Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Standing Committee on International Trade, for this opportunity.
It is always an honour to be in our nation's capital. While we rely on various levels of government support, that of the federal government in recent years has been insurmountable. I don't think there is a Canadian who is unaware of Ukraine or of the Ukrainian culture. For many generations, Ukrainians have been contributing to Canada, and most recently, for at least one generation, Canada has been offering its generous support to an independent Ukraine.
Speaking briefly on the evolution of the Ukrainian workforce in Canada, 125 years ago the Canadian government offered parcels of land to farmers and labourers. The ensuing generations both assimilated and accelerated into Canadian mainstream society, achieving a myriad of professional designations and leadership positions, including as judges, members of Parliament, senators, and even governor general.
I myself am an immigrant. My family and I came to this country in the mid-1970s. Here I was able to pursue a higher education and an MBA. I even worked for the federal government at one point before launching my own business, which now operates on two continents, and specifically in Canada and Ukraine.
Another of our directors, Oleg Koval, arrived here in his thirties. A specialist in IT, he now employs dozens of people, has clients with diverse backgrounds, manages their IT needs, and in fact out-sources some tasks to his satellite office in Ukraine.
Our first VP at the Canadian-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, Mr. John Iwaniura was a recipient of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award. He is president of the Caravan Group, a trucking and logistics company with over 400 vehicles, employing several hundred people across Canada. These are but a few short examples of recent immigrants and their contribution to Canada's professional landscape.
For Canadians of Ukrainian origin, the desire to do trade with the country of origin, be it Poland, Ukraine, or Belarus, was near impossible to achieve during communist times. That said, in 1989 a two-week trade mission of over 100 businessmen and professionals from Canada to the Soviet Ukraine formed the initial structures to perpetuate trade between the two countries. In 1992, 25 years ago, the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce was formally incorporated. While its makeup initially was predominantly persons of Ukrainian descent, it now encompasses Canadians of all backgrounds actively engaged in business or pursuing business opportunities in Ukraine.
It has not been an easy road. As I am sure many of the committee members are aware, eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc countries were trying their best in the early days, marred with corruption, financial instability, raidership, and minimal local government support. These are simply a few of the factors that let only the strong ones survive.
That being said, there's a new generation of business and government people in Ukraine, many of them western educated, many fluent in English, who see the potential in long-term planning and growth, and the profitability possible therefrom.
I would note that there are a large number of current ministers, business people, lobbyists, and advocates for reform in Ukraine who are graduates of the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary program, CUPP, which, to this day, gives Ukrainian students an opportunity to intern in the Parliament of Canada. I just heard from Mr. Fonseca that one of them is working for him right now.
As recently as Monday, in Toronto, Prime Minister Groysman of Ukraine addressed over 100 Canadian business people at the Canada Ukraine Business Forum organized by us. While there were members of the Canadian Ukrainian community present—and I underline business people from our community—there were also a number of Canadian business professionals.
Prime Minister Groysman's chief adviser, and the director of the UkraineInvest initiative, is a Canadian lawyer named Daniel Bilak. The deputy minister of economic development and trade of Ukraine, Nataliya Mykolska is a graduate of the aforementioned CUPP.
Of worthy note, Canadian Lenna Koszarny, CEO of Horizon Capital, was part of the delegation on Monday as well. With over $600 million U.S. under her management, she and her team have made over 140 direct investments into the Ukrainian economy, consistently yielding profitable returns for their investors and shareholders. She encourages other Canadians to consider Ukraine as an investment hub, thus giving us a unique example not only of how Canadians successfully trade with their country or origin but how Canadians abroad attract other Canadians to that country as well.
Why is Ukraine important to Canada now? The answer is simple. Ukraine represents two extraordinary market highlights, which are brains and grains.
Historically, Ukraine was known as the bread basket of Europe. In recent times, it has become known as the brain basket, not only for Europe, but at the forefront of IT globally.
It is surpassing countries like India—