Longtime multiculturalism activist participated in founding many community organizations.
Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.
Long-time community activist Dr. Roman Petryshyn was invested into the Order of Canada “for his leadership in the evolution of multiculturalism in Canada, and for his advocacy of ethnocultural inclusion in mainstream society,” December 29.
Dr. Petryshyn has been involved in various sectors of Ukrainian community life and was instrumental in the creation of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Provincial Councils.
When the UCC was first created in 1940 it consisted only of national organizations which had local branches. As multiculturalism came to be accepted as Canadian policy, it became apparent that many of the issues that affected the Ukrainian community — education, culture and health, for example — fell under provincial jurisdiction. This led to the creation of Canada’s first provincial council in Ontario by Petryshyn in collaboration with Dr. Yuri Darewych and others. The Ontario provincial council became a model for other provinces. After completing his Ph.D. in Britain, Dr. Petryshyn settled in Alberta and helped create a provincial council there.
He is also a founding member of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, which coordinates, develops, organizes and delivers assistance and charitable projects generated by Canadians to Ukraine; a founding member of the Alberta Council of the Ukrainian Arts; a founding member of the Ukraine-Canada Alliance for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons; a founding member of the Edmonton Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services and the founding director of the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC) at Grant MacEwan University where he held the Drs. Peter and Doris Kule Chair in Ukrainian Community and International Development until 2015. He is the recipient of several awards from the Ukrainian Canadian community, including the UCC National Leadership Award and the Hetman Award of the UCC Alberta Provincial Council.
“Roman’s vision, dedication, and service contributed and, in many ways, shaped the multicultural movement in Canada; his innovative ideas engaged and brought diverse teams together to bring to life projects that seemed unimaginable at the time; and it is Roman’s compassion and open-mindedness that made a difference for so many,” says Larisa Hayduk, the current Director of URDC.
“Community development work is Roman’s passion, and he has been following his passion for decades. His goal has always been to elevate the Ukrainian Canadian community, and he did so by identifying gaps, finding resources to fill that gap, engaging best people to do the job, by leading and inspiring others,” she adds.
Jars Balan, the former Director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) and current Coordinator of the Peter and Doris Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Centre at CIUS says Dr. Petryshyn “has always been a far-sighted thinker with a strategic vision for how Canada and the Ukrainian community can be made better.”
“In many respects he is the embodiment of the multicultural ideal as championed by Ukrainian Canadians and updated since its proclamation as public policy. No ivory tower academic, he has for decades worked in the trenches of Ukrainian organizational life while also serving in various leadership positions from his student days to the present. An institution builder, he is thoughtful, committed, and approachable, and has earned the right to be recognized in the distinguished company of other Order of Canada recipients,” he adds.
Author Myrna Kostash, who first met Dr. Petryshyn in 1977, says that over the years, their paths have crossed both socially and professionally – most recently as Ukrainian Canadians in response to the challenge of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. “And it is in this moment that, for all the due recognition of Roman’s real contributions to how we have thought about multiculturalism, it is to the future beyond Canada’s multicultural program he now turns: to what he has called the building of ‘strategic alliances and future relationships’ between Canada’s Indigenous nations and us, the ‘ethnocultural minorities.’ It is a proposition full of exciting potential.”
Roman came to Canada as a child in 1949 with his parents who had been displaced during World War II. They settled in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) where Roman attended the Ridna Shkola at the Prosvita Hall, worshipped at the Ukrainian Catholic Church and became a member of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF). His activity in the UNYF gave him a chance to meet and work with Dr. Paul Yuzyk who led the Ukrainian community in the Canadian movement for multiculturalism during the hearings of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. When he went to University, he helped to create, and became the first President of, the Lakehead University Ukrainian Club which joined the Ukrainian Students Union of Canada (SUSK in its Ukrainian acronym). In SUSK, he also collaborated with Senator Yuzyk, Dr. Orest Rudzyk, Dr. Darewych, Stanley Frolick, and especially Professor Manoly Lupul on the issue of multiculturalism.
He explained his personal vision of multiculturalism as follows: “I believe that a strategy of community development can be applied to ethnocultural communities as part of the policies on multiculturalism. Consequently, I have been involved in founding many different Ukrainian Canadian organizations, but with a common theme.
“They have all been launched with the idea of becoming self-sustaining in the context of a pluralist society (i.e., rooted in responding to real social needs of people and able to maintain themselves financially). In this way our community has been able to employ staff with professional training who provide Ukrainian services to the general public.”