The Ukrainian Canadians
by Paul Yuzyk
Manitoba Pageant, April 1956
Manitoba is a veritable treasure-house of peoples from various lands and of their descendants. Our population is composed of (in descending order) English, Scottish, Ukrainian, Irish, French, German, Dutch, Polish, Icelandic, Jewish and other elements. Because they are an integral part of the Canadian nation, we call them ethnic groups. Although of various origins, faiths and cultures, they are all Canadians. Their material and cultural contributions are blending and are making the Canadians a dynamic nation with a most promising future.
The Ukrainians came from a land endowed with rich natural resources and natural beauty. Ukraine, however, had the tragic fate of being ruled by foreign powers - Russia and Austria-Hungary before the First World War, and Russia, Poland, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia after. In 1945 all of Ukraine came under Soviet Russian domination. The freedom the Ukrainians had lost in the Old Country they found in Canada, where they are conscientious citizens.
These courageous, hard-working agricultural people began to settle the open prairies with the great tide of immigration at the end of the 1890s. They passed through Winnipeg, the "gateway to the West." Today, there are close to half a million scattered throughout our country, but most of them are in the west.
Manitoba contains the largest number of Ukrainian Canadians, approximately 100, 000. Every eighth person in this province is of Ukrainian descent. They farm a very large area of our province, which before them was a wilderness of virgin land. Their large settlements are dotted with place-names of their origin, such as Ukraina, Zoria, Zelena, Seech, Ozerna, Komarno, Medika, Senkiw, and many others.
Winnipeg is regarded as "The capital of the Ukrainian Canadians." The concentration of some 45,000 includes the leaders of their two largest churches the Greek Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, the leaders of their dominion organizations, their editors and writers. Here are found their largest cathedrals, community halls, newspapers and educational and cultural institutions. The Ukrainian Canadian Committee co-ordinates the activities of the whole ethnic group.
The Ukrainian Canadians have made remarkable progress in many fields. In Manitoba they are leading agriculturists, many of them winning the highest awards in various branches at the fairs. They are increasing in prominence in business and mining. There are large numbers of teachers and many lawyers, doctors, nurses and engineers. Several are professors at the University and there was a judge in this province.
Very significant is their participation in politics and municipal affairs. Since 1908 the Ukrainian Canadians have been electing reeves, mayors, councillors and aldermen in 18 municipalities. They elected their first member to the Manitoba Legislature in 1916; today there are 8; the Attorney-General, the Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker hail from this group. They are represented in the Federal Parliament by a member from Dauphin and by a senator from Winnipeg.
Their best-known and most admired contribution is in culture. The swift-moving folk dances in colorful costumes, the stirring folk songs, the exquisitely designed Easter eggs, the colorful intricate embroidery and fine woodwork are an attractive feature at Canadian national celebrations.
Page revised: 13 June 2009Back to top of page