Demand Grows Canada-Wide for Removal of Monuments Glorifying Nazi Collaborators

Monument to the 14th Waffen-SS Division in St. Michael's cemetery in Edmonton was spray-painted in 2021. Demands are growing to remove such monuments.

Over six years ago, in October 2017, the Russian Embassy tweeted: "There are monuments to Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it." Immediately, various newspapers suggested the tweet was an example of "Russian disinformation" to interfere in Canada's political affairs. For instance, an October 25, 2017 National Post article about the Russian Embassy's tweet said, "Some experts are accusing the Russian embassy of intentionally sowing discord and divisiveness, part of a broader strategy to disrupt the political process in Western democracies."

One "expert" quoted was Lubomyr Luciuk, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada who told the National Post, "We have a foreign country whose official diplomats are interfering in the kind of life of Canada by trying to provoke ethnic divisiveness." "It's all based on fake news or misinformation, disinformation that's intended to cause problems. It's locker-room banter, it's sotto voce murmuring, it's not credible and yet it obviously has currency."

But facts are stubborn things. Canadians have never supported these monuments glorifying Nazis and their collaborators. As the federal government persisted in funding a monument in Ottawa glorifying such people in the name of honouring Canada as a refuge for victims of communism, they drew their own conclusions. Demands for the removal of the Nazi monuments soon started to grow. By November 2019, for example, Alberta Jewish News quoted Edmonton film-maker and journalist Paula Kirman about her views on the monument to Roman Shukhevych at the Ukrainian Youth Centre in her city. "I only learned about the statue a couple years ago," Kirman said. "As a Jewish Edmontonian, it is very disconcerting," ... [and] ideally, I think it should be removed." She said, "At the very least [the Ukrainian Youth Centre should] publicly acknowledge that Shukhevych was a Nazi collaborator who took part in genocide, and put a plaque of some kind explaining his role in the Holocaust ... so that anyone who sees it will learn the truth," she said.

In June-July 2020, the Nazi collaborator monument in Oakville, Ontario made the news when the words "Nazi war memorial" were painted on it. The monument, located at the St. Volodomyr Cemetery pays tribute to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, in the 14th Volunteer Waffen-SS Grenadier Division (the Galicia Division), the same division to which Yaroslov Hunka belonged.

Left: The memorial to Nazi collaborators from the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army in St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery in Oakville, Ontario is spray-painted, October 13, 2023. Right: The memorial was previously painted with the words  "Nazi war monument" in July 2020.

In a particularly controversial move, the Halton Regional Police reported the incident as a "hate crime." They eventually had to retract their statement due to public outcry. In a July 17, 2020 statement, the police said: "The initial information collected by investigators indicated that the graffiti may have been hate-motivated, targeting the identifiable group of Ukrainians in general, or Ukrainian members at this cultural centre. At no time did [we] consider that the identifiable group targeted by the graffiti was Nazis. We regret any hurt caused by misinformation that suggests the Service in any way supports Nazism." Later the police felt compelled to reiterate that Nazis are not an "identifiable group," protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On August 10, 2020, carried an article entitled: "'Disgusted': Oakville cemetery facing calls to remove what's being called a Nazi monument." Noting that the monument pays tribute to a group that "fought with the Germans against the Soviet Union during the Second World War, and was made up predominantly of volunteers from Ukraine," the article reports that "the incident [painting on the monument] led to a social media explosion, with many questioning why Oakville is home to a memorial honouring those who fought with the Nazis."

A letter of protest from one Oakville resident to various politicians is quoted: "I am absolutely appalled, disappointed and quite frankly disgusted that not only this monument was allowed to be erected but is still allowed to stand. This goes against everything Canada, Ontario, and Oakville embodies. I plead for you to address this wrong and make it right. By allowing this memorial in our community, you are saying that fascism and anti-Semitism is a-okay."

Politicians went on the record to oppose the monument. "Oakville Mayor and Halton Police Board Chair Rob Burton issued a statement about the monument, saying he would remove it if he could. Burton told, "Unfortunately, municipalities have no role in regulating the contents of private cemeteries."

Liberal Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff reportedly believes that "the monument pays tribute to those who fought for the Nazis and has no place in the community or in this country." "While it is my understanding that the federal government has no legal mechanism that it can use to remove this monument, I am following up to see if we have any recourse," she posted on social media. "I strongly encourage the private cemetery to review its policies and remove this monument."

Oakville North-Burlington MPP Effie Triantafilopoulos also spoke against the monument. She pointed out, however, that "the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act governs cemeteries in Ontario and does not give the Province the power to direct the removal of monuments from private cemeteries."

Ukrainian Canada Congress CEO Ihor Michalchyshyn told that "the Ukrainians of the 14th SS Division were not fighting so much for the Nazis as they were against the Soviet Union." also interviewed a member of the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery Board who said that while the memorial is on cemetery property, the Board has "no connection to it beyond that. They said the cemetery does not own the monument, noting it was purchased by veterans of the division and erected in 1988. These veterans have all since passed away," the publication reported.

Yaroslov Hunka, one of the veterans, is in fact still alive as the whole world discovered through the September 22 parliamentary standing ovation for him. Once again, demands for the removal of the Nazi collaborator monuments across the country have been revived.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 25 - November 2023

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