Hello and welcome to Ukraine Calling, your weekly review of what’s been happening in Ukraine with a focus on a main issue. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv, and here’s a look at some of the stories that were in the news this week.
FOCUS INTERVIEW: Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Talks to Bohdan Nahaylo About Canada 150 and Ukraine
CULTURE and MUSIC
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Bohdan Nahaylo: There is a lot of excitement in Kyiv these days, especially this week, because it is Canada’s 150th birthday and there are all sorts of celebrations going on. It kicked off last weekend, including with hockey matches in front of the City Hall in Kyiv. I am very pleased to tell you that today we have as a guest to discuss the significance of this birthday and what it means for Ukraine in particular, the Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine Roman Waschuk. Welcome, your Excellency!
The Hon. Roman Waschuk: Thank you very much, Mr. Nahaylo!
FOCUS INTERVIEW: Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Talks to Bohdan Nahaylo About Canada 150 and Ukraine
Nahaylo: Well, let´s begin by asking you from a historical perspective… It is 150 years: let’s stand back and look at the Canadian achievement. What in your view are the elements that help the Canadian Federation to succeed, become a model for others?
Waschuk: I think as we look back to 1867, and actually far beyond, we have to take into account that regardless of the various imperial agendas that were in play Canada was always a plural construct, where people had to accommodate each other and they also had to survive the winter. If we think back to Canada’s aboriginal peoples (they have been there for thousands and thousands of years living their own lives, developing their own alliances, approach to the land), the arrival of, briefly the Vikings, but then the French with a permanent settlement, but also with the certain approach to organizing themselves and the first give and take with native peoples, the British and the so called conquest in connection with the Seven Years War, then the need to accommodate both aboriginal peoples and the French fact in Canada, up against, as well, a rather turbulent situation next door in the US with the American Revolution. As a result, Canada became the place of greatest tolerance for Catholics and French language speakers in the British Empire. It was not necessarily simply out of magnanimity, but in order to keep people on side, as the American Revolution was ongoing. These conditions were created. I think we have been far from perfect over the centuries and decades, the dispossession of native people, and we now working on reconciliation. In light of that, the many tensions between what was known for a while as the two solitudes – English and French speaking Canada. But overall we have adapted to each other, we have opened up to the world, that included the late 19th century with huge waves of immigration from Europe, notably from Ukraine. And we have been trying to figure out better ways of living with each other, creatively and constructively ever since.
Nahaylo: You have succeeded as a federation – no mean achievement, I mean when we think of the strains epitomized by Louis Riel and his uprising in the late 19th century, to even events in Quebec in the 60ies. You have weathered the storms and you have become an example for many other countries, including Ukraine. But you have become an example as a federation, not as a unitary state. Has that been part of the key to the success?
Waschuk: I think it helped us in certain respects to be more flexible. But that is why it began. Canada on1 July 1867 was the amalgamation of four existing colonies, not even all the existing British colonies at the time, not all of them wanted to go along. And to keep the show on the road you had to keep the different regions happy and give them the sense of having a voice, not only the sense, but the reality of having a voice. So we use that to address different sensibilities, for example, I am often asked the question “What about bilingualism? Is that an automatic model for Ukraine?” And I think the answer to that is we have one form of bilingualism at the federal level, which is a citizens-centric approach that says “you can ask for services in either English or French across Canada from a federal government, and you are guaranteed to get them”. But then also we have provinces that equally are bilingual like New Brunswick, and other that are fundamentally English speaking but with French language services, like Ontario. But also Quebec, which, at areas of provincial jurisdiction is unilingually French, but with provision of certain public services in English, as well. So we have a variety of models and I think anyone looking at Canada has to understand that it is diverse. Look North … is the number one language in that territory – North West territories has six aboriginal languages, as well that can be used in its parliament. So, it has given us the ability to be adoptive across very big territory with more people, now we have got nearly 36 million, but not that many people given our land mass.
Nahaylo: OK, now you yourself are of Ukrainian origin, from a Ukrainian background. How would you assess the contribution of Ukrainians in the building of Canada and shaping its identity?
Waschuk: Pretty big. They weren’t simply immigrants. They were immigrants who came as pioneer settlers. They were part of a, I guess, not just a spontaneous bunch of people showing up. We recently had the rediscovery and rededication of the grave cite of Doctor Josef Oleskiw, a friend of Ivan Franko, an associate, who travelled to Canada in 1894-95 to scope out on a scientific basis as well as with a practical peasant counterpart, a guy name Ivan Dorundiak, on how Ukrainians could settle in the Canadian West. And he wrote a book, a ‘how to’ guide to settling in Canada, and people took up the opportunities. Of course the government of Canada steamship lines and others supported them in it. So very much the landscape of what you might call a parkland belt of Western Canada has been shaped by Ukrainian settlement.
Nahaylo: And opened up essentially?
Waschuk: Well, it depends on whose perspective obviously, from aboriginal peoples’ perspective the opening up has different implications as well, from a Metis perspective, you mentioned the Riel rebellion. So it is not just a simple one layer story going on here, but nonetheless, yes I mean for agricultural settlement, for clearing the bush, certainly the interesting link here is Ukrainians in the Western Ukrainian territories were largely denied access to forests and wood. So, they preferred to take up land that was wooded. Most other settlers took the open prairie and that’s why if you look at the map of Canada, Ukrainian settlement follows the tree line, which is further south in Manitoba and further north through Saskatchewan to Alberta. So, people were addressing a need that they felt coming from a homeland, in terms of where and how they settled in Canada. Ukrainian churches of course are still very much part of the skyline in rural Western Canada…
Nahaylo: With the occasional tree.
Waschuk: With the occasional tree. They did not chop them all down.
Nahaylo: And grain towers
Waschuk: Towers although they too are being replaced by more modern grain storage facilities, which we want to export to Ukraine as well, by the way. But that is kind of an old picture. These are now people who are provincial premiers in a recent past, who are hi-tech people, who are teachers, lawyers, community activists. So it is a very broadly based community and this is really a point of Canada.
Nahaylo: To get some perspective on the input from the Ukrainians. At that peak, what percentage of the population, proportion of the population did the Ukrainians in the late 50s form? Is it true, I’ve heard that at one stage were the third largest group?
Waschuk: They were the third largest non-Anglo, non-Franco group. Certainly they were fifth, sixth in Canada’s census list, and at that point, in Canada you couldn’t list Canadian as your nationality, you can now. Ukrainians currently, about 1.3 million people claim some Ukrainian background. Now that could be part of multiple—
Nahaylo: And out of the population of how many?
Waschuk: About 36 million approximately, so it’s more or less 3 per cent of the Canadian population. But one of the things the people of Ukraine should remember is the other 97 per cent of my ‘zemlyaky’ fellow Canadians, and so Canada from across the country, from Newfoundland to B.C. should be, and is, of interest to Ukrainians in all of its diversity.
Nahaylo: Now in the ‘60s when there were these problems in Quebec and we remember President De Gaulle talking about ‘Vive le Quebec libre’ and not helping matters. Pierre Elliott Trudeau managed to find a formula that worked and it seemed that it would be based on bilingualism, but from what I recall, the Ukrainians were very instrumental in getting the concept of multiculturalism across.
Waschuk: In the 1960s, there was a commission that started off as the royal commission for bilingualism, biculturalism. But people like Senator Paul Yuzyk, Professor Yaroslav Rudnytsky, along with representatives—
Nahaylo: Lupul Manoly.
Waschuk: Manoly Lupul… Got across the point of the third factor in Canada, the non-Anglo, non-Franko groups, and this was pick up as government policy. The policy was first announced at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1971.
Nahaylo: I think I was there, Winnipeg?
Waschuk: Winnipeg, indeed. So, it’s certainly a major contribution to that initial phase of institutionalized Canadian multiculturalism. It’s evolved considerably ever since, there have been many waves of immigration since. The face of Canada is one that is constantly changing, but people of Ukrainian origin, along with those of Somali origin, of Syrian origin…
Nahaylo: Chinese, Vietnamese…
Waschuk: Exactly, are very much a part of the scene.
Nahaylo: Okay, let’s focus on the present and the present challenges and prospects. I think many people in Ukraine, and in the diaspora, and those who follow Ukraine will recall the very strong support that Canada provided both under the Harper Government and now under the Trudeau Government, with Trudeau Junor — if I can refer to him as that — to Ukraine after or during Maidan and during the Revolution of Dignity, but is the Canada-Ukraine thing just a sentimental diaspora-motivated driven connection or is there more meat to it?
Waschuk: No, I think there is about much more than that. Certainly, since Maidan it’s also been about small-l liberal democracy versus authoritarianism, both in terms of the domestic scene in Ukraine and the confrontation with an authoritarian regime with Ukraine’s biggest neighbour. It’s also about, can middle powers — and Ukraine is globally a middle power, as is Canada — count on a rules based regime and the fact that some big country can’t just come along and take a big chunk of your territory. You know, quite apart from the morality or immorality of it, every medium-size country has a visceral interest in Ukraine’s territorial integrity being respected and restored. And if you look at the overall Euro-Atlantic space, Canadians have fought to in two World Wars to maintain the integrity of that space. We’re still involved in NATO, for example, Canadian troops leading the forward presence in Latvia, very much playing an active roles in the OSCE as well. So, to maintain the integrity of the space that we have sacrificed a lot in the 20th century, helping Ukrainian defend itself is also a part of that.
Nahaylo: But Ukrainians also, Canadian-Ukrainians have contributed to that Canadian effort. My children’s Canadian grandfather was a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, who was shot down over the Mediterranean, spent two years in Stalag Luft whatever, three, I think. Made the plans for the great escape etcetera, etcetera. And I’ve noticed that in Northern France, in the graveyards, the war cemeteries of those killed in World War I. In the Canadian cemeteries there are a lot of Ukrainian names amongst the young men buried there.
Waschuk: And in the Netherlands as well, and this was a theme that was picked up just before the Senate ratification, there was a public service spot that was recorded by the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre. It featured a 92-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian veteran, Mr. Wally Bunka standing in one of the graveyards in the Netherlands recalling the fact that people with names and backgrounds like his also laid down their lives and health to liberate the Netherlands, so it’s still a living theme.
Nahaylo: Looking at the Ukrainian-Canadian relationship, especially how it’s developed over the last 25 years or so since independence. Compared to say 20 years ago, it’s not simply, we see now, it’s not simply Ottawa that’s involved. There is much more involvement at various institutions, provincial levels, regionally, etcetera. Would you agree?
Waschuk: Definitely. And I’d say, unsurprisingly, it’s a more mature relationship, but also that it has more depth. We are engaged now in things such as gender and policing, areas such as training of non-commissioned personnelle sergeants in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The levels of confidence have increased to the extent that we can ‘get in under the hood’ as we’d say in Canada, and help Ukrainians fix some of the things they feel need fixing about their country. We also have new regions that have become engaged. One of the most active provinces here in Ukraine is New Brunswick, partly it’s recruiting for education, recruiting for migration, but also as platforms for business. Canada’s main exports last year into Ukraine came from Quebec and British Columbia — British Columbia coal and Quebec fish. So, it isn’t just the usual suspects, Ontario, the prairies, this is why I think people should look at a map of all of Canada, not just the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle or traditional areas of interest.
Nahaylo: Okay, and let’s focus on the very latest and important developments. The free trade agreement has been signed and it starts imminently on the first of August. Can you just remind our listeners about the main elements, the main components?
Waschuk: Pretty easy, 99.9 per cent of Ukrainian products enter Canada duty-, tariff-, and quota-free. It’s about 87 per cent going the other way, so this is an agreement designed to give Ukraine a running start. We’ve also put together a Canada-Ukraine Trade Investment Support project, 13 million Canadian dollars over five years to identify priority sectors, build the capacity of the Ukrainian Economy Ministry to develop an export strategy for North America and the world to help move Ukrainian product and services globally, and then also to support Canadian incoming investment into Ukraine. Yesterday I was meeting with a Ukrainian pet food manufacturer who was asking me what do I think are the prospects for getting into the Canadian market, and judging by their reasonably up to date production facilities, the fact that they’ve got certification for the EU, the fact that they understand how to potentially produce private labels, I told him his chances aren’t too bad, definitely should look into things. We’ve got Ukrainian companies that have made breakthroughs into, let’s say, the Canadian fruit juice market, companies that sell electronic components to Canada, and of course, we’ve been showcasing Canadian stuff that you can buy in Ukraine.
Waschuk: There’s potential here. Peculiar things. For some reason, since the events of 2014-15, the demand for high-end pet food has increased in Ukraine, and Canadian companies have responded to that. Maybe people are cocooning, maybe they want to be nicer to their pets, I don’t know. Because of Ukraine’s ever rising grain harvests, and very active export policies, there’s a need for grain storage equipment, so we’re seeing Canadian companies much more active in that market. So I think this idea that you can’t do business in and with Ukraine until every last point of every international economic textbook has been check marked, is a bit of a delusion. Frankly, if that were true, then you couldn’t do business hardly anywhere in the world.
Nahaylo: But Ambassador, your support from Canada is not simply in the areas of trade. It’s about liberalizing the system generally. Democratisation. You’re not only supportive, as we notice, of Ukraine’s defence of its territory and integrity, but you’re also active in capacity building, in terms of civil society development, broadening democratisation, whatnot. What are you involved in most recently, in those spheres?
Waschuk: I think we’ve been working a lot on electoral access in reform, greater engagement by women, by disabled people into the electoral process. We’ve been working on gender issues more broadly. Now working with Deputy Prime Minister Klympush and I think she was your guest a couple weeks ago, talking about her new role as Gender Commissioner. And we’ve got a project with UN Women that supports her in making a new push to mainstream women’s rights in Ukraine.
We’ve got local government projects, developing 16 city strategies for towns in 4 oblasts across Ukraine. But trying to do it in ways that people can see. And picking up on trends that are happening in Ukraine anyway. I don’t say we’re going with the flow here, but we’re trying to be partnering with Ukrainians, not just lecturing them, but helping them achieve what they want to achieve.
For example, city budgets in Ukraine are now 2 or 3 times what they were a couple of years ago. A city planning strategy, which may have seemed rather theoretical a couple of years ago, like — what are they going to strategize? They haven’t got the resources. Now the resources are there. But the skill sets aren’t necessarily there for project management, and to prioritize. And these strategy projects help mayors create the consultative mechanism with business, with communities, with NGOs and build something that the whole community can rally around. Where do you put the next new daycare? Do you need a pool? Do you need a track and field installation in the park? Very practical tangible stuff.
Nahaylo: I was fortunate to meet several of your mayors from Canada, who were here last year at the mayor’s congress from Hamilton, I think, from Toronto, from…
Waschuk: Steinbach, Manitoba.
Nahaylo: Steinbach, Manitoba. And it was very interesting, and they really had very good advice to give. OK, let’s just quickly also touch on an issue of considerable interest for Ukrainians here. And that is lifting the visa requirements. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has just said that it is still not quite time for this. So I’d like to ask you, what would be the conditions in which Canada would be ready to lift the visa restrictions, as the EU has just done?
Waschuk: Canada makes its decisions based on our both border and domestic migration legislation. And it’s pretty generous once you get to Canada, so we’re pretty careful about who gets on the plane and makes it to Canada. And secondly, the migration pressures that drive the behaviour of people in various countries, including Ukraine. So I think we’ll be watching carefully and with great interest how the visa-free regime with the EU works out, and it seems to be working out very well in the initial weeks and month. And see what impact that has on the extent to which a Ukrainian tourist is actually a tourist, and not a potential worker. The tendency to come and return, as opposed to stay. All of these are factors that are part of our decision making. I think we are seeing a better traveled Ukraine society. And so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make progress, but that will be according to Canadian, and not EU or anybody else’s criteria.
Nahaylo: Last but not least: tell us a little bit about this week’s celebrations of 150 years of Canada, in Ukraine.
Waschuk: Sure. We had, as you mentioned, our hockey day on Khreshchatyk. Ten teams and several thousand people that came through to watch and take part. We had Bombardier recreational products, with their various 4 by 4 and motorcycle fun machines. We had a retail display in Tsum, which is still ongoing.
Nahaylo: That’s the central department store.
Waschuk: Yes, that is the central department store here in Kyiv. And all of that working up to a reception, an invitation-only reception that we’ll be having on the grounds of St Sophia on Friday night the 30th. We’ll be sharing some of our Canadian music there. There’s a band coming from Winnipeg called Royal Canoe. They’ll also be taking part in the Atlas Weekend Festival, which is a rock and pop festival here in Kyiv.
But before that we took part in a Francophone Street Fair earlier this month. We’ve opened a display, which is still on, Sophia Square, about Canada’s role in welcoming refugees through history with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR. So we’ve tried to portray the serious, the policy-oriented, the sports, the fun, the cultural aspects of Canada. A bit of culinary aspects as well.
Nahaylo: Well let me finish off by thanking you Sir — Roman Waschuk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine. Thank you on behalf of our listeners, particularly the Ukrainian ones, to Canada, not just to yourself personally, as a very active ambassador, who has done so much to raise the Canadian profile here. Not that it needed raising much! And thank you for Canada for its time, its concern and its understanding and its continuing support for this country. And for the example it continues to set.
Waschuk: Thank you. And for us it’s a privilege to work with the hundreds of very talented Ukrainians who are part of our various bilateral and multilateral activities. So the feeling is mutual.
Nahaylo: Thank you again. I’ve been talking to Roman Waschuk, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Canada.
Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Coming Into Effect 1 August
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada, the Hon. Andriy Shevchenko, announced that the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement will come into effect on August the 1st. On his Facebook page Ambassador Shevchenko wrote, “Canada gave us this present for Constitution Day: we received an official state note about the conclusion of all measures for the agreement on free trade to take force. This is a historic moment that exemplifies the colossal work of our diplomats and politicians. But it is the beginning of a much more important stage: it is time to make this agreement work, through contracts, new jobs and investments.”
The agreement was signed in Kyiv a year ago, on July 11th. It has now gone through all the ratification and approval measures on both sides, and is ready to start working. The agreement cancels 98% of tariffs on Ukrainian exports to Canada, and 72% of tariffs from Canada to Ukraine. This is scheduled to increase to 98% over the next 7 years.
Trade between Ukraine and Canada has already been increasing. According to Ukraine’s State Statistical Bureau, exports from Ukraine to Canada rose by 23% in the first quarter of 2017. Canadian records show 265 million dollars of Canadian exports to Ukraine during the same period.
Cyber Attack Hits Ukraine and Spreads Globally
A cyberattack hit Ukraine on Tuesday and quickly spread globally. Ukraine was hardest hit, taking the brunt of the attack, but at least 64 countries were affected. Estimates of damage are running into the tens of millions of dollars.
Ukrainian politicians blamed Russia, but the Kremlin denied any responsibility, saying that their companies were also hit. International security researchers are calling this latest cyber-attack a smokescreen. That its main purpose was likely to install new malware on Ukrainian government and business computers, to plant the seeds for future sabotage. Others take it further and say that the extortion demands were meant to disguise a destructive, as yet unknown motive for future, in Ukraine and globally.
Ukraine has been on the receiving end of two previous cyber- attacks since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The attacks were on infrastructure, financial institutions, and power grids.
Military Intelligence Officer Assassinated in Central Kyiv
Another high level assassination happened in Kyiv on Tuesday the 27th. Col. Maskym Shapoval, head of a Ukrainian military intelligence Special Forces unit, was killed by a car bomb. In 2014 Shapoval commanded the special unit that attempted to liberate Donets’k airport, but had been working in Kyiv recently, in the Ministry of Defence Chief Reconnaissance Directorate. This was the latest in a series of targeted killings that have occurred in Ukraine’s capital. A year ago journalist Pavel Sheremet was assassinated by a car bomb in central Kyiv. In March of this year, former Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine, Denis Voronenkov, was gunned down in Kyiv, after reportedly receiving threats from the Russian Secret Service.
Shapoval was laid to rest on Friday. President Poroshenko attended the official ceremony which began at 10:00 AM at the Officer’s Building in central Kyiv. Poroshenko said, “His death reminds us that war takes place not only on the frontline, that terrorist attacks of the aggressor who came to our land with weapons can be held anywhere. I am proud of such warriors such as Maksym Shapoval. May he rest in peace.”
Colonel Yuriy Voznyi of Ukraine’s Security Service was also laid to rest in the ceremony. He died on the same day as Shapoval, after he tripped a mine in the village of Illinivka, in the Donbas war zone.
On Friday June the 30th the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine came under attack by ant-Ukrainian forces in the Donbas war zone. The mission continues its activities, and reported a 40% intensification of hostilities over the past week. During that time 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 19 were wounded.
Crimean Tatar Flag Day And Constitution Day
Monday 26th June was Crimean Tatar flag day. Both the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags were raised all over Kyiv, including the office of the Mejlis — the self-governing body of the Tatars. The light blue flag with golden tarak tamga symbol in the upper right corner,was adopted 100 years ago by the first Kurultai assembly, which is the self-governing body of Crimean Tatars. The design in meant to symbolize peace, justice, goodness, unity of the people, heaven and purity. June 26th was chosen as the official day for the flag’s celebration in 2010.
Two days later, June 28th, was Ukrainian Constitution Day. President Poroshenko used the opportunity to once again call upon Parliament to vote for constitutional amendments that would abolish immunity for Members of Parliament.
Poroshenko said, “High profile cases, decisive steps to tackle corruption, which are being taken now by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, remind all of us of such an anachronism as parliamentary immunity. The corresponding draft constitutional amendments have already been elaborated. I demand the members of the parliaments to demonstrate their political will and become equal in rights with the citizens of Ukraine.”
A number of current MPs, accused of corruption, cannot be prosecuted because the constitution grants all MP immunity from prosecution, a hold-over from the Soviet era.
This week saw the annual Alfa Jazz festival taking place in L’viv. Growing with every year, it’s now a five day event, which brings international big-name jazz musicians to Ukraine and provides a stage for known and emerging Ukrainian jazz talent. There were about 30 different groups performing on 3 main stages, with the ticketed entry main stage sold out each time, estimated at about 18,000 tickets. Listeners could enjoy pure jazz, Latin, funk, or rock and listen to styles of music new to them.
The L’viv Alfa Jazz Festival has become a place to see and be seen — a meeting place for Ukraine’s politicians and business community. And with all the visitors flocking from all over Ukraine, L’viv’s hotels and restaurants enjoyed the result of a full-to capacity week.
And for this week’s musical selection, we have a group you might be familiar with. The band ONUKA was chosen to be the interval act during the Grand Finale at Eurovision 2017, and since then has enjoyed ever more popularity. ONUKA’s sound is rather unique — it’s modern electronic music influenced by a Ukrainian ethno-sound in surprising places. For you we have the track Vidlik - enjoy!
Next week I will be hosting the show, bringing you an overview of the news in Ukraine, international issues, and a feature interview. Tune in for a new episode. And we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at [email protected]. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.
Interview transcribed by Larysa Iarovenko, Nykole King, Ilona Szieventseva, Max Sviezhentsev. Headlines by Marta Dyczok. Culture and Music by Oksana Smerechuk. Sound engineer Andriy Izdryk.. Web support Kyrylo Loukerenko.