By: Saije Rusimovici, Staff Writer
On October 19, a new bill proposing the implementation of Ukrainian Heritage month was introduced in the Senate by Senator Stan Kutcher. Bill S-276 is an opportunity for Canadians to “celebrate, reflect on, and learn about the many contributions made by Ukrainian Canadians to Canada’s unique social and historical fabric.” If the bill is passed, the month of September will be dedicated to acknowledging Ukrainian heritage in Canada. September was chosen to honour the first recorded arrival of Ukrainians in Canada 125 years ago.
Canada has the third largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world. There have been six documented waves of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, beginning in the early 20th century. After the Second World War, thousands of Ukrainians settled in parts of Eastern Canada, with their relatives to follow in the 1980s. Most recently, nearly five million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes due to the invasion of Russian troops in 2022.
Senator Kutcher was born to Ukrainian refugees who arrived in Canada following the Second World War. He stressed that the important contributions made by Ukrainian Canadians, throughout history and in the present, have helped form the country we live in today. The prairie provinces of Canada saw the most Ukrainian immigration, leading to a large population of agricultural workers. Additionally, Ukrainian Canadian communities set up many public benefits and “local cultural-educational associations, fashioned after Galician and Bukovinan models.”
“This bill is an opportunity to recognize our Ukrainian heritage and provide opportunities for learning and celebration each year.” He noted it’s important to dedicate this month to celebrating Ukrainian heritage and the importance it holds in the fabric of the country.
Senator Kutcher told The Peak that for him, this is an opportunity to “acknowledge the fact that our country was built by hands of many colours and our anthem is sung by voices of many tongues.” He emphasized the importance of learning from the experiences of others, openly recognizing “the joys and sorrows of the past and the present.” For Senator Kutcher, growing and developing as a multicultural country relies on creating mutual respect for each other.
Placing an emphasis on learning from each other’s experiences, Senator Kutcher insisted that we must “reach out and celebrate the rich tapestry of our nation and find those bonds that pull us together.”
Senator Kutcher described several ways in which we can encourage integration and education of different cultures. “I think that learning about all of the different cultures that make up Canada should be a necessary part of school curricula,” he said. He also mentioned the importance of celebrating art, music, and dance specific to different cultures. “Encouraging the production of cultural festivals that can welcome all residents of this country to learn about and celebrate all our different cultures and backgrounds,” he added.