By Marco Levytsky Editorial Writer.
For the second year in a row the Russian Pavilion has been shut out of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival, which took place August 5-7. Last year it voluntarily withdrew citing an inability to get volunteers “due to the current negativity associated with Russia”. This year it wanted to attend but was denied by the Heritage Festival Board which cited safety as a concern. “Despite our confidence in our ability to put on a safe festival, we recognize that if the Russian pavilion were to participate in the festival this year there is a real potential for incidents and potential safety risk,” they said.
While the decision was correct, the rationale provided by the Heritage Festival Board was without foundation. Unstated, but clearly implied, was the risk of violence from the Ukrainian community! Data compiled since Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine, however, provides no basis for such an allegation. And that holds true notwithstanding the recent inflow of thousands of refugees into Edmonton and the rest of Alberta, many of whom have lost their loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods to Russia’s genocidal aggression, and/or may have brothers, husbands and fathers putting their lives on the line every day. Indeed, if one is to tally-up the acts of violence and vandalism that have been perpetrated in Canada since Russia launched its illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the vast majority of these criminal acts have been directed not against the Russian community in Canada – but against Ukrainians themselves. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has documented several such instances. Among them:
• Edmonton, AB March 13, 2022 – Physical attack on Ukrainian fans at hockey game;
• Burnaby, BC – March 19 2022 – Church mural destroyed;
• Charlottetown, PEI – April 11, 2022 – Flags vandalized and stolen;
• Sudbury, ON – April 12 , 2022 – Attack on church;
• Sudbury, ON – April 23, 2022 – Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) Building’s windows smashed;
• Markham, ON – April 29, 2022 – Hate-motivated vandalism of vehicle;
• Kitchener, ON – April 2022 – Z painted on ’Donate to Ukraine” signs;
• Levis, QC – April 2022 – Z spray painted, flag stolen;
• Edmonton, AB – May 13 2022 — UNF Building vandalized;
• St. Catharines, ON June 20, 2022 – Home showing support for Ukraine vandalized;
• Ottawa, ON – August 17, 2022 – Attack on Ukrainian symbol outside Russian embassy;
• Montreal, QC – September 20, 2022 – Demonstrators outside Russian consulate attacked;
• Ottawa, ON – January 27, 2023. Carleton University – Anti-Ukrainian graffiti on campus, student threatened;
• Langley, BC – March 11, 2023 – Home with Ukrainian flags vandalized.
• Most recently, a Ukrainian youth camp north of Montreal was vandalized with graffiti.
Responding to this ban, the Russian Heritage Cultural Development Association (RHCDA), which organizes the pavilion, issued a statement on their Facebook Page lamenting that their human rights have been violated, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and appealing to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
“We are a Canadian Association, not connected to the Russian government in any way, and we have never been supported by the Russian government in any way, as the other organization(s) persistently stated,” they proclaimed.
If that is the case, then why doesn’t the RHCDA stand up for Canadian values – values such as democracy, and the sovereignty of independent states, instead turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Russia in its genocidal war against the people of Ukraine.
When Russia launched its illegal invasion, the RHCDA’s silence was deafening.
When civilian dwellings – apartments, schools, hospitals were deliberately targeted by Russia for missile attacks, its silence was deafening.
When the torture, rape, and murder by Russian soldiers of Ukrainian prisoners of war, and civilian men, women and children was revealed after the Ukrainian Armed Forces liberated occupied territories, its silence was deafening.
When Ukrainian children were kidnapped and taken to Russia in frighteningly large numbers to be adopted by Russian families, and then be brainwashed and Russified over time, eliminating all traces of their Ukrainian identity, its silence was deafening.
When Russian soldiers blew up the Kakhovka Dam, flooding hundreds of square kilometres in southern Ukraine, its silence was deafening.
When the Russians bombed Odesa in a bid to prevent Ukrainian grain from reaching global markets that rely upon those supplies to avoid famine, its silence was deafening.
Given the RHCDA’s thunderously deafening silence regarding Russia’s genocidal war in Ukraine and its no less profoundly deafening silence regarding the violations of human rights in Russia itself, we find its claims of having been denied the protection of the UN Charter and of its fundamental human rights in Canada to be both unctuously insincere and sickeningly hypocritical.
The RHCDA’s deafening silence in the face of ongoing genocide in Ukraine by Russia is all the more disturbing when compared to the responses of other diasporas and ethnocultural groups in Canada whose homelands are ruled by oppressive regimes. Take the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton (IHSE), for example. Their Facebook page ((https://www.facebook.com/IranianHeritageSocietyofEdmonton/) is topped by a banner (See adjoining picture) which clearly shows their opposition to what they term as the “gender apartheid regime of Iran”. And, for the record, there are Russian Canadians that are not afraid to do what is right in the face of Russian tyranny and war crimes. On August 2, CBC’s The National featured a report about one such group that has gone to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
So, if the RHCDA wants to be accepted by Canadians as a Canadian organization then let it take the example of the Iranian Canadians who actively oppose the tyrannical regime in their homeland or that of their own Canadian compatriots of Russian heritage who are actively helping Ukrainian refugees. Stand up for Canadian values like democracy, international rule of law and the sovereignty of independent states. Stand up for human rights in Russia. Denounce Moscow’s unprovoked, illegal and genocidal war against Ukraine. Denounce all the horrendous atrocities that have been committed by Russian soldiers against the people of Ukraine. Stand up and do the right thing.