadians — their language, their religious traditions, their civil law, and indeed their character — trace back to France. Similarly, those of British ancestry trace their roots — their language, their literary traditions, the parliamentary system, the system of jurisprudence, and the entire complex of their life’s philosophy — to Britain. It should, therefore, surprise no one that Ukrainian Canadians share and identify with the historic roots of their forefathers in their ancestral land of Ukraine — their language, their church, their distinctive cultural tradition, and their struggle for freedom.

Do you see the problem here? Dr. Hlynka mentions French civil law and English jurisprudence, their “roots” in his words, but denies these have any application to the Ukrainian community which, he says, has its own “distinctive cultural traditions”. Indeed in this passage, he separates his community from the very laws and governmental structure they found in Canada and under which they prospered. It’s no wonder he didn’t mention Ukrainian laws because over the three waves of immigration they were either feudalistic laws administered by the Russians or Poles, or socialist laws administered by their Soviet bosses. For the moment, let’s just call this a bit of a blind spot and move on.

In a column on May 11, 1977, Dr. Hlynka reminds his readers of a line Trudeau used when he introduced the Fourth Report of the B&B Commission, that “although there are two official languages, there are no official cultures in Canada.” Clearly, again, he is not making the connection between culture and law I described earlier. Both he and Prime Minister Trudeau were wrong — Canada was running on English Common Law, English Parliamentary Procedure, English Rule of Law — all part of English culture. Canada did have, and still has, this as its underlying framework.

And yet, he does realize it’s there, underneath everything else, but in a way that annoys him greatly. In an essay Nov. 15, 1972 he quotes Bohdan Hawrylyshyn in an address to the national convention of the Ukrainian Professional and Business Men’s Clubs in Toronto. Canada’s mistake, according to Hawrylyshyn, is that the cultural mosaic has at best been tolerated in a nice, benevolent, paternalistic fashion.

Our cultural and linguistic reservoir is considered as rather harmless hobbies that cannot do much damage. After all, Ukrainians and other so-called ethnics will work a little more happily if you let them sing their songs and kick their boots in performing those wonderful folkloristic dances. Occasionally the “official” English and French Canadians might even enjoy it.

The key phrase in this angry outburst is “cannot do much damage.” Cannot do much damage to what? Well, it’s not said, but the “what” in that phrase is the Parliamentary system, the legal system, and the capitalist business system, the whole bundle of English customs that make Canada work. And indeed, he’s right. Most Canadians who went to Expo 67, and later applauded the Multiculturalism Act, thought it would mean more pavilions at folkfest, not a change in our basic law, system of governance and our freedoms.

All of which brings me to what Dr. Hlynka thought of Human Rights Commissions, the institutions created to preserve and enhance the multiculturalism he fought so hard, and so successfully, to achieve. He discusses them in an article revealing entitled, The Non-Visible Minorities, published May 30, 1973.

At first thought, the visible minorities might be considered to be the disadvantaged group. But strangely enough, even though they may be only recent Canadians, or even visitors, they have considerable advantages. The reason for the advantaged positions of the visible vis-a-vis the non-visible minority groups are the aggressiveness of the former and the considerable assistance they receive from the “do-gooder” groups of various kinds. An example of the important part played by the “do-gooders” is the Elkin Report, issued not very long ago and, as I understand it, sponsored by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This extensive study inquired into the question of whether actors, musicians, and models belonging to the visible minority groups were discriminated against on television commercials, in advertising, photography, etc. Accordingly, advertising in magazine and TV commercials and even manikins in store windows include the visible minorities. Can we say the Ukrainians enjoy proportional exposure on these same media? Have there been similar studies commissioned by the proliferating “do-gooders” government commissions or private bodies? We have seen very little evidence of this, even though the Ukrainians have been in Canada now approaching a full century. It seems the rule is “out of sight, out of mind”. The non-visible minorities appear to have become the invisible minorities.

Although Dr. Hlynka knocks the idea of the study as the work of “do-gooders”, he is really bemoaning the fact that Ukrainians have fully assimilated into the Canadian melting pot and thus cannot be given special treatment — quotas — as he would wish. This is nothing more nor less than the politics of identity being criticized because the group in question has no visible identity!

On October 13, 1976, Dr. Hlynka said this about the merits of multiculturalism:

It is by celebrating and preserving a nation’s variety and diversity that tolerance and brotherhood are taught. Uniformity does not create tolerance. It fosters intolerance for anything different.

Is not the truth the exact opposite? Is it not the work of the Human Rights Commission in promoting visible minorities which Dr. Hlynka deplores, exactly functioning as he wishes? Is it not preserving diversity? Is this not creating intolerance, at least in Dr. Hlynka? Indeed is it not the great achievement of the Ukrainian community in integrating into Canadian society one of its strengths, not its weaknesses?

We can’t ask the good Dr. for his thoughts on this, or on the relationship between culture and law, or on the new attack on our freedoms from supporters of Sharia Law. Who knew that the multiculturalism the Ukrainians were calling for would be the entry point through which cultural Marxists would carry their march through the institutions, promote mass immigration of non-Europeans, and try to destroy Canada’s European heritage from within? Certainly not Dr. Hlynka who, as far as I can see, was asking for recognition of Ukrainian culture in Canada without fully realizing that once Canada’s culture was disassociated from any foundational bedrock in English law and the two founding races, it would only be another step before a whole array of visible minorities would be asking for their own cultural and ethnic recognition — against the very ethnic interests of Ukrainians!

It is often said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Dr. Hlynka certainly had good intentions; he was a good man, honoured by his community, and his country. Only later, perhaps not even in our lifetime, will we see if his greatest achievement may be the beginning of the end of this great land of ours.

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