A record of the first 10 years of the UNF of Canada’s contribution to the development of the Ukrainian-Canadian identity…
The years 1929 to 1939 will be known in the history of Canada as a period of great economic .crisis, which in the West was further accentuated to the degree of national calamity by a prolonged drought from 1930 to 1937.
In this period, tragic sufferings were common to all people. These sufferings, however, were more acute and more widely spread in Ukrainian communities due to the fact that, in general, Ukrainians entered Canada only a few decades or even a few years before the depression set in. Under these conditions, some leading Ukrainian Canadians believed that much might be done to lessen these dangers if some sort of an organized effort were made to occupy the minds and the time of the suffering and disillusioned people. For this purpose, a special conference was held in Saskatoon, Sask., in June, 1932, to discuss the matter and work out, if possible, a constructive program which would be of interest and value to the masses of Ukrainian Canadians.
During the discussions, the conference was fully aware of the fact that, under the conditions of depression, hardship and suffering, a wide and powerful propaganda was underway, which, in certain cases, had intensified the already existing discontent to the point of open violence, and which was tending to undermine the fundamental principles governing human behaviour. In this propaganda which was penetrating market squares, community halls and even family circles, the ideals of loyalty to Canada and of personal duty to one’s neighbours were branded as the signs of social stupidity; cultural traditions, patriotism and religion were treated as remnants of ancient superstitions; Initiative for personal rehabilitation was termed as a lack of class consciousness. All this propaganda, reverberating from the forests of British Columbia, through the prairies of the West to the mines and industrial plants of the East, produced a growing social ferment which resulted in general confusion and which was rapidly approaching the danger line of social safety. The general conditions in the United States in 1932 were also highly conducive to promoting this state of affairs in Canada.In view of these facts, the conference was of the opinion that an early and well organized action on the part of all responsible citizens to better the existing conditions so as to avert grave consequences in the future was an urgent task. This action, however, ought to be based on a positive attitude and a constructive program, and not on wholesale negation, loud condemnations and cries for unattainable goals. To be effective, all sections of human society must participate in it: men, women and youth, farmers as well as workers and the middle class. To ‘be successful, such a program of action could not be based on a temporary condition brought about by the present economic depression. Rather it had to envisage the welfare of the country and its citizens under all conditions.
In its scope, the principles of the individual’s responsibilities should be balanced by his political and personal rights. His loyalty to the country should be measured by the magnitude of the debt that he and his family owed to the country for the privileges and rights which they all enjoyed under its protection. The program should emphasize that it is in the interest of the people as a whole to bring about an organized pressure upon the constitutional authorities to harmonize the existing social order with the existing social needs through timely social reforms in order to avoid an open social strife and violence.
Such a program should take the fullest advantage of the cultural traditions of the Ukrainian Canadians in order to neutralize the destructive influences of international propagandists of social demoralization and violence. The fundamentals of Christianity, as understood and practiced in a free democratic society, must be strengthened among Ukrainian Canadians in order to protect them against the inroads of atheism, Communism, Fascism and Nazism.
The program should also place before its followers the principles of international fair-play and justice in their proper prospective. According to these principles, all the peoples should be entitled to a full political freedom and nationhood on their own ethnographical territories. In the spirit of these principles, the Ukrainian people in Europe should be equally entitled to a state of their own on the ethnographically-Ukrainian territories now under military occupation of foreign powers. As a practical means for carrying out the above mentioned principles, the conference unanimously agreed to establish a dominion wide organization under the name of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada.
The existing branches of the Ukrainian War Veterans’ Association of Canada and the Organization of Ukrainian Women of Canada were to become affiliated bodies of the new organization. The Ukrainian National Youth Federation of Canada was also projected as an affiliated body. The provisional executive of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada was soon formed and the work started with the first branches being organized in Edmonton and Saskatoon in 1932. The soundness of the principles worked out at the conference in Saskatoon, Sask., was soon proved by an enthusiastic response of Ukrainian Canadians throughout Canada.
The all-inclusive social, cultural, ethical and political program, based on Canadianism yet taking due cognizance of the Ukrainian cause, seemed to answer the longing of the Ukrainian people in Canada for union in a morally, economically and politically constructive movement. By and by branches of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada began to organize. The organization of youth and women followed. At the same time, numerous technical groups began to branch off in each community. Of these, the choral, theatrical and reading clubs were the first to appear. Later, the educational courses for adults and the night and summer schools for children were organized. Benevolent associations, consumers’ co-operatives and saving and credit unions came into being. Women’s organizations, as if foreseeing the coming war, began to promote activities similar to those carried on by the Red Cross through the clubs known as Golden Cross groups, in which competent persons and local physicians instructed the women in first aid work. Within each branch a library was established• In Saskatoon a National Museum was founded.
Finally, a Radio-telegraphy School in Toronto, Ont., a Flying School in Oshawa, Ont., and a summer school of Ukrainian music and culture in Winnipeg, Man., were established as the educational centers for the Ukrainian youth of the Dominion.
At the annual conferences of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, which were always held concurrently with the annual conventions of the affiliated bodies, the principles adopted by the constitutional conference of Saskatoon, Sask., in 1932, were revised, amended and elaborated. for the next 80+ years the organization and its members have worked for the benefit of the Ukrainian-Canadian community from coast to coast.
Seven Founding Principles
The Ukrainian National Federation of Canada was established on the following 7 founding principles:
The Ukrainian National Federation recognizes the fact that every human society consists of three major groups. The most important is a group small numerically, but strong intellectually and morally, a group which gives leadership to the majority of loyal citizens and which takes upon itself the responsibility of improving the existing social order in order to harmonize it with the ever-changing social trends and requirements of human life. To this active and constructive group belong all the organizations of loyal citizens.
The second important group is usually small in number but extremely active, loud and liberal in its promises, clever in its tactics and strategy and dramatically overplaying the sense of injustice of the economically discontented groups. It consists of elements that, with all available means oppose the existing social order· It mobilizes the discontented groups all over the country for the purpose of overthrowing by violence the free democratic system of government.
The majority of citizens belong to a third group. They constitute the bulk of the population, busy with their everyday affairs and paying little or no attention to the social welfare of others. In time of crisis, this large mass follows one or other of the two active social groups mentioned above, and thus determines the final political course of the country.
The Ukrainian National Federation of Canada and the organizations affiliated with it, co-ordinate its social responsibility with the first or the constructive social group and believes, for its own part, in safeguarding the present democratic system of Canada. We believe that our members and our numerous followers-individually and collectively can and, should the necessity arise, will take a stand, together with other loyal Canadians, against any attempt to endanger the political and civil liberties of individuals and institutions in Canada. It is our firm belief that, at this time, as an organized group, with a clear understanding of the situation and a readiness to sacrifice and work for a better future of Canada within the framework of our constitution, we should place our responsibilities as citizens of this country ahead of our personal affairs in order to preserve our rights for future generations. We do not want to shift our own responsibility on to someone else! We believe in ourselves!
Canada was the country of the faith and hope of our forefathers and fathers, who left their dear native land because of brutal oppression and ruthless exploitation by foreign occupants. Canada is the country of our own faith and we want to preserve it as a country of faith and hope for our children. We believe in the country of our free adoption because it was here that we found the social and political freedom, equality and opportunity for which the Ukrainian people in Europe have fought for centuries and for which they are still fighting. We believe in Canada because, in this new land, the principles of British democracy and fair-play are practiced by the Parliament, by the courts and by the citizens. We believe in Canada, because it offers us and our children its vast resources and opportunities in the spirit of “fair play” and trust.
We believe in Canada and dedicate ourselves to her defense and to her future security.
Canada is a new country. Her population, natural resources and industries are undergoing the changes associated with rapid development. In this process which is carried on almost entirely by private initiative, numerous problems of social maladjustment have become acute and demand immediate attention. We believe that these maladjustments may and shall be effectively corrected by adequate social reforms. To remove the causes of internal social unrest and possible strife, we believe that:
- the concentration of capital, and wealth in other forms, should be legally limited, in order to assure a wider and more just distribution of the national income and resources among Canadian citizens;
- life, sickness, accident and unemployment insurance, together with old age annuities, should be integrated and placed under a social security department of the Government. This insurance scheme should be national in scope and compulsory for every citizen capable of working and therefore eligible for employment;
- the department of social security should also make provision for disabled persons of all categories, including the invalids of war;
- medical services and hospitalization should be nationalized;
- employment at reasonable wages must be made available to all citizens capable of employment;
- land holdings should be regulated in order to meet the demand of the agricultural populations of the country;
- prices of agricultural products should be kept on a parity with the price level for industrial products in order to assure a fair income to the farmer, worker and industrialist alike;
- extension of the right to trade unionism for farm labour and recognition of collective bargaining as a right of workers in all occupations should be recognized;
- equal educational opportunities should be given to all able youths;
- public inspection of dwelling houses should be established and a housing plan, national in scope and financed by the national credit, should be initiated to provide healthy homes for the families of lower incomes.
We believe that adequate social reforms along these lines should and will be introduced in Canada under the guidance of responsible leaders and through the existing legislative intentions, and that in this way, the incentive to violence will be eliminated.
We believe that cultural traditions are not empty remains of the past, but rather embody the living, flowing, continuing spirit of a people. Throughout eleven centuries, Ukrainian culture has found its expression in music, literature, art and philosophy and the Ukrainians themselves have fought for the preservation of their culture in many historical battles. Some of this culture was destroyed, but much of it has been preserved, mainly its songs, customs, living, art and literature. The Ukrainian language itself is a noble and powerful embodiment of our culture. We would be disloyal to our own past and unjust to the future cultural life of Canada, If we neglected to preserve this heritage of our ancestors. We want ourselves and our children to be worthy, good and loyal Canadian citizens and we believe that disloyalty to and contempt for a worthy cultural tradition destroys the bridge between the past and the present and undermines a solid foundation for the future. Such an attitude would eliminate our opportunity to contribute our share to Canadian national culture.
The tendency of our time seems to be to underrate the value of religious sentiment and religious education of the people. As an organized social group we realize that religious sentiment is deeply implanted in human nature and that all attempts forcibly to eradicate this sentiment from the human soul or to substitute for It any partisan passion or ideology have resulted only in a degradation of the human spirit and of the social order. On the other hand, carful cultivation of Christian beliefs aids in promoting the moral qualities of man and in elevating society to a higher level of spiritual life.
We, therefore, believe in a Christian religious education and in practicing the principles of Christianity in social life.
We believe that each people or nation is entitled to enjoy the four freedoms enunciated by President Roosevelt and to apply to itself the principles of the Atlantic Charter. We believe that, with an ever increasing technological development in air, land and sea transportation and, with high mechanization of the means of production and distribution, distances and space lose their former significance and the whole world shrinks into a small geographic sphere.
Every country is easily and quickly reached and becomes economically as well as strategically and politically, dependent upon other countries.
Under these new geopolitical developments no country is politically secure unless a new principle of national equality of all peoples is adopted and internationally guaranteed. Canada, as a country with a small population cannot hope to remain secure, behind an imaginary wall of isolation, in a world where freedom is denied to other countries with equal or even greater populations.
We believe that there can be no freedom in this world if a great Ukrainian nation of over 45 million is left under occupation and oppression by foreign states. We believe that the Ukrainian nation is entitled to build on its own ethnographic territories a free state. We believe that, within the limits of our loyalty to Canada, we should support, morally and materially, the efforts of the Ukrainian nation for political freedom.
Listen to Col. A. Melnyk address the 25th Anniversary Convention of the UNF of Canada in Toronto, 1957.
Col. Melnyk visiting Toronto on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the UNF of Canada addressed the delegates and guests with his inspirational speech, during which he proposed the creation of a World Coordinating Body of Ukrainians, a concept which was fulfilled 10 years later in the form of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (Ukrainian World Congress today). His call to action resonates even today as he speaks of the need for unity among Ukrainians; encourages Ukrainian-Canadians to develop their culture within the context of Canada so that they can work to promote Ukrainian & Canadian interests for freedom from Moscow’s tyranny around the world.
This rare recording is one of the few remaining records of the work of the leadership of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and is part of the Archive of the UNF’s Digital Knowledge Project.