Kyiv, Ukraine, March 4, 2013 — Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney concluded a productive visit to Ukraine today, as part of a three-country trip focusing on bilateral relations, immigration, holocaust remembrance and religious freedom.
“A distinct bond exists between our two nations, thanks in part to the 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin. That bond is growing stronger as more Ukrainians come to visit friends and relatives, study or work in Canada, while others come to Canada permanently, through our new fast and flexible immigration programs,” Minister Kenney stated. “My visit to Ukraine not only presented an opportunity to promote Canada, but also to discuss the need for ongoing democratic reform in a country that has accomplished much in the 21 years since independence.”
In Lviv, the Minister delivered remarks for the international symposium “Ethics in a Global World: Reflections on Civic Virtue” at the Ukrainian Catholic University. The Minister then met with the University’s Rector, Bishop Borys Gudziak and faculty members, held a roundtable with non-governmental organizations to discuss the state of democracy in Ukraine, and visited the Lonsky Prison Museum, the site of both Communist and Nazi crimes.
Minister Kenney began his second day in Ukraine with a wreath laying at Lviv’s Taras Shevchenko Monument, dedicated to the writer and artist known as the father of modern Ukrainian consciousness. He then travelled to the city of Sambir to visit the city’s Jewish cemetery, where over 1,000 Holocaust victims are buried in mass graves. Minister Kenney raised concerns about the erection of large crosses, and the absence of an appropriate memorial to the Jewish victims buried at Sambir.
On March 3rd, Minister Kenney paid tribute to the more than 200,000 victims of Communist repression buried in mass graves at Bykyvnia. He then attended the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Resurrection and met with His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. To mark the 80th anniversary of what Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called “one of the great crimes of history,” Minister Kenney visited the Holodomor Museum and Memorial to the Holodomor Victims, where he laid a symbolic pot of grain.
The Minister then visited Babyn Yar, where he placed a memorial wreath on the site where more than 33,000 Jews were killed in 1941 in the first large scale massacre of the Holocaust, and where more than 100,000 other Ukrainian victims of Nazi terror were subsequently killed. That evening he spoke to a gathering of prominent Ukrainian political, religious and civil society leaders at a forum organized by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, a CIC supported initiative.
“Bykyvnia, Babyn Yar, and the Holodomor monument all sadly symbolize how Ukraine in the twentieth century was at the centre of unthinkable totalitarian violence. As a champion of human dignity, Canada has a special responsibility to memorialize these crimes, so that the memories of their victims are never lost,” said Minister Kenney.
“We are assisting with the creation of a National Monument to the Victims of Communism and a national Holocaust Memorial. Canada was also the first country outside of Ukraine to recognize the genocidal nature of Holodomor and is encouraging Ukraine to join the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”
During his final day in Ukraine, Minister Kenney met with Members of Ukraine’s Parliament representing the major opposition parties as well as with government officials, including Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leonid Kozhara, with whom he raised concerns about selective justice, including the ongoing imprisonment of opposition leaders. He also visited the E.O. Paton Electric Welding Institute, where he met with future Canadian immigrants having their credentials assessed under a program supported by the Government of Canada.
Later in the afternoon, the Minister announced at a news conference in Kyiv that a record 9,000 visitor visas and 787 study permits had been approved in 2012, reaffirming Canada as a destination of choice for visitors and students from Ukraine. He also announced that two visa application centres (VACs) are expected to open in Ukraine this year. VACs reduce unnecessary delays for applicants who wish to come to Canada.
Finally, Minister Kenney announced, on behalf of the Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino, that Canada is investing in two new projects in Ukraine. The “Strengthening Media Freedom” project will partner Canada with the Council of Europe to strengthen freedom of expression, freedom of information and free media in Ukraine. The second project strengthens Ukraine’s judicial system to better facilitate economic growth. These projects leverage Canada’s expertise and commitment to bring better governance practices and greater freedom to this part of the world, and are part of some $400 million invested by Canada in technical assistance to Ukraine since 1991.
“More than 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent have played an important role in building our prosperous society. They have also been instrumental in fostering the close relationship that exists between Canada and Ukraine,” said Minister Kenney. “This visit was another opportunity to enhance long-standing ties between Canada and Ukraine.”
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