Maidan In Canada Part I: NGOs, Ukrainian Revolutionaries, Bulletproof Vests & Ontario’s Top Politicians

EU and XXX flags at Toronto's Dundas Square in December

EU, Ukrainian, and Insurgent Army flags at Toronto’s Dundas Square in December


When Ukraine’s Orange Revolution flared up in 2004, it was quickly alleged that many local grassroots organizers were supported by US backed civil society organizations. Groups including the US State Department’s USAid and George Soros’ Open Society Institute helped provide money and expertise to local activists for “democracy building” activities to local NGOs. A new election was called after the protest, and was monitored by ‘independent’ observers- including Freedom House, a US NGO that openly supports revolutionary movements.

Ten years later Ukrainian people find themselves in a similar situation with the Maidan revolution- only more dangerous now, there’s a genuine risk the country will fall into a civil war that could expand across borders. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has openly admitted the Americans have spent “more than 5 billion dollars” in Ukraine supporting “development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society”. An article last week by Mark Ames exposed how Pierrie Omidyar’s Omidyar Network partnered with USAid to fund anti-government activists.

While there’s been a lot of focus on US, EU and Russian influence, there’s one Ukrainian superpower that’s been able to fly under the radar until now- measured by population, Canada is the third largest Ukrainian country in the world. Many Ukrainian Canadians haven’t forgotten their homeland; some have been openly planning a revolution for many decades. One Canadian Ukrainian group has been sending the revolutionaries bulletproof vests. And here’s the kicker, they boasted about it on-stage with many of Ontario’s most prominent politicians beside them (and none of them said a word).

Canada’s Role In The Ukrainian Diaspora:

Ukrainian Canadian Freedom Fighters

Ukrainian Canadian Freedom Fighters of the Ukrainian Youth Association

In 2011 Statistics Canada estimated 1,209,085 persons of full or partial Ukrainian origin reside in Canada; making them the country’s 9th largest ethnic group. The people of Canada’s Ukrainian community have made great contributions to the development of our country, and have significant influence over Canadian policy. (To put this in perspective, Canada has approximately 1.4 million indigenous residents).

Ukrainian newcomers often settled in Canada as farmers and clustered together in tightly knit communities- glued together by language, religion and a deep soulful love for their homeland. Many who left home for political reasons never gave up the fight and have been passing the torch across generations.

Canada has had a bumpy relationship with the Ukrainian community. The 1914 War Measures act labelled Ukrainians with Austro-Hungarian citizenships as “aliens of enemy nationality” and interned 5,000 Ukrainians at government camps and work sites. Canada didn’t acknowledge this injustice until 2005, after the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association started a campaign of placing dozens of plaques and memorials across the country. Prime Minister Paul Martin called the internment a “dark chapter” in Canadian history.

Ukrainian Canadian nationalism grew more established during the Cold War. Ukrainian nationalist’s fervent hate of the Soviet Union was a valuable asset to the government, leading them to ignore an resurgence of extremist values- we’ll discuss this more in part II.

Liberals, NDP, Progressive Conservatives, Canadian Charity And Bullet Proof Vests:

Ukrainian Insurgent Army flag draped over a protester in Queen's Park

Ukrainian Insurgent Army flag draped over a protester in Queen’s Park

On February 23, 2014 a group calling itself EuroMaidan Canada held a rally and fundraiser in support of Ukrainian revolutionaries. The event was called “Heroes Of The Maidan”, their tagline was “By blood, by tears, by the destruction Verne, Ukraine requite us”. The quote us attributed to Olha Basarab, a Ukrainian activist who died in a Polish prison after being accused of working for the Ukrainian Military Organization– a sabotage and resistance movement that was active in Poland during the 1920’s. (The Ukrainian National Federation of Canada honours her with a page on their website)

The crowd consisted mostly of Ukrainian Canadians, with a visible contingent of Estonian supporters. The speaker’s list included community and religious leaders- and, exemplifying the organizer’s political influence, a star studded who’s who in Ontario politics.

Dave Leveac (Liberal) Speaker of the Ontario Legislature

Dave Leveac (Liberal) Speaker of the Ontario Legislature

The first speaker was Dave Levac, the Liberal MLA for the riding of Brant, and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature. Here’s a transcript of his speech- the rhetoric couldn’t have been better tailored to the audience had it been written by a Ukrainian nationalist:

As speaker of this wonderful Assembly, I am a neutral observer of politics inside the house and outside. But I can tell you that, unanimously, all three parties have always spoken in favour of Ukraine, in favour of acknowledging to the west the Holodomor. And today, let us take a just a few moments , which we will do a few times, to the new heroes of the Ukraine- those people who lost their lives for democracy.

For 600 years there were boots on the throat of the Ukrainian people! And the most impressive thing that could be said to the world was that each time it happened they stood back up. And when they came to the rest of the world, and in particular here in Canada and Ontario- the helped build this province, they helped build this country, but with always their hearts still to the home country.

For those who have relatives that have been hurt, and harmed and killed; our heartfelt sympathies, and our prayers. To the Russian people, I know you don’t like what’s going on- the people, not the government, not Putin, the people! The fact that we have had messages from the Russian people that said they don’t like what’s going on, says that democracy rules. And I want to express our support for a Ukraine that is independent, free, and democracy rules!

And finally, and finally, let us never forget that if you put your boot on the neck of the Ukrainian people- they will remove it!”


NDP MP Olivia Chow speaks about solidarity...

NDP MP Olivia Chow speaks about solidarity…

The next politician to grace the stage was Olivia Chow, NDP Member of Parliament for Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina riding. Chow’s speech was a lot less Mussolini than Levac’s, less talk of boots on necks and throats. And, as expected by a politician backed by big labour, she made the obligatory use of the word “solidarity”:

“Those thousands that are injured, they continue to inspire us. And that darkness has now moved away and the sun has come out, but we must be vigilant, we must ensure our government, our Canadian government, continue to keep an eye on the Ukraine to make sure that the Russians do not interfere. And we must send observers, we must make sure that people are safe. And we will work together because those heroes, their spirit will not die, and their fight for democracy and independence will be won, and thank you to all of you who are here in solidarity, thank you very much.”


Martin Shwec of Canadian Ukrainian Congress discusses bulletproof vests

Martin Shwec of Canadian Ukrainian Congress thanks donors for bulletproof vests

The next speaker was Martin Shwec of The Canadian Ukrainian Congress (UCC) who, when he’s not organizing fundraisers for armed revolutionaries, provides services as an independent elections observer (which we’ll get to in more detail in Part III). Shawec’s speech was quite shocking:

“The war is not over, the revolutions is not over, it takes a lot of help. And one of those items you can help with are finances. We sent well over $330,000 from Canada, but they need much more. They need your help, and because of you, let me say one thing. I got a call last night from the Maidan, a direct message given to us by the assistant commandeer of the Maidan, and asked to forward to all of you, that because of you, one of the corpuses that went forward on the front line, and stood and took the brunt of the bullets of the 103 people in their battalion, 45 of them had bulletproof vests because of your donations that we sent there. “

Did you get that? He just said that he’s personally working with the a commandeer of a group of insurgents and supplying them with body armour; many Maidan revolutionaries have been running around shooting guns at people. He said this at the steps of the Ontario Legislature on the same stage as our province’s most prominent politicians. That’s quite the admission, leaves one wondering what else the money is being used for.

With all of these respectable politicians on the stage, surely someone will speak-up, right?

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP Toronto-Centre

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP Toronto-Centre

The next person on-stage was Chrystia Freeland, the Liberal MP for Toronto-Centre. Freeland has a BA in Russian History from Harvard,  a Master of Studies degree in Slavonic Studies from Oxford, and author of Sale of the Century- a book about Russia’s transition from Communism to Capitalism. So, it can be assumed that Freeland knows a thing or two about what’s happening in the Ukraine.

Freeland stepped up to the stage in her yoga pants and sunglasses and explained to the audience three key things she believes are needed to fix Ukraine’s problems. The first recommendation was obvious- new elections for Ukraine, monitored by independent observers. (Perhaps by Mr. Shwec?)

Her next suggestion is to reign-in Ukrainians by saddling them with debt (with no talk of how to get them out of it):

“The economic difficulties of Ukraine are only now beginning. This is the beginning of a very difficult economic time in Ukraine, and you will all remember that one of the ways that Putin turned Yanukovych in November was with a promise of $15 billion. The West, too late in my view, has come to understand the Maidan and support it, but that economic support is now absolutely essential. It’s essential now to have the IMF, to have the EU, to have Canada, the United States- come in and give the Ukraine the economic backing it needs to get through those difficult months, otherwise the sacrifices of the [Maidan protesters] will be in jeopardy”

Freeland’s third point was that we must not allow Ukraine to be broken up:

“As we have heard already, the battle for the Ukraine itself is not over. There is a tremendous danger that now that the Olympics are over, Ukraine’s northern neighbour decides to actively and openly be involved. It is essential that the world’s democracies are absolutely clear now, before that begins- that that will be unacceptable. That Ukraine’s territorial integrity is absolute, that the Ukrainian people have made their choice, and that foreign governments may not interfere.  “

The most interesting part of Freeland’s speech wasn’t as much what she said as what she didn’t. The speaker before her just admitted that the organization running the event is working with revolutionary commandeers and supplying front line insurgents with body armour- perhaps it would have been a good time to talk about the need to be peaceful?

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak

Feeeland was followed by Tim Hudak, the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party. Hudak began his message speaking some awkward sounding Ukrainian, but at least he tried. Hudak was the only politician to spealk of the need to be peaceful. He also brilliantly played his Slovak card, and got a little cheesy (is he expecting to pick up the youth vote calling the legislature a “church of democracy”?).

 “My background, Hudak, is a Slovak name. And I remember how overjoyed my grandparents were with the Velvet Revolution, just over 20 years ago- a peaceful transition to democracy. And I can only imagine the hopes here for a full break for democracy, for freedom, for economic opportunity for the people of the Ukraine. And I stand with you here just as one voice, with my colleague Doug Holyday, from the PC party. But I want to say to your folks in the Ukraine, your family and friends back home- that we stand with you, that Toronto stands with you, that Ontario and Canada stand with you. And here proud to say, at the Church of Democracy, here in Ontario- that freedom is on the march, that democracy will prevail, that the Ukraine will be free, and fully democratic- with opportunity for all.”

Liberal MPP Dipika Damerla

Liberal MPP Dipika Damerla

Mississauga-East Liberal MPP Dipika Damerla’s speech hit all the right notes for the crowd- congratulating revolutionary heroes and the need to stand with “the people of Ukraine” (problem is, not all Ukrainians are in agreement with the heroes).

“Friends, it’s a historic moment for Ukraine today, and this is because of the courage of Ukrainians. Bravo, truly bravo, because this is not just about Ukraine, this is about anybody, anywhere, who’s fighting for freedom. You inspire us: thank you, thank you, thank you.

But I have to say this. We have a historic opportunity in front of us, but we cannot squander it. If we truly want our heroes to live forever, then we have to make sure their sacrifices were not in vain- so my plea to the leadership of the Ukraine is, put Ukraine ahead of your personal petty politics. And my plea to the international community is this is a golden opportunity to ensure a truly free and democratic Ukraine, we cannot turn back now- we have to keep the pressure, we cannot say progress has been made and move away, we have to stand with the people of Ukraine.

The Premier of Ontario in the Legislature on Thursday, stood up and spoke in solidarity with the Ukraine, and she pledged to the Government of Canada that the Government of Ontario is here to do whatever we can to help the people of Ukraine, and I assure you that as your MPP for Mississauga-East Cooksville, it is my privilege to represent the Ukrainian community, and I will be there for you- thank you so much, Slava Ukrainia.”

NDP MP Peggy Nash

NDP MP Peggy Nash having a bad hair day

The last politician to come on the stage was Peggy Nash, NDP MP for Parkdale-High Park. Most of Nash’s speech was the same pandering to the audience as her colleagues. Like Olivia Chow, Nash showed her union background using the obligatory reference to “solidarity” (three times in fact). But one part of her speech was quite interesting:

“the people who have walked that path towards independence- whether it’s the Balkan states, or others, those that have walked that path are walking that path to independence and real democracy need to stand together and support one another. And I think that is a very, very, important message”

Wait, did Peggy Nash just admit that Euromaidan is an extension of the Colour Revolutions?

Where Does The Money Go?

UCC funded Ukrainian Canadian Foundation gives tax receipts

UCC funded Ukrainian Canadian Foundation gives tax receipts

The preferred method of donations for Euromaidan Canada is directly through the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, but the website indicates tax receipts aren’t available through this channel. Donors who want tax receipts can contribute through the UCC founded charity Ukrainian Canadian Foundation. One can also get a tax receipt through Ukrainian Canadian Social services, a charity founded to assist youth and children and youth from low income families.

Euromaidan Canada has outlined how funds will be spent on a special page on their website- items include humanitarian aid, medical supplies, relief to the families of fallen heroes, and support to the injured. Curiously, none of the fundraiser’s websites mention anything about purchasing body armour for revolutionaries- what else aren’t they telling us? Will Ukrainians who oppose Maiden be provided support and relief, or only revolutionary heroes?

Why Blind Support Of Maidan Revolutionaries May Be Problematic:

Ukrainian opinion is deeply divided

Ukrainian opinion is deeply divided

One of the assumptions made by all of the politicians who attended the rally was that Maidan revolutionaries are acting democratically on behalf of all the people of Ukraine- but is this really true? A poll released in December indicated that only 45% of Ukrainians support Maidan- and 50% don’t. Many Ukrainians are deeply divided- previous voting patterns from previous elections indicate there’s an east/west divide.

It’s somewhat hypocritical to label armed revolutionaries as defenders of democracy, particularly when there’s so much division- and particularly when it’s done by people who have been so outspoken against war.


We also need to examine the intent of the revolutionaries- are they really as heroic as their supporters claim? Allegations have been made that Maiden revolutionaries have been joined by far right neo-Nazis- many pictures have been released to back this claim.

Maidan revolutionary shooting gun with bulletproof vest

Maidan revolutionary shooting gun with bulletproof vest

A recording was leaked last week of a conversation between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonia’s foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet where he indicated the possibility that Maiden revolutionaries may have been shot by their own people– perhaps as a cynical attempt to frame the opposition as murderers?

The last question we should ask is how did they get the bulletproof vests to the revolutionaries so quickly- do they have incredible logistics, or was this planned in-advance of the first shots?  If it was the latter, how did they know they’d need body armour? Perhaps the revolutionaries planned on bringing guns in-advance? These are troubling questions.

 Stay Tuned For Part II:

In Part II of this series we’ll look into the curious story of how Canadian Ukrainian organizations helped turn a deceased Nazi collaborator into a powerful symbol of the revolution. It’s a fascinating story where people claiming to work towards uniting the country have chosen the most divisive symbol one could imagine. In Part III, we’ll explore the conflict between these organization’s political goals and the role they play as independent elections monitors- something doesn’t quite add up…

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