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Celebrating 50 Years of Multiculturalism: Senator Paul Yuzyk – the “Father of Multiculturalism”

Oct 10, 2021 | Featured

New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

Known as the “Father of Multiculturalism”, Senator Paul Yuzyk was born at Pinto (near Estevan), Saskatchewan, on 24 June 1913, of pioneer Ukrainian parents.

He was an excellent pupil in public and high school, receiving 100% on the final exam in Grade 11 mathematics and physics.

After attending the Saskatoon Normal School (Teacher’s Training College) from 1932 to 1933, where he graduated with distinction, he taught public and high school from 1933 to 1942 in Hafford, Saskatchewan. In 1942 he enlisted in the Canadian Army where, as a non-commissioned officer, he trained officers until discharged in 1943 to return to university. At the University of Saskatchewan, Yuzyk completed a BA in Mathematics and Physics in 1945, BA Honours in History in 1947 and an MA in History in 1948 on “The Ukrainian (Greek) Catholic Church of Canada”. He was then offered a fellowship from the Manitoba Historical Society to write a history of the Ukrainians in Manitoba. This work was published in 1953 as The Ukrainians in Manitoba – A Social History. In 1949 he entered a Ph.D. program in history at the University of Minnesota, completing his course work in 1951 and his Ph.D. thesis in 1958 on “The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada 1918-1951”.

His academic career began in 1951 with an appointment to the University of Manitoba as Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies and History. In 1958 he was elevated to Associate Professor of History and Slavic Studies. During his tenure at the University of Manitoba, he co-authored The Ukrainian Reader with Honore Ewach, which was used as a text in public and high schools in the prairie provinces. He also served on the Manitoba Historical Society as Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President and President 1952-1963; Editor of the Society’s annual Transactions of historical articles 1953-1958; Co-Editor on Memorable Manitobans: Paul Yuzyk (1913-1986) the Editorial Board of the Manitoba Historical Society’s quarterly historical magazine Manitoba Pageant, 1956-1963; Chairman of Ethnic Group Studies sponsoring several histories of Manitoba’s Mennonites, Jews, Poles, Icelanders and Hutterites.

Yuzyk continued to teach after his appointment to the Senate (1963) as a full professor on a part-time basis at the University of Ottawa from 1966 to 1978. There he taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, Russian and Soviet History and Canadian-Soviet Relations. He became Director of a seven-year major research project culminating in the publication in 1980 of a large 840-page volume, A Statistical Compendium on the Ukrainians in Canada 1891-1976 and was a CoEditor with William Darcovich.

Alongside his academic pursuits, Yuzyk played an active role in numerous community organizations. To highlight a few:

  • A founder and first President of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation 1934-1936 and editor of its monthly magazine “Holos Molodi” (Youth Speaks) 1948-1949;
  • A founder of the Ukrainian Canadian University Students’ Union 1953;
  • National Treasurer of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee 1952-1955;
  • Founder, first Secretary Treasurer 1954-1956, President 1963-1964, the Canadian Association of Slavists (CAS);
  • Founder and first President of the Progressive Conservative Club of Ukrainian Canadians 1958;
  • President, Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre, 1955-1971;
  • Member of the YWCA Advisory Committee on Adult Education 1958-1963 and member of the General Curriculum Committee, Dept. of Education, Government of Manitoba 1958-1959;
  • Director, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, 1962-1968;
  • Board of Directors, Canadian Centenary Council, 1956-67

His profile in Manitoba as historian and community leader earned Yuzyk an appointment to the Senate on 4 February 1963 by the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, whom he had known since 1935. Yuzyk’s activities in the Senate have been primarily In the areas of multiculturalism, human rights, external affairs and national defence. For his role in shaping the policy of multiculturalism, he has been called the “Father of Multiculturalism.” He was also active in a variety of parliamentary committees as well as parliamentary delegations, particularly delegations to the United Nations, the North Atlantic Assembly (NATO) and the Review Conferences of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Belgrade, Madrid and Ottawa. As Rapporteur of the Subcommittee of the Free Flow of Information and People, 1977-1981, he was responsible for reports on the implementation of human rights on an international level. He was also editor of “The Bulletin”, published by the North Atlantic Assembly.

In the Senate, Yuzyk was closely associated with cultural and human rights organizations, particularly the following:

  • Director, Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, since 1963;
  • Acting Chairman, Canadian Parliamentary Amnesty International Group since 1974;
  • Chairman, Human Rights Commission, World Federation of Free Ukrainians since 1967;
  • Chairman, Canadian Folk Arts Council 1975-1980, President since 1980;
  • Organizer of a number of successful cultural events on Parliament Hill such as Baltic Evening, starting in 1972, Ukrainian Evening in 1971 and 1981 and the 90th Anniversary of Ukrainian Settlement in Canada.

As a Senator, his publications included The Ukrainian Canadians: Their Place and Role in Canadian Life, published in English, French and Ukrainian in 1967; for A Better Canada, a compilation of Yuzyk’s speeches in the Senate, published in 1973 and The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, 1918-1951, published in 1981. He was a member of the editorial boards of 18 investigative Senate reports published by the Queen’s Printer since 1970 and has numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers.

Honours and medals awarded to Yuzyk include Keys to the Cities of Detroit, Buffalo and Rochester USA, the Canadian Centennial Medal, Manitoba Centennial Medal, the Shevchenko Gold Medal, Ukrainian Canadian Committee (Toronto) Gold Medal, Knight-Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and the Grand Cross of Knights of Malta.

Posthumous recognition: Senator Paul Yuzyk Scholarship, since 1991, Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program(CUPP) sponsored by Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation; Nation Builders Award 2003, Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Saskatchewan Provincial Council; Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism launched in June 2009 and awarded annually, by the Honourable Jason Kenney, Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Family: Paul Yuzyk was married to Mary Bahniuk (1914-2005), born in Hafford, Saskatchewan. He had four children: Evangeline Paulette Yuzyk, Victoria Irene Yuzyk, Vera Catherine Yuzyk and Theodore Ronald Yuzyk, who reside in Ottawa. He had six grandchildren: Tanya, Larisa, Paul, Thea, Lukash and Paula and one great-grandson Gabriel. Yuzyk is survived by his sister Mary Brown.

Paul Yuzyk passed away on July 9, 1986.

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