The Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Quebec Provincial Council was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of James Slobodian, Saturday, April 29.
James Slobodian was board member representing the Ukrainian community of Quebec’s Abitibi-Temiscamingue area to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), Montreal branch/ Quebec Provincial Council for over fifteen years to present, and was a former member of the UCC National Internment Committee.
James Slobodian was born in Noranda, Quebec, 1947. His career included, consultant for Pierre Péladeau, Quebecor World and Quebecor Media for 25 years, until retirement; advisor, Students’ Services Department, College du Nord Ouest, Rouyn-Noranda; a School Trustee for Rouyn-Noranda School Commission (ward 7); Vice-president, Rouyn-Noranda Hospital Board of Directors, and journalist and Magazine-TV producer Mid-Canada Television, and journalist CBC, Radio-Canada, Canadian Press.
As a youth, James Slobodian was an active member of Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) youth organization (MYHO) in the 1950’s-1960’s in Rouyn-Noranda, and a member of the Ukrainian Youth organization ‘SUM’. His parents Onufrij and Anna (Kowal) Slobodian came to Rouyn-Noranda in the late-1930’s.
James rescued historical documents and archives pertaining to early Ukrainian-Canadian history in northern Quebec, giving this unique collection on loan to the Historical Society of Quebec (A.T.) for future researchers, providing access to the general public. Many materials were saved with the closure of the UNF branch in Rouyn-Noranda in the 1960’s.
He is particularly known for his work as chairperson of Camp Spirit Lake Corporation. James Slobodian was recipient of the Montreal Ukrainian community’s the St. Volodymyr Cultural Society Recognition Award, for his outstanding contribution to the development of the Ukrainian-Canadian community in establishing Camp Spirit Lake Internment Interpretive Center in 2010. The award was presented at 2011 at the annual Montreal Ukrainian Festival.
In 2018, he received the UCC Leadership Award presented at the UCC National Leadership Dinner bestowed upon “a worthy individual that has made a significant national, provincial local contribution to the development of the Ukrainian Canadian community” and whose work and dedication has “made a difference to the Ukrainian Canadian community”. The awards-dinner was held in Montreal at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, UCC Quebec provincial president was Rt. Rev. Dr. Ihor Kutash.
In 2013, James Slobodian was nominated for the UCC National Shevchenko Medal in the area of Community Development, highlighting his role in establishing Camp Spirit Lake Internment Interpretative Centre, Quebec, together with his work in developing an outreach educational program and other projects furthering national public awareness on internment and awareness of the contributions of the Ukrainian community to the development of the Abitibi area, Quebec and Canada.
The award-winning Camp Spirit Lake Internment Interpretive Centre (CSLIC) he spearheaded, was established at La Ferme, near Amos, Quebec. It was the first major internment centre-museum telling the story of Canada’s First National Internment Operations 1914-1920, with a focus on the unjust internment of over 1,200 “enemy aliens” at Spirit Lake. The majority unjustly interned were Ukrainians. Spirit Lake was the second largest of 24 internment camps established by the Federal Government in Canada. Spirit Lake opened in January 1915 and closed in January 1917, with the internees transferred to other internment camps in Canada. The Spirit Lake Centre was uniquely located on the original internment grounds, over 50,000 visitors from Quebec, Canada and Europe visited the internment museum.
The official opening of CSLIC in 2011 was attended by Minister Jason Kenny, Members of Parliaments, the president of Shevchenko Foundation Mr. Andrew Hladyshevsky and chair of Canada’s First World War National Internment Recognition Fund, other dignitaries. The opening was filmed by Yurij Luhovy.
(See link, (7-parts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybk8kSmLuDY)
James Slobodian established a national French-English, bi-lingual information newsletter, “The Barbed Wire”, about Camp Spirit Lake Internment Centre’s work; created links with Quebec Regional School Boards and Service Club Organizations, organized inter-provincial group-visits to The Centre’s museum. The first French Immersion High School Exchange between a Nova Scotia and Rouyn Noranda, to visit Spirit Lake Internment Centre, acquainted students and teachers with the World War I internment story for the first time.
He developed close cross-cultural relationship between the Francophone, Anglophone and Ukrainian community in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region, engaging area volunteers, to work together at Spirit Lake Internment Centre over many years. It included effective collaboration between Spirit Lake Internment Centre and Quebec regional, provincial and national government institutions.
On June 17, 2013, James organized the premiere of the first French-language documentary on Ukrainian settlement to Quebec, titled “Les Ukrainians du Québec 1891-1945”, held at the Spirit Lake Interpretation Centre. Speakers were François Gendron, Deputy Premier of Quebec; James Slobodian, president of Spirit Lake Corporation and Yurij Luhovy, producer/director. Numerous dignitaries from Abitibi area attended, as well as the president of the
Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Montreal. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2JGdIRqDBs
Spirit Lake internment Centre inspiring 4 published French-language books and two original music scores, based on the Spirit Lake internment story.
He worked closely with Canada’s French-language community and media to ensure the internment story and history of early Ukrainian immigration to Quebec and Canada reaches throughout Quebec, and the francophone community beyond.
James Slobodian gave over 150 interviews to the French media (radio and television) nationally, and over 130 interviews to the French and English regional and provincial press furthering knowledge of internment and history, traditions of Ukrainian Canadians. A special report on CSLIC was made by television crew from France, aired in Quebec and France.
James Slobodian was the first Quebecer of Ukrainian heritage elected as chairperson of Rouyn-Noranda “Neighbors Regional Association”, a member branch of Quebec Community Groups Network, a provincial organization representing interests of the Quebec Anglophone community. He chaired many provincial and regional boards; worked with regional and provincial government representatives organizing events highlighting Ukrainian contributions to Quebec. He successfully made efforts to correctly rename a street near Spirit Lake internment site and its cemetery “Chemin du Cimetière-des-Ukrainiens”, in recognition of Ukrainians that were interned, an effort that took over one year working with the Quebec provincial government for the name change. He organized a historic visit on May 20, 2018 by the Honorable J. Michael Doyan, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec to the Spirit Lake Internment Centre/museum.
Since 2021, James worked to save and re-open the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Rouyn-Noranda, located in the heart of the city. The Christ the King Ukrainian Church was built in the 1950’s. After two years of intense efforts, working closely with Bishop Bayda, Bishop of the Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada, Rev. Ihor Oshchipko of Montreal, Dean of Eastern Canada Diocese and others. James received the good news, before his sudden passing. The Ukrainian church is to be finally revived. The timing could not be more appropriate with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 24, 2022 and brutal war against Ukraine, resulting in an influx of many Ukrainians to Rouyn-Noranda, Abitibi area and throughout Quebec.
James Slobodian was devoted to and worked for the benefit of Rouyn-Noranda, and its Ukrainian community throughout his life. Forever generous with his time, he tried to made a difference in helping to preserve and develop a community he loved.
He unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, April 29.
On May 4, 2023, a tribute to James Slobodian was given in The National Assembly of Quebec by Sébastien Lemire, Bloc Québecois, Deputy of Abitibi-Temiscamingue, “Homage à Jim Slobodian”.
James Slobodian is survived by his loving wife and partner-in-life Lucie Alarie, his daughters Tania and Kathleen Slobodian, sons Yuri and Yakim Slobodian and other family members.
Memorial service, visitations, funeral: See website: maisondelenvol.ca/dons
Vichna Jomu pamiat’! May His Memory Be Eternal
President, UCC-QPC, Mykhailo Shwec,
and Zorianna Hrycenko-Luhova