By: Fred Mercnik in Niagara-on-the-Lake
In 1918, 26 Polish soldiers were buried in the Polish Military Cemetery behind St.Vincent de Paul Church.The small plot of graves is immediately distinguishable from the others in St. Vincent de Paul cemetery. Surrounded by a small iron fence, the 25 graves bear the emblem of a white eagle, the symbol of a free Poland. The soldiers were newly emigrated Polish-Americans when they traveled from the U.S to Niagara-on-the-Lake to train for an independent Polish army during the First World War. About 20.000 trainees filed through Niagara from 1917 to 1919, sleeping in barns, outnumbering the town's residents. The men in the graves died in the Spanish influenza pandemic. Each year, local Poles march from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake to the cemetery plots, commemorating not only the spirit of the volunteers but the liberation of the motherland.
Republished with permission from Fred Photo.
by Lucy Slavianska (@lucylsl) in Toronto, Ontario
As mainstream media focus on the war in Ukraine and Canada’s position on it, headlines in the Eastern European diaspora media reveal some of the other challenges, struggles and joys of its community in Canada.
Canada Relaxes Visa Requirements for Citizens of Romania And Bulgaria
Romanian and Bulgarian media report on the Harper government’s decision to relax the visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.
According to new regulations coming in 2016, Bulgarian Flame reports, Bulgarian citizens who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who hold a U.S. non-immigrant visa will no longer need to apply for Canadian visas, but will only have to register for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The same regulations apply for Romanian citizens.
The news came after Romania and Bulgaria, both European Union (EU) members, declared they would not ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a EU-Canada free-trade agreement, if Ottawa would not lift the visa requirements for their nationals. In order for CETA to come into effect, all 28 EU members must ratify it.
Prior to Bulgaria and Romania, the Czech Republic declared it wouldn’t ratify CETA if Canada didn’t lift the visa requirement for Czech citizens. The Harper government removed visas for Czech citizens, but only relaxed the requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians.
“It is a step towards the total lifting of visas for Romanians,” Pagini Romanesti writes, “but it seems unlikely that the Canadian authorities will take this decision very soon.”
Canadians, on the other hand, don’t need visas for any of the EU countries, including Romania and Bulgaria.
Biometric Data Collection Expands for Visitors to Canada
The federal government announced that the collection of biometric data from people entering Canada would vastly expand.
Polish website Bejsment.com, however, informed its readers that Poles who cross the Canadian border do not have to provide such data, because the new regulations do not apply to nationals of countries with which Canada has visa-free agreements. Also, the website explains that the biometric data of the Polish citizens are already saved in the electronic chips of their passports.
However, citizens of 148 countries who require visas will be subject to biometric data collection which includes fingerprints, facial and iris scanning. According to the federal government, the tightening of border control would not only increase the internal security, but would also limit the influx of unwanted people.
The drawback of the new project is the high cost – about $200 million for installation, and about $20 million annually for maintenance of the system.
Despite the expenses, security expert John Thompson believes that other countries should follow Canada’s example. In fact, collecting biometric data is already a common practice in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Photo Credit: Bejsment.com (Accompanied original referenced article.)
The Fight for Kindergarten Ukrainian-Language Programs
Parents, teachers, community activists and organizations are concerned about anticipated changes in the decades-old Ukrainian language program running in three kindergarten classes in Toronto’s Eastern-Rite Catholic schools. In five articles, the Ukrainian-Canadian news portal New Pathway followed the heated discussions and actions of the Ukrainian community to preserve the language program.
Until 2014, the three kindergartens, which included separate half-day classes in Ukrainian, were partly funded by parents. When they became fully funded by the province, John Yan, senior coordinator at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), said there would be changes to the Ukrainian language component’s delivery.
Meanwhile, a petition stated, “Teachers were informed that they have to abandon their separate Ukrainian classrooms and assume support duties within the regular English curriculum.”
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Toronto branch announced a committee of parents and community activists would challenge the changes. Some of the group’s main concerns were, “the difficulty of combining instruction in two languages for young children in a single session,” “the volume of instruction in Ukrainian” and “ways to ensure the interests of Ukrainian teachers in the new circumstances.”
After several meetings, the prompt and united actions of the Ukrainian community members resulted in successful negotiations with TCDSB. On June 3, 2015, the UCC and TCDSB released a joint statement announcing children would spend half a day with an English teacher and the other half with a Ukrainian one and an ECE (early childhood education) team.
Photo: St. Josaphat Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years // Photo Credit: tcdsb.org
Annual Competitions Encourage Reading, Writing and Spelling in Polish
To stimulate young people of Polish background to learn, use and improve their Polish-language skills, Polish schools in most provinces organize competitions in essay writing, reading and spelling at the end of every school year. Polish portal Goniec published Teresa Szramek’s report on the most popular competitions in the country.
This year, the Best Essay in Polish Language competition was held for the 50th time. According to Szramek, the jury did a tremendous job, reading and evaluating hundreds of essays sent from Polish schools from all across Canada. Among the grading criteria were the ability to use the language beautifully and the courage to speak out on difficult subjects.
The reading contest, “Champion at Reading Beautifully,” took place at John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre Mississauga. Children read a text by Barbara Gawryluk’s My Bullerby, a novel about a girl who faces challenges when her parents decide to emigrate from Poland to Sweden.
“The reading contest for children is really important,” Szramek writes, “especially in the era of ubiquitous Internet. The contest aims, among other things, to arouse interest in books, which are a cultural asset of every nation, and to encourage reading, because books develop the imagination and enrich the vocabulary of the young readers.”
A record number of candidates also competed for the title of Spelling Champion of the Year 2015.
Photo Credit: Goniec (Accompanied original referenced article.)
Volunteers Run “Food Bank On Wheels”
People who use the Canadian social assistance system should not just passively wait for help – many of them could be more actively engaged in improving of their situations and the lives of others in need, says Lada Alexeychuk in Russian Week.
Alexeychuk is involved in an organization created and run by volunteers who call this activity “food bank on wheels.”
The work is simple: the volunteers talk to grocery store and warehouse managers and, at the end of the day, pick up the food that has not been sold. They immediately deliver this food to the homes of people in need. In this way, about 100 people receive fresh fruit and vegetables every week.
Alexeychuk writes that elderly people are especially grateful for this home-delivery service in winter, because they don’t have to walk the slushy, slippery streets to get food.
Since products are delivered the same day, the “food bank” doesn’t need storage or administrative staff. All it takes is the will to help others.
“The reasons people need help are different – unemployment, sickness, old age, immigration,” Alexeychuk says. “However, if a person is in need of social assistance, this doesn’t mean that he or she is completely helpless. If you think about it, every man, even the weakest person with disability can be of some help in some way.”
Photo Credit: Russian Week (Accompanied original referenced article.)
Lucy Slavianska is a Toronto-based journalist who has lived and worked in Bulgaria, Japan, Venezuela and the Netherlands. She has a PhD in clinical philosophy and background in editing and publishing.
Opposition to the Harper government’s planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism is staggering — with even the Prime Minister’s supporters strongly opposing its design and location, EKOS polling data shows.
Sixty-three per cent of those polled who intend to vote Conservative in the upcoming federal election oppose the memorial, a project of the Harper government that has been vigorously backed by senior Conservatives despite controversies about its location, its lack of architectural merit, cost and political symbolism.
The iPolitics/EKOS poll shows that 77.4 per cent of Canadians strongly oppose the memorial and 82.7 per cent of residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) oppose it. In Canada and the NCR only four per cent polled strongly support the memorial.
Among non-Tory voters, 83 per cent who intend to vote Liberal oppose the project and 84 per cent of polled who intend to vote NDP oppose it. Among other supporters of national parties, opposition remains at the 83 per cent mark.
“Rarely do you see an idea that’s so clearly opposed by the public,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves.
Government Out of Touch
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, who has been among the memorial’s fiercest critics, said the new numbers only confirm what he’s been hearing.
“Most people, when they have learned of this project and where it’s going to be located and the process by which it’s been placed in this particular location, are against it,” said Dewar. “That’s a clear sign to the government that they’re out of touch with the public.”
Ottawa’s mayor, Jim Watson, criticized the location of the memorial and the National Capital Commission for not consulting with the City of Ottawa. Watson will be speaking to a motion related to the memorial at a city council meeting next Wednesday.
According to Graves, the “good news” for the government is that most Canadians are blissfully unaware of its plans to erect this giant monument on Ottawa’s historic Wellington Street. The controversial 5,000-square-metre structure would be located between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada building.
As the cost of the structure has ballooned to an estimated $5 million and the cost of the prime land has been estimated at $16 million, opposition to the project has galvanized.
In his analysis of the poll, Graves attributes the government’s determination to build the memorial on prime land that was set to be the site of a Justice Department building named after Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Tories’ antipathy toward the Supreme Court (and communists).
“This location will skilfully occlude that despised institution with a huge celebration of things arguably dear to the government’s re-election plans and ideologically consistent with their cold war era views of Godless commies,” writes Graves.
The poll shows that 63 per cent of Canadians have not heard of the planned memorial, but 61 per cent of NCR residents are aware of the plans.
EKOS asked respondents to review the design, which will feature 100,000,000 “memory squares” each representing a life lost to Communism regimes worldwide, and to describe in one word (see below) their reaction to the memorial.
Respondents were also asked to rank the priority of a new facility in the NCR – and among options – the victims of communism memorial was dead last.
Graves suggests that the federal government “had best hope the deal can be closed on this before the election because given the depth of opposition we suspect there will be a groundswell of protest that will probably jettison this ‘unnecessary’ and ‘wasteful’ project.”
Graves said that the Harper government is trying to appeal to the Ukrainian and Polish communities, in an effort to secure their votes. The memorial’s significance to victims of Chinese communism has been blurrier, given the Harper government’s generally cordial relationship with Beijing.
“The Ukrainian and Polish population is sizeable and they have vey stark memories of victims of communism and have legitimate reasons that should be celebrated. The trouble is those thing happened in other counties at different times and they’re really not relative to most Canadians,” he said.
This study involved an online only survey of 2,116 Canadians. The field dates for this survey are May 12-19, 2015. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca
Jody Fegelman Through the fall of 1943 and into the winter and spring of 1944, Steve Rotschild and the other children were free to roam the passages and stairwells...
The Jewish Tribune
by Thomas Lukaszuk (@
) in Edmonton
They came and grabbed what they wanted. It broke my heart. I was 12 when I had to open up my apartment and give away all of my toys. They took what they wanted. It was hard to let all of it go, but there was a weight limit on what I could take to Canada. I ended up taking one toy tank, my beloved stamp collection and a Polish book given to me by my Grade 7 teacher. I still choke up remembering it: she told me to never forget my language. And I didn’t. That book still is one of the most precious things I own.
My mother, my five-year-old brother Adam (who packed his teddy bear), and I left communist Poland in December of 1982 to join my dad, a sailor, who defected to Canada many years before.
My political aspirations were spurred by this time in Poland. My mom worked with the Solidarity movement to undermine the communists. I was forced to learn Russian in school, and helped hand out underground leaflets. When I came to Canada, first in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and then Edmonton … it didn’t take long before the political bug hit again. I started volunteering for a PC (Progressive Conservative) candidate at just 16. Then, I ran as a candidate in the provincial election in 2001, and was the first Polish-born person to be elected to a Canadian legislature. [I talked extensively about growing up in Poland and my family’s defection to Canada with reporter Jeremy Lye, the audio of which can be found below]
Now, I am running for the leadership of the party I joined so many years ago. If this campaign is successful, I would be the first foreign-born premier in the province in almost 80 years. It tells you what a welcoming place this is, that an immigrant who came with nothing could be seeking the highest provincial office. It is absolutely overwhelming and humbling sometimes when I think about it.
Over the years, I have held cabinet positions in the education, post-secondary education, immigration, and employment portfolios. My work has included expanding provincial government programs to help new Canadians get their credentials and experience recognized, bringing employers in to do job fairs in welfare offices, and advocating for increases to Provincial Nominee programs so more temporary foreign workers can get their permanent residence.
I am also vowing to fight Ottawa over changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program, which has left many Alberta businesses without workers and workers without stability. The TFW program has never been ideal because Alberta needs permanent immigrants. We need people to come to this place, do the jobs that others are not available to do or are not willing to do, become Canadians, invest themselves in our communities and have the same opportunity that Canada has given me and my family. The current program doesn’t do that.
Being an immigrant has shaped my experiences and the way I see life. My parents protested against entrenched authority. I was told by the communists what my opinion was, and was advised not to ask questions. Today, I have gone very far in the other direction. I’ve never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers. That includes speaking out against some spending decisions made by the former Premier, and calling on my political colleagues to earn back Albertans’ trust. I am not the candidate that is endorsed by the elite, and I am proud of that.
I recognize that Canada, and Alberta in particular, is a land of opportunity. There is a great education system, there are jobs for anyone who wants to work, communities are safe, and there is a high quality of life.
As the campaign unfolds, I am identifying economic, social, financial, and ethical priorities for a government under my leadership. I believe that creating opportunities for people to be their best is an important role for government. I want everyone to have the opportunities I had – a chance to learn, to feel welcomed in the community, to find a job, and to start a family. I am lucky to be here, but it takes more than luck to make a province successful.
There are three candidates running for the leadership, and only members of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives can vote. The voting takes place September 5 and 6, with ballots being cast online, by telephone, and in person.
My campaign website is VoteThomas.ca.
Polish language experts launched a campaign Thursday to preserve the challenging system of its diacritical marks, saying the tails, dots and strokes are becoming obsolete under the pressure of IT and speed.
The drive, initiated by the state-run Council of the Polish Language, is part of the UNESCO International Mother Language Day. The campaign’s Polish name is complicated for a non-Polish keyboard: “Je,zyk polski jest a,-e,.”
-- Delivered by Feed43 service
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit