Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-459, which would formally commemorate the victims of Ukraine's great famine of 1932-33, the Holodomor, by establishing a memorial day and recognizing this tragedy as an act of genocide.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Canadian Identity recognized, on behalf of the Government of Canada, the Holodomor is a genocide. I thank him for the dedication he has shown to ensuring that the crimes of the far left are not whitewashed over by history.
Commemoration of the Holodomor focuses on freedom and human rights, themes important to all Canadians. We owe it to the millions of victims of the Holodomor and to our children and grandchildren to shine a bright light on this terrible event.
As our Prime Minister said last November during the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the famine, “remembering those who died, and why they died, is our best hope against history repeating itself”.
The Canadian people have long recognized that the great famine was a terrible human tragedy. It was a time when food, a basic necessity for life, was used as a weapon in the pursuit of ideological views and goals, with whole villages in rural Ukraine dying by way of slow and painful starvation. Millions of Ukrainians lost their lives as a result of the policies of the Communist regime of Joseph Stalin, designed to punish those who had opposed the forced collectivization program of the 1930s.
The year 2008 marks the 75th anniversary of the great famine and it is fitting that we rise today to support its remembrance. This is all the more important when we reflect back on the efforts to hide what was occurring. While millions starved to death, the government of the Soviet Union claimed to the world that there was no famine, refusing offers of aid from international relief organizations and continuing with exports of grain to the west.
Many western journalists, including Walter Duranty of The New York Times, and the Fabian socialist intellectual, George Bernard Shaw, denied the famine and blamed the stories on anti-communist hysteria. Even today, those who oppose recognizing the Holodomor as a genocide make the same accusations of excessive anti-communism. It is not possible to be excessively antagonistic toward communism.
Eyewitnesses, like Malcolm Muggeridge, whose son, the late John Muggeridge, settled in Canada, and whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren are proud Canadians, was one of the few who told the truth. He wrote:
The novelty of this particular famine, what made it so diabolical, is that it was the deliberate creation of a bureaucratic mind, ... without any consideration whatever of the consequences in human suffering,
Finally, in 1990 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine issued a statement admitting that the famine had been a man-made creation of Stalin's socialist regime.
In recognizing the Holodomor, we do not in any way detract from the heinousness of other crimes against humanity, such as the Shoah against the Jewish people in which six million Jews were murdered under the ideological and racial imperatives of national socialism.
No one who lived before 1789 could have conceived of these terrible crimes that have scarred the history of mankind. In that year, of course, the French Revolution introduced the first genocide to modern history with the murder of the king and with the mass execution of 250,000 men, women and children in the Vendée, the region of France that most strongly resisted the revolutionary terror. Thus began the history of regicide and genocide that was repeated on an even more terrible scale in the 20th century by the creeds of national socialism and international socialism.
In Canada, our government is embodied in the Crown. When we pass laws, we do so in the name of Her Majesty the Queen in Parliament. This is a very potent symbol of our freedom and independence.
The Crown, which stands for our rights and freedoms as Canadians, for Canadian sovereignty and for our determination to uphold freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, stands as a powerful reminder that Canada was spared the crimes against humanity that afflicted the Ukrainian people and countless other victims. These victims included the Queen's cousin, Czar Nicholas II and his family who were murdered on Lenin's direct order.
Canada has been an active participant in activities of remembrance for the victims of the horrors of the Soviet genocide in Ukraine. The extent of this activity reflects the fact that throughout the long period of Soviet rule in Ukraine, the Canadian government and Canadians of Ukrainian heritage worked together to promote memory of the famine and to ensure that the dream of an independent, democratic and prosperous Ukraine never died. That independence was achieved in 1991.
In the last 10 years, as Soviet archives added to our understanding of what happened under Communist regimes, there has been a renewed interest in commemoration.
On November 7, 2003, to mark the 70th anniversary of the great famine, 25 states, including Canada, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States of America, co-sponsored a joint statement within the United Nations General Assembly to officially recognize the great famine as the national tragedy of the Ukrainian people.
This resolution expressed remembrance for the lives of millions of innocent people in 1932-33, and equally the millions of Russians and representatives of other nationalities who died of starvation in the Volga River region, Northern Caucasus, Kazakhstan and in other parts of the former Soviet Union, including the terrible deportation of the nationalities to Siberia.
More recently, on November 30, 2007, a joint statement was issued by 32 participating states, including Canada, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to mark the beginning of the 75th anniversary of the great famine of 1932-33. This statement paid tribute to the memory of the victims of this national tragedy of the Ukrainian people. It also underlined the importance of raising public awareness of the tragic events of our common past.
Establishing a memorial day to honour the memory of those who perished in Ukraine and in other parts of the Soviet Union in 1932 and 1933 is part of this process of reconciliation and healing.
The Ukrainian Canadian community of more than one million citizens was among the first to recognize the need to bring the great famine to the world's attention. Accordingly, Ukrainian Canadians have been at the forefront in ensuring that the famine is recognized for the terrible suffering it brought. The Ukrainian Canadian community has erected memorials to honour Holodomor victims in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Windsor.
In light of the special kinship that exists between Canada and Ukraine, the Canadian government recognizes that after decades of suppression and denial, Ukrainians and Ukrainian Canadians want to make symbolic expiation for the dignity that was denied in life to those victims of communism.
I am therefore pleased to support the objective of establishing a day of remembrance as proposed in Bill C-459.
Remembrance is a living memorial to the victims, their loss of life, human rights and dignity, and a tribute to the fact that sometimes, in some places, truth prevails over darkness and denial.