About Paul Yuzyk (1913-1986) - Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism

Photo of Paul Yuzyk

The Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism honours the legacy of the late Senator Paul Yuzyk, a champion of Canadian Multiculturalism.

Born near Estevan, Saskatchewan in 1913 of Ukrainian immigrant parents, Paul Yuzyk began his career as a teacher from 1933-1942. After briefly serving in the Canadian Army, he returned in 1943 to the University of Saskatchewan to complete a BA Honours in History (1947) and an MA in History (1948). In 1949, he entered a PhD program in history at the University of Minnesota completing his course work in 1951 and his PhD in 1958. In 1951, he started his academic career teaching History and Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba; writing books and articles on the contributions of Ukrainian-Canadians and other ethnic groups. He became a spokesperson for what he called the "Third Force" or Canadians of non-British and non-French origin.

Due to his high profile as an historian and community leader, Mr. Yuzyk was appointed to the Senate of Canada by the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker in 1963. In his maiden speech to the Senate in 1964, he launched the concept that Canada was a multicultural nation. He challenged the prevailing view that Canada was a bilingual and bicultural nation. He argued the term biculturalism excluded Indigenous peoples and did not take into account the changing demographic make-up of Canadians since 1867 resulting from large scale immigration from Europe, Asia and other countries. He argued that these Canadians of non-British and non-French origin also contributed to the building of Canada and called for a more inclusive Canadian identity - multiculturalism - that recognized the new reality. He predicted that multiculturalism would become a role model for other nations faced with the challenge of harmoniously integrating peoples of diverse faiths and cultures.

While in the Senate, Paul Yuzyk played an active role in the development and implementation of multiculturalism, while figuring significantly in various parliamentary committees and in delegations to the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He was closely associated with various cultural and human rights organizations; for instance, he was Director of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and Chairman of the Canadian Folk Art Council.

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