Creation of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee

The Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) was founded in Canada in 1932. It was organized as an arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists Bandera faction (OUN-B) that operated in Western Ukraine, a territory at that time divided between Poland and Romania. The UNF had no interest in defending the interests of the workers and farmers of the Ukrainian community, who were already organized in the United Labour Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA) and other organizations. Rather it was an arm of an organization which was organized under the protection of Germany and fascist Italy and which was soon to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler. The activities of the UNF led to diplomatic protests from both Poland and the Soviet Union. Poland objected that an organization which was carrying out assassinations and sabotage was permitted to use Canada as a base. The Soviet Union registered its protest on the basis that the OUN was working for the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.

The anti-communist organizations had appealed to the Canadian state for years to smash the ULFTA and deport its members, so as to have unfettered sway in the Ukrainian community. The onset of World War II was the occasion for the state to directly intervene on behalf of the reactionary organizations, who immediately began to claim that they had the support of 80 per cent of the Ukrainian community.

In the initial list of organizations which would be declared illegal and their leaders arrested, the UNF was included, on the basis of it support for Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Its leader, Wladimir Kossar was listed as a person to be arrested and interned at the outbreak of war. Kossar immigrated to Canada in 1927 and founded a division of the Ukrainian Military Organization in Canada, which evolved into the UNF in 1932. But instead of carrying through this recommendation, the government of Mackenzie King intervened to create a new organization, the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (UCC), in which all the anti-communist organizations were expected to unite. This new organization was apparently based on a quid-pro-quo arrangement – get behind the war effort, and in return the Canadian government would support their "cause" in post-war peace negotiations.

In November 1940, a handful of people from the Ukrainian community were brought together at the Ft. Garry Hotel in Winnipeg at the initiative of the King government and the UCC was born. Kossar was amongst those summoned to the Ft. Garry Hotel by the government to participate as a founding member in the creation of the state-organized Ukrainian Canadian Committee.

Having brought this committee into being, within months the Canadian government now found itself in an extremely compromised position. With the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union's entry into the war, the Canadian government was propping up an organization dedicated to the dismemberment of the Soviet Union as part of a new fascist order in Europe. In Western Ukraine the OUN which had the support of the Ukrainian National Federation had not only pledged its allegiance to Hitler but itself committed countless war crimes. However the government continued its support for the organization it had brought into being, while the leaders of the ULFTA remained in prison until 1942, when the pressure for their release had become too great to resist.

The UCC adopted new language, and overt support for a new fascist order in Europe was replaced with talk of "democracy" and "freedom," while the concept of "captive nations" – that is the nations within the Soviet Union – which were to be "freed" through German invasion was adopted holus-bolus from the Nazis.

Formation of the UCC, which in 1989 changed its name to Ukrainian Canadian Congress, was crucial to the post-war drive to shield war criminals through the propaganda campaign that "displaced persons" should not be returned to their countries as had been agreed at Yalta by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. This propaganda spoke of the forcible round-up and repatriation of Ukrainians and others as though the more than 5 million surviving prisoners of war and people forcibly taken to Germany as slave labourers, the majority Soviet or Polish citizens, would not want to return to their homeland and their families. The OUN leadership was of course desperate to escape trial and punishment for their war crimes. By 1947, a majority of those still in the displaced persons camps were from Western Ukraine. The OUN was very active inside the refugee camps, spreading fear, especially amongst the people from Western Ukraine, which had been under Romanian and Polish rule prior to the war and whose people had no experience with life in the Soviet Union. By mid-1946 the British unilaterally ceased the return of Soviet citizens. The propaganda about forcible repatriation was the cover under which those wanted for war crimes were not returned to Poland and the Soviet Union. This allowed the entire surviving Waffen-SS Galizien, the Ukrainian Division of the military SS, which was declared a criminal organization at Nuremberg, to be released from detention and brought to Britain, from where many immigrated to Canada. Kossar's biographer states that under his direction at the UNF many new citizens were brought to Canada after the Second World War.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 8 - September 2023

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