In 2016 Ukrainian Canadians commemorated the 150th anniversary the arrival of the first settlers to Canada and Manitoba and to one of the many areas of Winnipeg, in particular, Kildonan-St.Paul. It was a distinguished honour for Ukrainians to be recognized by the different levels of government as one of the ethno-cultural leaders in Canada’s community that has contributed four waves of immigrational customs, tradition and history.
Ukrainians have played a most significant role in advancing Canada’s culture by settling and offering something special to the place where they took residence. Many Ukrainians settled in Winnipeg and spread their roots on both sides of the Red River especially in the Kildonan district which is now the Kildonan-St.Paul area. Throughout those years Ukrainians promoted within their community, professional, businesslike citizens, many parliamentarians, upholding and recognizing their achievements and contributions.
Presently the federal area of Kildonan-St.Paul, represented by parliamentarian (MaryAnn Mihychuk) has always maintained close ties with the Ukrainian community. The Member of Parliament has welcomed an intern university student (Marta Franchuk) from Kyiv under the Canada Ukraine Parliamentary Program to analyze constituents in ridings who are of Ukrainian heritage. Marta’s assignment was to contact Ukrainians in Kildonan-St.Paul, reaching to hear their stories how their families came to Canada, where they settled, and the issues that mattered most. Marta Franchuk has given permission to share her findings. She has researched many of the stories within the constituency where the theme of hope for a better life in Canada, leaving family behind in Ukraine in search of a more secure place for future generations.
Marta’s data showed that there are more than 18,000 residents in the riding of Kildonan-St.Paul that identify themselves as Ukrainian Canadians. All of them have their own personal stories of how their families came to Canada and how their life had changed ever since. Even though several generations have changed, Ukrainians in Kildonan-St.Paul still remember the story how their family came to Canada and to this day communicate in the Ukrainian language. On the other hand, time has played a significant role, connections with relatives who live in Ukraine have been lost and even no one to visit; only half of the Ukrainians surveyed in the riding believe that they still have relatives back in Ukraine.
In order to really understand the residents of Kildonan-St.Paul, Marta focused on over 600 households, getting to know them, listening to their passionate stories how their ancestors left Ukraine in order to find a better place for their future because of hard times, lack of crops, tremendous hardship. Canada became their new home, Kildonan-St.Paul absorbed many Ukrainians from western Ukraine. Even living so far from Ukraine, Ukrainians from the riding of Kildonan-St.Paul always tried to be in touch with their relatives; 32% visited Ukraine at least once in their life, on the other hand, the percentage of relatives from Ukraine on a visit to Canada is only 11%. The difference in percentage between visiting Ukraine and visiting Canada probably stems on the high fee for a visitor Visa to Canada. A solution to this dilemma, the Government of Canada should grant Ukrainian nationals with a biometric passport (passport that has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip) and allow visa-free travel to Canada, making a long-standing relationship with Ukraine.
Marta presents another important data in her research, more than 94% of Ukrainians in the riding of Kildonan-St.Paul support the idea of providing CBC programming, also having the National Film board involved in Ukraine; a cultural exchange to build a stronger tie between Canada and Ukraine. What Marta found astonishing in the Kildonan-St. Paul area that Ukrainians continue to speak their mother language at home, but the most interesting aspect is that Ukrainian Canadians follow everything that is going on in Ukraine. Marta mentions in her research that the constituents of Kildonan-St.Paul are proud to remember their family stories, the opportunity to pass their legacy from generation to generation.
Ukrainians Canadians not only in Kildonan-St.Paul but throughout Canada continue to retain their values, traditions and a language which has become part of the way of life. What Marta Franchuk has presented in her research illustrates that the Ukrainian community no matter where it has settled, will always have a sense of belonging to both Canada and Ukraine.