Bill 37: Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act

Alberta Hansard October 30, 2008

head: Introduction of Bills

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Aboriginal Relations.
Bill 37
Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It’s my pleasure to request leave to introduce a bill today being the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act.

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, this bill will recognize millions of Ukrainian men, women, and children who perished in the Ukrainian famine and genocide, Holodomor, of 1932-33. It will also establish and proclaim the fourth Saturday in November each year as the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day in Alberta. The debate on this historic bill will start in a few minutes.
[Standing ovation] Thank you, members.

[Motion carried; Bill 37 read a first time]


head: Orders of the Day

The Speaker: The hon. Government House Leader.

Mr. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would request unanimous consent of the House to waive Standing Order 77(1) to proceed to second reading of Bill 37. Our standing orders not allowing progress of more than one stage a day without unanimous consent, I would seek the consent of the House to proceed.

[Unanimous consent granted]

The Speaker: As I recognize the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Relations, is there an opportunity for us to revert to Introduction of Visitors?

[Unanimous consent granted]

head: Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker and colleagues.

It’s a pleasure to introduce to you some very special guests who are here in our galleries today. These people have been waiting a very long time for this bill to be brought forward, and they have helped enormously. I would like to introduce some of them to you right now. If they would stand and remain standing, we could then collectively applaud their presence:
the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council, Daria Luciw;
members of the “Liga” – League of Ukrainians Peter Dackiw and Jaroslaw Szewczuk;
members of the Ukrainian clergy His Grace Bishop Ilarion, Father Michael Maranchuk, Father Stephan Semotiuk, Father Cornell Zubritsky, Father Anton Tarasenko, and perhaps others are here.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, my wife, Christine, and my mother, Anna, are here.

If you would remain standing and if I could ask the rest of the members in our gallery to also please stand, I want to introduce to you survivors of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33. If they would please rise, we will applaud them one at a time:
Mariya Holynska, Fedir Horobec, Vera Ruday Horobec, Leonid Korownyk, Fedir Krykun, Stefania Krykun, Dusia Marych, Marija Prokopchuk and Hryhorij Prokopchuk, John Shaskin, Yar Slavutych, and Mrs. Natalia Hrebinska Talanchuk. [Standing ovation]

Mr. Speaker, our survivors of the Ukrainian famine and genocide are escorted today by Alberta’s first lady, Mrs. Marie Stelmach. Thank you, Marie, for being here to perform that function.

The Speaker: Hon. members, it’s a long time since 1932-33, and we live in a different world than the Ukraine, but interestingly enough there’s a connection. One of our pages, Maryna Muzychenko, was born in 1991 in the Ukraine and came to this country in 2002. Therein lies the connection of the times and the ages.


head: Government Bills and Orders
Second Reading

Bill 37
Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act

The Speaker: Proceed, please. The hon. the Premier.

Mr. Stelmach: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is my profound honour to rise as the first speaker in debate and, on behalf of my colleague the hon. Member for Edmonton-Mill Creek, to move second reading of Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act.

I do this with a great range of personal emotion. It goes from immense satisfaction that we are able to officially recognize this tragic event in law to a profound sorrow and sadness about the horrific circumstances that make a bill like this necessary. The manmade famine that was forced on the Ukrainian people by the former Soviet regime led to the annihilation of millions of innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children. It was without question one of the most heinous atrocities of modern history. Scholars and historians have estimated that as many as 7 million Ukrainians perished during this famine, perhaps even more when the areas adjacent to Ukraine’s borders are included. The exact number may never be known since historical data was destroyed or concealed by Soviet authorities.

The tragedy of this imposed starvation is almost unbelievable when one considers that Ukraine has been long known as the breadbasket of Europe. Ukraine is blessed with some of the most fertile and productive land in the world, chorna zemlia, as Ukrainians call it, black soil. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was the love of this fertile black soil that helped persuade early Ukrainian immigrants to choose Alberta as their new home. There are striking similarities between the land in Ukraine, particularly Western Ukraine, where the first wave of Ukrainians immigrating to Canada came from, and the land northeast of Edmonton, which is where those early pioneers were settled.

Now, when Ukrainian immigrants first began coming to Alberta in 1891-92, they felt welcomed by that black soil that reminded them of their homeland. My grandfather and grandmother were amongst those early pioneers who came to Alberta in the late 1890s, and Marie and I still maintain the original farm that they settled on. We till the same soil they did, and we also give thanks for the abundant crops that soil yielded, even though we had a lot of rocks to pick raising that crop.

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, I cannot offer a similar happy story about the abundant crops yielded by the black soil in Ukraine in 1932-33. In Ukraine the people farming this rich land were forced to deliver all of their marketable grain to the state. They were not allowed to sell it or keep it for themselves. Resistance could mean arrest and exile to Siberia. Neither were they allowed to keep any seed grain which was to start next year’s crops. Soviet authorities even blockaded Ukraine’s borders, which prevented farmers from travelling to neighbouring regions to obtain food to feed their families. Soviet authorities collected all of the marketable grain and exported it to earn money for new equipment to maintain Stalin’s breakneck pace of industrialization, nationalization, and collectivization.

It should be noted that at the same time that they were forcing Ukraine into famine, Soviet authorities were also arresting Ukraine’s intellectuals. It was truly an assault on Ukrainian people, which history is now proving was clearly premeditated and very deliberate. It was as if a war had been declared on the Ukrainian people.

Mr. Speaker, in spite of this devastating chain of events, mercifully a number of Ukrainians survived. They did so by resorting to extraordinary means, such as boiling and eating bark from trees, eating wild grass, and consuming whatever domestic or wild animals they could find. Others managed to escape the tyranny of their oppressors and found refuge in neighbouring countries. Today in your gallery are some of those survivors, who I want to recognize and also thank for their attendance. Once again, thank you so much for being here today.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]
How you survived that, only God knows. [As submitted]

I also want to thank all of our other guests in the galleries today, both members’ and public, and those who are listening in on the Internet around the world. We have representatives here from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council, the League of Ukrainian Canadians, the Ukrainian clergy, the University of Alberta, and from numerous community groups and organizations.

I am pleased to welcome all of you here today as proud Albertans of Ukrainian ancestry. You and your forebears helped build this great province, and you have been persistent in your efforts to inform and educate others about the Ukrainian famine and genocide, the Holodomor, as it is known.

It is in the memory of Holodomor victims, those millions of innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children, that we present this historic bill, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. I note that other Legislatures in Canada have supported or are currently supporting similar legislation, including the government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot change the past, and we cannot right the wrongs, but we can recognize this tragedy for the horror that it was. We can enshrine its commemoration into Alberta law, and we can forever respect those who survived and forever honour those who perished.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]
Eternal memory unto them. [As submitted]
Thank you. [Standing ovation]

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a solemn privilege for me to rise to debate this bill today. I want to start by thanking the Premier for his heartfelt and eloquent words. They were very touching, very powerful. Thank you.

Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act, will receive the wholehearted support of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The principles behind this bill are noble and deserving of the respect of all Albertans.

As the Premier has noted, the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, was a human catastrophe of massive scale, comparable to the Holocaust. Unlike the Holocaust, however, public awareness of the Holodomor remains relatively low, perhaps because the full measure of the truth wasn’t revealed for many decades after the fact and, indeed, is continuing to be revealed now. It is our hope that the memorial day act will help raise awareness of the Holodomor and perhaps offer some measure of comfort to the Albertans of Ukrainian heritage who still live with the sorrow of family members senselessly lost.

We can be justifiably proud that Alberta has played an important role in bringing the Ukrainian genocide to light. Robert Conquest’s book The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization & the Terror Famine, published by the University of Alberta Press in 1986, was one of the earliest books on the subject of the famine. In his introduction, Conquest wrote:
The story is a terrible one. Pasternak writes in his unpublished
memoirs, “In the early 1930s, there was a movement among writers
to travel to the collective farms and gather material about the new
life of the village. I wanted to be with everyone else and likewise
made such a trip with the aim of writing a book. What I saw could
not be expressed in words. There was such inhuman, unimaginable
misery, such a terrible disaster, that it began to seem almost abstract,
[as if] it would not fit within the bounds of consciousness. I fell ill.
For an entire year I could not write.”
That’s a quote from the book by Conquest, in turn quoting Pasternak.


It is amazing that a holocaust of such magnitude, with millions of victims, went largely unreported for so many years. But consider the lengths to which the Soviet government went to hide the truth. They fabricated the 1937 census. They had no choice. So many people had died that to publish accurate figures would have revealed to the world that something genuinely evil had happened. So they inflated the numbers to hide their crime.

This is why remembrance is so important. The Holodomor Memorial Day serves as a time of reflection and mourning, yes, but more importantly it keeps our collective memory of the event alive. The nature of this genocidal crime is particularly chilling. It involved the systematic starvation of an entire population. I can’t imagine a crueler means of subjugation than starving an entire people into submission and ultimately death: men, women, children, entire families slowly withering away, often dropping dead in the streets, all this in spite of the fact that there was indeed enough grain in the Soviet Union to feed everyone. In fact, in 1932 the Soviets passed a law that imposed sentences from 10 years in prison to death on any citizen that misappropriated any socialist property, including grain. Thousands of people were imprisoned and killed in just a few months. The law of the wheat ears, as it came to be known, made an already intolerable situation even worse.

It’s the kind of misery that those of us fortunate enough to live in developed nations and places like Alberta and Canada find impossible to imagine today. Yet despite the lessons of history, today genocide continues. We’ve seen it in Europe, and now we see it in Africa and in Asia.

Fortunately, good people all over the world are doing their best to keep the public informed about genocide. One of those people, the Member for Calgary-Mountain View, put his own health on the line when he went on a hunger strike last year to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Most of the deaths in that region have been attributed to starvation. How long will this continue?

Food is a basic, essential human right. To deliberately deprive innocent people of food is a crime against humanity, and indeed just this year the European Parliament recognized the Holodomor as such. There is a tragic irony in the Holodomor experience: famine in the midst of plenty in one of the world’s great breadbaskets, human beings subverting nature, almost mocking the land that we have heard about earlier, turning a nation of farmers into a nation dying of starvation.

We are so very fortunate the Ukrainians survived that experience and that they continue to enrich other nations with their skills and their perseverance. Much of Alberta’s artistic and agricultural wealth and so much more can be attributed to our Ukrainian immigrants, who to this day help make Alberta the rich, bountiful place it is.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to again thank the Premier, the minister, and the government for introducing this bill. History means nothing if we don’t keep it alive in our hearts and minds. The Holodomor Memorial Day will ensure that a tragic but important chapter of our world’s history remains relevant and cautionary for Albertans of all ages.
Thank you. [applause]

October 30, 2008 Alberta Hansard 1677

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Edmonton-HighlandsNorwood.

Mr. Mason: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I’m honoured to speak on behalf of my constituents and the New Democratic caucus in support of Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. Ukraine had long been the most agriculturally productive part of Europe. The Soviet Union’s determination to force the collectivization of farms and the requisitioning of grain led directly to a famine in which 10 million people
died. In a century filled with war and genocide, Holodomor stands as a tragic lesson in the abuse of power. It is a reminder of the necessity of working for a world determined by human rights and the dignity of all persons.

The fourth Saturday in November has been recognized by the Parliament of Canada and the Legislatures of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan as an annual day of remembrance of the genocide in Ukraine. I’m pleased that Alberta will now join in recognizing this occasion. Canada and the prairie provinces in particular have been profoundly shaped for the better by the large number of immigrants from Ukraine and their descendants. For us Holodomor is not a distant historical event in a distant country; it directly touches the lives of many Albertans and must always be remembered by all Albertans. Along with the Holocaust Memorial Day and Genocide Remembrance Act, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 2000, this bill will serve to remind us that we must ensure that the violent and tragic history of the 20th century will not be allowed to repeat itself ever again.
Thank you. [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Bonnyville-Cold Lake.

Mrs. Leskiw: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to speak in favour of Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. In Alberta today there are many individuals of Ukrainian descent whose families have been deeply affected by this horrific act in history.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]

Mr. Speaker, as the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants and as someone who has a large family still living in Ukraine, I am proud to be speaking to this bill today. I also want to sincerely thank my friend of many years the hon. Member for Edmonton-Mill Creek for having pursued this bill for many years and for today concluding that journey so very successfully by having it presented in our Alberta Legislature.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]

Bill 37 seeks to create awareness and understanding of Holodomor for what it was: a genocide induced by famine against the people of Ukraine. In Ukrainian the word “Holodomor” means hunger and plague; in other words, death from hunger, and I appreciate that this tragedy was much more than that. The Holodomor was a precalculated extermination by means of starvation. It occurred primarily between 1932 and 1933 and was imposed upon the people of Ukraine by the Communist regime of the day. It was a cruel and deliberate genocide that resulted in the death of millions of men, women, and children. Our most commonly referenced number of victims goes as high as 7 million to 10 million when we include residents of Ukraine as well as Ukrainians living in the nearby regions. It is a crime against humanity that should never be repeated. Mr. Speaker, it was a crime against the people of Ukraine that should not be forgotten. It is important now more than ever that we continue to preserve the memory of those who perished and those afflicted by these atrocious acts. We must honour their determination for survival and their ability to recover after such a horrific tragedy.


The current president of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, identifies the importance of recognition as a means of preservation and prevention with the following:
I address you on behalf of a nation that lost about ten million people
as a direct result of the Holodomor genocide . . . We insist that the
world learn the truth about all crimes against humanity. This is the
only way we can ensure that criminals will no longer be emboldened
by indifference.

In Alberta alone there are over 300,000 Ukrainian descendants, including our Premier and several other members of this Legislature. It would mean so much to all of these people if the province were to dedicate the fourth Saturday in November each year to honour the memory of the victims of the Holodomor. It is truly a remarkable way of honouring their memory and their struggle. The provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan have chosen to recognize this day also, and for Alberta to do so would be very meaningful for families like mine.

This bill memorializes the victims of Holodomor and preserves the legacy of its survivors. It will help honour the memory of those affected, and I hope and pray that it will prevent such tragedies from ever being repeated.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]
Never again. May eternal memory be upon them.
[Remarks in Ukrainian] [applause]

Alberta Hansard October 30, 2008

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Edmonton-Gold Bar.

Mr. MacDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am honoured today to rise and join my fellow MLAs in supporting Bill 37. It is a good bill with a very important purpose. November is already associated with remembrance, so it seems quite appropriate to me to add the fourth Saturday in November as a memorial day, a day to reflect on past tragedy and to hopefully ensure that such tragedies will not happen ever again.

In Churchill Square, not far from this Assembly, there is a monument to Holodomor. The monument is quite beautiful and evocative, if foreboding. It features hands withered by starvation reaching out for help, set against the background of a twisted and broken circle of life. For millions of Ukrainian victims of the famine the help they were crying out for never came.

Perhaps memorializing the fourth Saturday in November will help stand guard against tyranny, violence, and inhumanity as the Holodomor monument downtown demands. Millions died in the Holodomor, and the loss to the world is immeasurable. Who knows what gifts those murdered millions could have bestowed upon the world? Who knows what discoveries they might have made, what works of art they may have created? Who knows what legacies they may have left had they been allowed to live full lives in peace? It is terrible to contemplate the destruction of so many hopes and dreams. Every victim had a history, a name, personal ambitions, and unique gifts. Most importantly, they had loved ones. Every one of those victims wanted to provide for their families, to pursue their dreams, to enjoy the full measure of happiness and fulfillment that every human being hopes for and works toward. But the victims of Holodomor were denied the opportunity to pursue these dreams. In fact, they were denied any opportunities at all. Their futures were stolen by a cruel, evil government.

Some people have tried to cover up the Holodomor, claiming that it was an unavoidable natural disaster. It simply isn’t true. The hon. Premier spoke about this. Let’s get this on the record. In 1931 Ukrainians harvested over 18 million tonnes of grain; in 1932 over 14 million tonnes; in 1933 over 22 million tonnes. More than enough to feed Ukraine’s people. It is interesting to note that the highest death rates occurred in four of the Ukraine’s most fertile grain-growing provinces, including Odessa. Twenty to 25 per cent of people living in these provinces died during the artificial famine.

To deny innocent people food is the very definition of a crime against humanity, the kind of offence against common decency that resonates throughout history as an example of our worst failings. The only way to overcome the crime of genocide is to remember the victims and in their names create a world in which the crime becomes unthinkable. We can do that by defending human rights whenever they are threatened, by exercising our franchise as voters, by supporting policies that empower citizens, and by speaking out against racism and intolerance. Once we recognize that we all belong to a single human family, it becomes inconceivable to allow such crimes to occur against our brothers and sisters.

Bill 37, I hope, reminds Albertans that families right here in Alberta were profoundly affected by events that took place on the other side of the world. A crime of this nature shatters all barriers of nationality or creed. Genocide is an affront to the entire human family. Let’s do our part in Alberta to guard against further genocides. Bill 37 is a good first step.

In conclusion, on behalf of the constituents of Edmonton-Gold Bar I would like to personally thank the hon. Member for Edmonton Mill Creek for bringing this bill to the Assembly. Certainly, it is a very proud day for his community. It is also welcome news that your mother is up in the members’ gallery.
Thank you. [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Danyluk: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. A time comes when silence is betrayal: Martin Luther King said these words in 1967. They are as true today as they were then. Memorial celebrations such as this one are how we can pay tribute to those who perished in Holodomor. As a Ukrainian descendant I always will be honoured to speak of acts of recognition because speaking out is my way of acknowledging the pain and suffering experienced by the Ukrainian people: the men, women, and children who share faith, traditions, and a heritage the same as my own and the Ukrainian residents in my constituency.

The Holodomor was a horrific period in Ukrainian history, but in spite of this the Ukrainian spirit has remained strong. Some of the survivors of the famine and genocide and their descendants reside in Alberta. I want to recognize the horrors faced by their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends who perished. I would like to thank the survivors who immigrated to Alberta for the contributions they have made to make our communities strong with their resilience, dignity, and skill. I am proud to represent a constituency where so many Ukrainians thrive and enjoy a quality of life many of their forefathers could only dream of.

With deep respect I thank you for inviting me to speak today as we gather to remember those who died and pay honour to those who have survived. Do not let the sacrifice and the loss they experienced be forgotten. It is an injustice and a betrayal. Tell stories, remember, speak out. May their memory live forever, and may such tragedy never be repeated.
[Remarks in Ukrainian] [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Calgary-Currie.

Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to rise today in front of our guests, in front of the survivors, and echo the comments of my colleagues in support of Bill 37. It’s a bill that comes from the heart with noble intent, and I commend the minister, the Premier, and his government for bringing this forward.


Genocide is one of the ugliest words in the English language. It conjures up images of true horror and human misery, images I will not presume to describe. Everyone in this Assembly knows exactly what I’m talking about. For some tragedies there are truly no words. But whether or not we can do justice to the horror of genocide with our words, we have a duty to memorialize its victims with our actions, and this bill helps accomplish that goal.

On the fourth Saturday in November people across Alberta will take a moment to remember the millions of innocent Ukrainians who were callously starved by Soviet Communist tyranny. The news stories and word of mouth surrounding the memorial day will serve an important educational purpose. There are still many of us in Alberta who are unaware of this vitally important historical event. I am certain the discussion in Alberta communities this November will help raise awareness of the Holodomor. This is no small accomplishment, for history can only inform and caution when it is understood and remembered. You cannot anticipate and fight an enemy you have not taken the time to understand and to guard against. Shining the light of truth on secrets that villains would rather have remain buried is a noble pursuit. We should be proud that Albertans have helped and will continue to help shine that light. The Holodomor Memorial Day is not merely a tribute to the fallen; it is a beacon of compassion and goodwill that I hope will help dispel the darkness of future genocides. The millions who died during those dark days of the early 1930s are lost to us forever, yet the Ukrainian nation lives on, stronger than ever both in the nation proper and via its immigrants here in Alberta, across western Canada, and around the world to the benefit of us all.

The Holodomor was a tragedy, Mr. Speaker, but the survival of the Ukrainian people: that stands as a great human victory. Every living Ukrainian is proof that while you can starve the body, the human spirit is much more difficult to extinguish.
Thank you. [applause]

October 30, 2008 Alberta Hansard 1679

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Seniors and Community Supports.

Mrs. Jablonski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am honoured to rise in support of Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. Today we grieve with the families and the survivors for the horrible loss of life during the Ukrainian famine and genocide in the 1930s. We grieve with the families and survivors for the horrible loss of life during the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. We grieve with the families and survivors throughout the world for the horrible loss of life in each act of annihilation and terrorism that has destroyed countless lives throughout the world. We grieve for the world, for this is our collective loss.

Mr. Speaker, today we can also celebrate. We can celebrate the strength and the determination of the Ukrainian people and all people who have overcome these horrors and have dedicated their lives to raising happy and successful families. We can celebrate the many exciting cultural and historical gifts they bring to us. We can celebrate the numerous contributions they have made to our communities, our province, and our country.

On behalf of myself, my family, and my grandparents Mariam and Paravon Kalagian, who suffered the horrors of the Armenian genocide and also survived, I congratulate and thank the Ukrainian people for having the courage, the wisdom, and the strength to demonstrate to the world that they will not be defeated, they will not be destroyed but they will grow and prosper. They will make great contributions to medicine, education, science, and the arts, and they will help make this province, this country, and this world a better place for everyone to live, to love, and to laugh.
Thank you. [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Calgary-Varsity.

Mr. Chase: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity today to rise in support of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. I wholeheartedly support the principle of this bill: to help Albertans remember the Ukrainian tragedy. Remembrance is a key defence against future genocide.

When I watch or read the news coming in from around the world today or when I think about the violent history of our world, it is difficult not to be disheartened by the seemingly never-ending evidence of man’s inhumanity to man  In recent years we have seen genocidal violence in Rwanda, the Sudan, the former Yugoslavia. Before that we had the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century, and the Holocaust of World War II. One could argue that the near elimination of aboriginal culture in Australia and the Americas during the age of expansion came close to genocide. Our own residential schools contributed to cultural destruction and abuse.

There are, sadly, too many examples to list, but however different the circumstances of each particular tragedy, they all share one common characteristic. When the ugly engine of genocide coughs to life, it is started by one group of people who have decided through some twisted logic that another group of people does not deserve to live. Mr. Speaker, genocide is with us still. It is happening now. It will almost without doubt occur in the future. But one day genocide will be called well and truly a thing of the past, and that day will come because we are willing to remember these crimes. We remember the victims and the pain their families endured. We mourn the lost potential  We resolve to put a stop to the killing. As John Donne memorably wrote in the 17th century:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the
continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a
manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death
diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore
never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

In other words, no matter where or when genocide occurs, each and every human being is affected by the loss, so we all have a stake in preventing the greatest crime of all.

I commend the government and the minister for bringing this bill forward. This November I will remember and respect the victims of the Holodomor, as will all our fellow citizens. In remembering the crimes of the past, we help prevent the crimes of the future.
Thank you. [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Edmonton-Castle Downs.

Mr. Lukaszuk: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When you visit Ekaterina, a Ukrainian senior, she will insist that you eat. “I can’t have you leaving here hungry,” she says. “Here. Just have a bowl of soup, and maybe later you’ll feel like having a sandwich, a cup of tea, and a piece of cake.” This hospitable 87-year-old cannot bear the thought of her guests being less than full. But, then, she has a horror of going hungry. Seventy-five years ago, Mr. Speaker, like with your guests, some members of Ekaterina’s family and almost all of her neighbours starved to death in a man-made famine that killed millions in the Ukraine.

The Holodomor, as it is known in Ukraine, was part of Joseph Stalin’s program to crush the resistance of the peasantry to collectivization of farms. When in 1932 the grain harvest did not meet the Kremlin’s targets, activists were sent to the villages, where they confiscated not only grain and bread but all the food that they could find. The confiscations continued into 1933, and the results were devastating. No one is sure how many people died, but historians say that in under a year at least 3 million and possibly up to 10 million starved to death. The horrors Ekaterina saw live still with her. “We didn’t have any funerals; whole families died,” she tells me. “Of our neighbours I remember all the Soloveiki family died, all of the Kapushuks, all the Rahachenkos, too, and the Yeremo family: three of them still alive were thrown into the massive grave.” Ekaterina, her mother, and a brother survived by eating tree bark, roots, and whatever they could find.


Though some, like Ekaterina, can never forget what happened, many Ukrainians had never heard of the famine until the country’s independence; such was the secrecy about it during the Soviet years. But every year since independence events to commemorate the famine get larger, and the momentum is growing behind the campaign to raise international awareness of what happened. This year, Mr. Speaker, marks the 75th anniversary of the start of Holodomor, and Ukraine is holding a year of commemorations. Ukraine has officially declared the Holodomor a genocide. It says the famine was part of a campaign to crush Ukrainian nationalism.

As Albertans we are forever interwoven with Ukrainian history, heritage, and its great people. This is why, Mr. Speaker, it is incumbent upon us to honour the victims of this senseless act of genocide inflicted upon the Ukrainian people.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to profoundly thank our Member for Edmonton-Mill Creek and our Premier for his leadership in spearheading Bill 37. Thank you. [applause]

Alberta Hansard October 30, 2008

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Edmonton-Decore.

Mrs. Sarich: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is an honour to rise before the Assembly today in support of Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. If proclaimed, the fourth Saturday in November will become a day that we all can commemorate the horrendous losses of the Ukrainian famine/genocide in 1932-33.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I support this bill. I support the bill because I think it is important to remember those who perished and to honour those who survived. I think it’s important that we all recognize and acknowledge the pain and misery that the Ukrainian people endured during those years.

For me, being a fourth-generation Ukrainian and valuing my heritage and culture to no end, I feel connected to this tragedy. Even though my great-grandparents were fortunate in that they immigrated to Canada at the turn of the last century and were amongst the many first pioneers to break the lands east of Edmonton and even though they did not live in the Ukraine and through the horror of Holodomor, I deeply sympathize with anyone and everyone who did.

The devastation was unimaginable and humanists absent. To have endured the experience of losing a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, families, relatives, and communities to hunger because there was literally no food is unconscionable. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard we all try, we will never truly understand the weight and intensity of the emotions, the loss of life, the human crisis and affliction which these people experienced in the past and the burden of the dark memories that live forever in the minds of the survivors.

With this bill, however, Mr. Speaker, I would remember. I would remind myself of the agony and injustice of Holodomor. I would remind myself of the cruelty inflicted on innocent people in the Ukraine as they were starved to the point of death. I would take leave of the hurriedness of everyday living and always hold in my heart a special moment to remember and pray for all those who perished and all those who survived. Ultimately, I support this bill because I believe it would help to bring about more awareness of Holodomor, convey the sympathy of Albertans, and contribute to the recognition of Ukrainian people within Alberta and all over the world. Mr. Speaker, may the souls of the Holodomor dearly departed rest in eternal peace always. [applause]

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Edmonton-Calder.

Mr. Elniski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to speak in favour of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Act. Ukraine in the 1930s was among the darkest periods in history ever experienced by the Ukrainian people. The horrors of the Holodomor go far beyond what has been recognized by today’s society and by modern history. For this reason recognition of this event for what it is, a genocide, is essential to correctly acknowledge one of mankind’s darkest events.

The history of Holodomor clearly recognizes the terror experienced by the Ukrainian people and the genocide committed by Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime. In 1922 Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. As Stalin strengthened his iron grasp over the Soviet Union, policies of collectivism spread across the nation. The forced collectivization of agriculture was intended to increase output from large-scale, mechanized farms. It was also a method of bringing the peasantry under direct control.

Collectivization meant drastic social change of which many did not approve, particularly in the Ukraine. Ukrainian farmers resisted vigorously when the Soviet secret police forced them to turn their land, machinery, and grain over to the government. To increase grain exports from the Ukraine, Moscow imposed grain procurement quotas on the Ukraine. This left only minimal to no grain for the Ukrainian people. Laws were passed declaring that anyone who was caught hoarding food was subject to execution as an enemy of the people or, in extenuating circumstances, imprisoned for not less than 10 years, which really amounted to the same thing since none of them came back. The Communist regime dispatched commissions and brigades to make sure these laws were brutally enforced over the Ukrainian people. It is through these commissions and brigades that the homes of the Ukrainian people were broken into. The Soviets thoroughly searched the houses and barns of Ukrainian peasants and confiscated every bit of edible food that they could find. If food was found through these searches, the Ukrainian peasants, often accused of hoarding food or stealing from the state, were then subject to Soviet punishment. Stalin’s collectivization policy was successful in increasing grain exports and industrializing the Soviet Union. However, this collectivization policy came at the cost of the annihilation of entire villages throughout the Ukraine. Even though starvation was rampant in the Ukraine, the Soviet grain procurement continued. The result of this was a famine the magnitude of which may never fully be known.

The unthinkable stories as a result of the socialist policies continue to haunt many Ukrainians today. These policies directly led to the starvation of the Ukrainian people and clearly indicate that the Soviet regime favoured and intended genocide of the Ukrainian people. It is estimated that the Ukrainians were dying at a rate of 25,000 a day. Estimates suggest that over 3 million babies born between 1932 and 1933 died of starvation, leading to an estimated total of 10 million deaths of Ukrainians during this period.

It is the realization of this dark moment in world history that has led many countries, including Australia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Peru, Poland, the United States, and Canada, to recognize the fact that the Soviet regime committed genocide upon the people of the Ukraine. The provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also recognized the genocide and have established the last Saturday of November as the official day of the Ukrainian famine and genocide.

There are many survivors of the Ukrainian famine and genocide of 1932-1933, and many of their descendants made new lives here in Alberta. Provincial recognition of this genocide is very useful and meaningful to all Ukrainian descendants who call Alberta their home. On behalf of the numerous members and friends of the Ukrainian community who reside in the Edmonton-Calder constituency I would like to thank my colleagues for the one simple act of your support of recognition and preservation. Sadly, once again we acknowledge something that we must not forget.
Thank you. [applause]

October 30, 2008 Alberta Hansard 1681

The Speaker: The hon. Deputy Government House Leader and
Minister of Aboriginal Relations.

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, today is truly a hallmark day, and I rise as probably the final speaker on this bill for the afternoon. It’s a hallmark day in our province because it marks a significant milestone for Alberta and for everyone who values the gifts of life and freedom, for everyone who denounces the actions of those who only seek to destroy lives and freedoms. Today we join tens of millions of others around the world, in our own province, and in our own country who have enacted laws and policies to commemorate one of the largest genocides known to mankind, the Ukrainian famine and genocide of 1932-33.

At the outset I want to sincerely thank all of my colleagues for their support to those who have already spoken in support of the bill, but most of all I’d like to thank our Premier for his support in allowing me to personally bring this bill into this House. As everyone here knows, it’s not in my portfolio, but it’s in my heart, and I’ve been working on it for years. So thank you for that, Mr. Premier, and to other colleagues.


I also want to thank the opposition leaders and their House leaders for their support and also for their agreement to allow this bill to go through all three stages in this House in one day. Thank you. As you have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, this procedural point of allowing all three stages of a bill to be passed in the House is extremely rare. Members in the gallery, you should know that this particular procedural point is so rare that it has only been accomplished in this Legislature three times in the history of Alberta, so it’s an historic moment from that point of view, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for pointing that out to us.

Thanks to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council and its president, Daria Luciw, her volunteer executive members and her staff, and to the League of Ukrainians, formerly known as the League of Ukrainians for the Freedom of Ukraine. It is now free thanks to their efforts and their volunteer members, who have worked with me for years to promote education and awareness of the Holodomor famine and genocide of 1932-33.

My other thanks with respect to this bill, its spirit and its intent, go to the Advisory Council on Alberta-Ukraine Relations, chaired by my colleague from Bonnyville and co-chaired by myself and attended by volunteers from throughout the province.

To the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian studies at the University of Alberta, in particular to Dr. Zenon Kohut and Dr. Bohdan Klid for their research assistance; also to Dr. Natalia Pylypiuk for her work on the translation of the word “Holodomor,” which is a put-together word, if you will; to Warren Singh, one of our researchers, for his enormous research last year in particular and throughout the beginning of this year; to Dr. Roman Petryshyn from Grant MacEwan College; to Marco Levytsky from Ukrainian News for their help in the development of this bill; also to Ron Glen, Jordon Copping, and George Samoil in the Premier’s office for helping to make it happen. I also want to recognize Natalia Toroshenko, a councillor from Vegreville who is here, for her support. Thank you to Boris Radyo, assistant superintendent of Edmonton Catholic schools, to Dr. Bohdan Medwidsky, Radomir Bilash, and others who have participated and contributed.

Now with the permission of the Assembly, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to offer a few words in my first language and in the native language of our special guests.
[Remarks in Ukrainian]

I want to say a few words of thanks to all of you, our guests, who are here today and in particular to our very special guests, the survivors of the Ukrainian famine and genocide in Ukraine. It is impossible for us to understand what you endured and lived through in order to survive and what you must be living through in your memories every day. Nonetheless, we rejoice in your presence here with us today, and we pray to Almighty God for your continued health and wellness. [As submitted]

Among the survivors, Mr. Speaker, is my former professor of Ukrainian, so I hope I got all the grammar right, Professor Slavutych. Mr. Speaker, it is significant to note that the atrocities committed against Ukrainian people, particularly in the early 1930s, must never be forgotten, as every one of the colleagues who have spoken before
me has mentioned. That’s one of the central purposes of this bill before us today. It serves to remind us that millions upon millions of Ukrainian people perished in one of the most despicable and inhumane methods of torture and death, extermination by starvation, as offered by our Harvard scholar linguist Dr. Natalia Pylypiuk. It serves to educate us and to educate future generations that denying, concealing, and/or destroying historical information such as was done by Soviet authorities of the day is not only unacceptable; it is deplorable. It serves to enshrine in each of us, in our hearts and in our minds, the intrinsic value we hold for democratic freedoms, human rights, and the rule of law.

Ultimately this bill compels us to commemorate the Ukrainian famine and genocide, Holodomor, of 1932-33 on the fourth Saturday of November in every year henceforth. Obviously, with the anticipated passage of this bill today, this year’s famine commemoration at Edmonton city hall and in front of what I believe is Canada’s first-ever monument erected for honouring the victims, right here in Edmonton, Alberta, will have much added meaning for all of us, for the survivors, supporters, and sympathizers in Alberta will know that their provincial leaders, their MLAs, stood united on this day in this purpose.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to thank you for your support and assistance in helping make today’s tribute so very welcoming, so very special for all of our guests. You, the Minister of Infrastructure, from Drumheller-Stettler, and the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit along with all others who are here have all been very helpful and very supportive.

With that, Mr. Speaker, and as the creator of this bill, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act, I’m pleased to conclude debate at second reading with just one reminder, a special invitation to everyone, particularly to our Premier, to the leader of the Liberal opposition, to the leader of the ND opposition, to join our friends for a brief hunger reception, which will take place in the rotunda. It’s not a formal event. It will only feature the serving of a broth soup and a nonbuttered slice of bread. We wear this special lapel mark as a symbol of our feelings today for those who perished and our respect for those who survived. To all my MLAs and colleagues here, thank you. [Standing ovation]

[Motion carried unanimously; Bill 37 read a second time]


head: Government Bills and Orders
Committee of the Whole

[Mr. Marz in the chair]

The Acting Chair: I’d like to call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill 37
Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act

The Acting Chair: Are there any comments, questions, or amendments to be offered with respect to this bill?
Seeing none, are you ready for the question?

Hon. Members: Question.

[The clauses of Bill 37 agreed to]

[Title and preamble agreed to]

The Acting Chair: Shall the bill be reported? Are you agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chair: Opposed? That’s carried.
The hon. Government House Leader.

Alberta Hansard October 30, 2008

Mr. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would move that the committee rise and report Bill 37, the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act.

[Motion carried]

[Mr. Marz in the chair]

The Acting Speaker: The hon. Member for Leduc-Beaumont-Devon.

Mr. Rogers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Committee of the Whole has had under consideration a certain bill. The committee reports the following bill: Bill 37.

The Acting Speaker: Does the Assembly concur in the report?

Hon. Members: Concur.

The Acting Speaker: Opposed? So ordered.

[The Speaker in the chair]

The Speaker: The hon. Government House Leader.

Mr. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would again request unanimous consent of the House to waive Standing Order 77(1) to allow third reading to proceed on Bill 37.

[Unanimous consent granted]

head: Government Bills and Orders
Third Reading

Bill 37
Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise to move third reading of Bill 37, Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act.

Once again, I thank everyone for their strong support.

The Speaker: Hon. members, and ladies and gentlemen, in the history of our Parliament events such as this are very, very rare. All phases of a bill have been passed today, but the bill has not been put into the record. I would now like to do that before we vote on it. Bill 37, Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act. It contains a preamble.

WHEREAS millions of Ukrainians perished as a result of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33;

WHEREAS the term “Holodomor” is a Ukrainian word that means “extermination by means of starvation” and is used to describe the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33;

WHEREAS it is recognized that the Soviet authorities denied, concealed or destroyed information about the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33 and that accurate information about this tragic event is only now being made available;

WHEREAS the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the largest regional security organization in the world, passed a resolution that welcomes the recognition of the Holodomor in the United Nations, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and by the national parliaments of a number of the OSCE participating States;

WHEREAS the OSCE strongly encourages all parliaments to adopt acts regarding recognition of the Holodomor;

WHEREAS some of the survivors of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33 and their descendants reside in Alberta and have contributed greatly to Alberta’s cultural, economic, political and educational life;

WHEREAS the people of Alberta value democratic freedoms, human rights and the rule of law, honour the values of compassion and honesty, and cherish the multicultural vibrancy of the Province;

WHEREAS the 4th Saturday in November has been recognized by the Parliament of Canada and by other Legislatures in Canada as a day to commemorate the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33;

WHEREAS 2008 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33; and

WHEREAS it is important and fitting to observe Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day for the purposes of recognizing the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) of 1932-33 and of reflecting on the horrific legacy of this event;

THEREFORE HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, enacts as follows:

Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day
1 The 4th Saturday in November in each year is proclaimed as
“Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.”

[Motion carried unanimously; Bill 37 read a third time] [Standing ovation]

The Speaker: Mr. Premier, Mr. Minister, and hon. members, you can do very, very good work in this Assembly. You did such today. This House is now adjourned until 1:30 Monday next.

[At 4:08 p.m. the Assembly adjourned to Monday at 1:30 p.m.]