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B.C. premier quashes Holodomor bill

Marco Levytsky for “Ukrainian News” (Edmonton)

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has refused to allow passage of a bill that would recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide and provide for the official commemoration of that event on the fourth Saturday of each November.

Similar legislation has been passed by the federal parliament as well as the provincial legislatures of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Christy Clark - CTV News

Christy Clark – CTV News

On Nov. 17 Bruce Ralston MLA for Surrey-Whalley and the New Democrat spokesperson for trade and multiculturalism introduced a private members bill, “The Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day Act”, that would allow the province to officially recognize the fourth Saturday of each November as a day to commemorate the anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) in Ukraine.

Two weeks earlier Ralston had written Clark informing her of his intention to introduce such a bill and asking her to encourage her colleagues to give the unanimous consent required to pass such a bill.

But in a letter dated the same day Ralston introduced the bill, Clark wrote back stating: “Although we fully support the intent of the proposed Act, as a government we do not believe it is necessary (to) duplicate the work of the federal government in this regard.”

This was the second time the BC government had rejected Ralston’s attempt to pass a Holodomor bill.

He introduced a similar bill in 2009, but this was allowed to die on the Order Paper.

Bruce Ralston MLA for Surrey-Whalley

Bruce Ralston MLA for Surrey-Whalley

Ralston revealed Clark’s letter as well as his initial request in attachments to a media release he sent out on Nov. 21 stating: “It is very disappointing to see the premier refusing to see how important this day of memorial is. The Ukrainian-Canadian community has made so many significant contributions to Canadian society and in commemorating the Holodomor; Canadians reaffirm our commitment to champion human rights, freedom and to live in a just, equitable society.

“Some of the survivors of the Holodomor and their descendants reside in British Columbia and have contributed greatly to British Columbia’s cultural, economic, political and educational life, and it is time that we pay tribute to them.”

Upon receiving that release, Ukrainian News wrote an e-mail to Sam Oliphant, Press Secretary to the Premier of BC with the following questions:

“Five provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all passed similar legislation. Alberta even holds a special ceremony in the Legislature each year commemorating the genocide. If these five provinces do not believe they are duplicating the work of the federal government in this regard, why does BC think otherwise?

“BC has a Holocaust Memorial Day Act, as does the federal government. Is that not duplicating the work of the federal government in this regard?

“Does the BC government practice a double standard where different communities are concerned?”

Ukrainian News received a reply from Courtney Carne, Senior Public Affairs Officer, Government Communications and Public Engagement, Ministry of International Trade, Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat, noting that Premier Clark had issued proclamation denoting November 22, 2014 as be “Holodomor Memorial Day” in British Columbia.

“The B.C. government stands proudly with Canadian-Ukrainians and has made its support of Ukrainian heritage and sovereignty known in a number of ways. For example, in December 2013, Premier Christy Clark issued a statement in support of the right to peaceful demonstrations in the (sic) Ukraine, and on March 5, 2014, she made a statement in the House in support of Ukrainian sovereignty. The B.C. government has also committed $30,000 in humanitarian aid for the (sic) Ukraine and recognises Ukrainian Independence Day each year,” she noted.

Ukrainian News replied that she still had not answered our questions, but got no reply to that e-mail.

November 18 Myroslav Petriw, President of the Vancouver Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, sent a letter to Clark applauding her intention to issue a proclamation on the Holodomor.

“However, the Ukrainian-Canadian community in British Columbia will not understand why the legislatures of five provinces, some with fewer Canadians of Ukrainian descent than in British Columbia, have chosen to honour the victims of the Holodomor through legislation that set the day of remembrance for the Holodomor, while that of British Columbia will not. The purpose of such an act is, in fact, to provide an opportunity to educate the public about the excesses and crimes committed by a totalitarian regime in destroying en masse the most basic civil right, that of life. As such, we feel, as did five provincial legislatures, that this matter falls within the constitutional purview of Provinces,” he added.

First published at Edmonton “Ukrainian News” newspaper (Dec 11 – 21, 2014)

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