Without a doubt, in the span of a modern day Canadian education, a student will learn about “The Holocaust”. The atrocities ran through the ideals of Adolf Hitler, the Austrian born German dictator of the Nazi Party. It will be taught that his forces used gas chambers and concentration camps to systematically kill over six million Jewish citizens, as well as several Romanians, people with disabilities, homosexuals and even fellow Germans who didn't believe in his ideals, among many others who were deemed “undesirables”. It will be taught that this was one of the main reasons World War Two existed. Students will be taught that the strongest enemies during this, the Axis Forces, would be commanded by Adolf Hitler of Germany, Hirohito of Japan (posthumously known as Emperor Shōwa), and Benito Mussolini of Italy. We will be taught that fighting the good fight, our side, would be Winston Churchill of The United Kingdom, Franklin D. Roosevelt of The United States, Charles de Gaulle of France and Joseph Stalin of The Soviet Union.
Later, Joseph Stalin would go on to become a controversial figure to many in what became Russia and globally, many would think him evil. He was the enemy of the West during the Cold War, and the man who put the USSR behind an ideological “Iron Curtain”. It could be said that after his aid in the Second World War, Stalin became a rival to The United States, and even Canada seeing as we had fought with him under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie King.
All in all, we could be nothing but friends with Stalin until after World War Two, right? This was my mindset until I had the chance to meet with Brant County Member of Parliament Dave Levac, who is also the Speaker of Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Stalin; moderate thinker until the war ended, then enemy due to his actions following. Of course, I had heard bad things he had done before we joined forces that I didn't condone, but really, I didn't know anything major. I never knew about Holodomor. Which is what the Honourable Mr. Dave Levac spoke to me about. A holocaust predating World War Two, involving Stalin, which is comparable if not statistically worse than “The Holocaust” started by Hitler. A holocaust I had never heard about until I met Dave Levac, and a holocaust he had never heard of until he met a man named Orest Steciw, a national representative of The Ukrainian Canadians. Mr Steciw not only travelled to Dave Levac, but to every Member of Provincial Parliament, educating them on Holodomor. This idea of Mr Steciw was to have a celebration and awareness day of the 75th anniversary of Holodomor, which by the definition Levac gave to me is “the planned genocide by starvation of Stalin, of the people of Ukraine and others”. When I learned more about this through my conversation with Levac and following research, I was more than shocked. Not just by the events, but by the fact we had never learned of it.
Some say this famine wasn't a genocide, yet others say it was planned by Stalin and 100% intentional. Total death count has been argued several times over, yet the numbers vary from 1.5 million to 7.5 million deaths as a result. The commonly agreed on number I could find was about 3.5 million. Now, Stalin's 3.5 million may not compare to Hitler's 6 million, but all in all Hitler's took place over five years. Stalin's took place over two, with the majority being children dying. And really, should it have to compare? Should it have to be more than six million for us to learn about it in school? Or should we learn about it because three and a half million people died from the actions of a man who only six years later would become our ally in World War Two, seeing as this happened before Hitler's actions, right about when Hitler was granted the title of Führer. The man did this, then became our ally, and I never knew. Dave never knew. From what I've learned in asking around, no one really ever knew. But Orest Steciw made sure that people learned about it, and then the Honourable Dave Levac aided in taking the knowledge a step further. One of the pushes being the people of his own riding. Brantford had a population comprised of Ukrainian settlers, as well as one resident who's own family was personally involved in Holodomor. As he told me, he may not of had Ukrainian blood running through him, but he was human. And that was enough to know that what happened was wrong and had to be known.
He decided to try and enact a Private Members Bill simply to acknowledge a memorial day (the fourth Saturday in every November, therefore in 2013 it would be November 23rd) and have Ontario recognize this as happening, acknowledge that this was a genocide. But, as Dave informed me, his first attempts were feeble. It was apparently too political (dealing with international issues) to approve in the Ontario house, but he didn't give up to approve. Something ended up happening which helped his efforts. A decision in the house allowed members from other parties to sponsor a Bill. He found members of a few parties who had links to Ukraine or Holodomor as approached them to join. He found that the assistant of Frank Klees, a Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora had relatives involved in Holodomor, Klees agreed to help Levac pass the Bill. Then there was Cheri DiNovo, an NDP Member of Provincial Parliament for Parkdale-High Park, a riding with a high population of Ukrainian citizens that had settled in her riding, she agreed to help. With this in mind, Dave brought the Bill back up again under the three names. This was the first Tri-Partisan (three partied) sponsored Bill (as Dave is an Ontario Liberal). Bill 147, “The Holodomor Memorial Act” passed unanimously on April 9th, 2009. This was followed by Quebec passing a similar Bill (Bill 390), Alberta, Saskatchewan, a National Bill and the creation of memorials around the nation located in Mississauga. As Dave said, this isn't really to honour the victims. This isn't to compare to The Holocaust, this is to educate Canada on the history of our humanity. As he said, he wants them to know that Holodomor was genocide, “not some weird fried chicken from some foreign country like some uneducated person may guess”.
Then, there was a message for Dave shortly after. From Viktor Yushchenko, who at that point was none other than the President of Ukraine. He was awarded the Chevalier of the Order of Merit for Ukraine, which is the equivalency of being knighted in Britain, all for his work. He was humbled, but felt that he shouldn't get the credit. Instead, he took it on behalf of the children who were killed seeing as they didn't have a voice then.
He says that we should never be afraid to stand up and say “that's not right” to an event. He says in Canada we can do this, and with the help of names such as Orest Steciw, Frank Klees, and Cheri DiNovo he's able to help citizens who have been here and who are coming to Canada to be saved from danger. I want to finish with a line from Dave Levac, a politician who realized that “this wasn't about politics, but mans inhumanity to man”.
To Dave, he's “totally against thinking inside this hemisphere, dealing with issues in this nation only. Particularly with Canada being the salad bowl, not the melting pot. We're telling people keep your culture, keep your religion, keep your language, keep your customs, keep your food, keep all those things but don't forget you're Canadian now. Don't bring us your evil, but tell us about your evil so we can tell them over there it's evil, and it needs to stop now.”