Yuzyk remembered as father of multiculturalism

Deputy prime minister, hundreds attend Ottawa funeral

by Michael B. Bociurkiw
THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY, Sunday, July 20, 1986

OTTAWA - As Canadian flags throughout the national capital region flew at half mast, Sen. Paul Yuzyk, the Ukrainian who drafted Canada's multiculturalism policy and occupied a seat in the Senate for 23 years, was buried here July 14.

Deputy Prime Minister Donald Mazankowsky, Secretary of State and Multiculturalism Minister David Crombie, members of Parliament, senators, representatives from the Ukrainian community and about 500 other people gathered to pay their last respects to Sen. Yuzyk, who died July 9 at age 73.

But it was at a memorial service July 13 where Sen. Yuzyk's contributions to Canadian society and vigorous work ethic was best summed up.

Dr. Bohdan Bociurkiw, a close friend of the late senator and a Professor Carleton University told a group of about 300 friends and relatives at.the memorial service: "He was a voice for reason, moderation and mutual understanding among Ukrainians in Canada's inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations; throughout all his life he built bridges and ignored fanaticism, and while others cursed the darkness, he lit candles."

Added Prof. Bociurkiw: "Always accessible, always engaged, always on call, Paul Yuzyk himself was a candle that, as we now realize, was burning at both ends."


The prayer service for Sen. Yuzyk, born in 1913 to a coal miner and appointed in 1963 to the Senate by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, was ecumenical. Leaders from the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Greek Orthodox hierarchy each led prayers. A tribute was also made by members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

The Monday morning funeral, was held in the ornate Notre Dame Cathedral, a large French Roman Catholic Church in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings where the late senator worked for 23 years.

More than 500 people crowded into the church to attend the service led by, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, Bishop Isidore Borecky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto, and the Rev. Vladimir Shewchuk, pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, Sen.Yuzyk's parish in Ottawa.

The group of pallbearers included: the senator's son-in-laws, George Duravetz, of Toronto; Robert Karpiak, of Kitchener, Ont.; Lew Stelmach of Ottawa; Bohdan Bociurkiw; Leon Kossar, the president of the Canadian Folk Arts Council; and Borys Sirskyj, a former executive assistant to Sen. Yuzyk.

The casket was draped with a Canadian flag. Honorary pallbearers included the deputy prime minister and Mr. Crombie. Several Ukrainian community groups in Canada and the United States sent representatives to the funeral.

The Ukrainian National Association, of which Sen. Yuzyk was supreme director for Canada, sent a nine-member delegation of UNA executives and Supreme Assembly members from the U.S. and Canada led by Supreme President John Flis.

Metropolitan Hermaniuk, a close friend of the senator, was visibly shaken at times during the service. In his eulogy, the church leader praised the late senator, calling him a "great man" who held deep convictions. He told the congregation that one of the happiest days in the senator's life was in 1971, when the federal government unveiled its multiculturalism policy.

The responses to the divine liturgy were sung by the St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church Choir. At the front of the church, members of the Plast Ukrainian Youth Association stood at attention throughout the Ukrainian-language liturgy.

Mrs. Yuzyk sat with family and close friends at the front of the church during the 90-minute service.

The usual hustle and bustle on Parliament Hill came to a stand-still after the funeral service as the hearse carrying Sen. Yuzyk's body drove by. Members of the governor general's foot guards, dressed in bright red tunics, stood at attention at the entrance to the hill; two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police saluted the late senator from atop their horses in front of the Center Block. And, just before the senator departed the hill for the very last time,-an honor guard that included the deputy prime minister.,and the speaker of the Senate paid their last respects.

The procession of cars, which extended for several city blocks, was escorted by members of the Ottawa Police Force and the RCMP.

Indeed, the mood on Parliament Hill where the senator worked was unmistakably sombre: a grey sky loomed overhead as flags surrounding the gothic buildings fluttered in the wind at half mast. Members of the Senate security staff stood outside the senators East Bloc office to catch a glimpse of the flag-draped casket as it passed by in the procession.

Burial was at Pinecrest Cemetery after a brief service. attended by about 200 people, who later came to Parliament Hill for a wake.

It was in the Railway Committee Room of Parliament Hill's Centre Block where the friends and relatives gathered to share stories and memories about the late senator. A large mural depicting the story of Ukrainian immigration to Canada greeted the.visitors as they entered the vaulted room. It was an appropriate setting for the senator's wake since the mural - painted by the late Ukrainian Canadian artist William Kurelek had been unveiled at a ceremony attended by Sen. Yuzyk.

Although several Ukrainian community organizations sent greetings to the gathering, the number of speakers - at the request of the family - was limited to central organizations of the Ukrainian community.

"The Senate was enriched when Sen. Yuzyk was named to the Senate," said Sen. Rheal Belisle, one of the late senator's closest colleagues, "and now the Senate is poorer because of his departure."

Sen. Belisle added that he would like to see "some very important building" named after Sen. Yuzyk in the near future.

Speaking on behalf of the federal government, Mr. Crombie said that Sen. Yuzyk's greatest contribution to his country was his work in helping Canadians develop a national consciousness.

Said Mr. Crombie: "Of all the things Paul Yuzyk strove for in his life, he is perhaps likely best known as a Canadian. He worked hardest at that than perhaps most of us ever do. It was his understanding of what being a Canadian is that he dedicated most of his life."

John Nowosad, the president of the Winnipeg-based Ukrainian Canadian Committee, delivered greetings on behalf of the national body. A statement from the World Congress of Free Ukrainians was read by Torontonian Leonid Fil, a member of the WCFU Presidium and that body's financial secretary.

UNA President Flis spoke of the senator's 16-year contribution to the Ukrainian National Association as supreme director for Canada, and about his contributions to the Canadian nation.

"Others have, or will speak of the late senator's birth and work in the Canadian prairies - where he helped the Canadian Ukrainians to develop a national consciousness as Canadian Ukrainians," said Mr. Flis.

He added: -"The development in Canada of ethnic minority rights ... was no accident; it was the result of tireless effort on the part of Sen. Yuzyk and others like him in direct confrontation to the then existing practices of ethnic discrimination."

Mr. Flis, in his-English-language address, said all UNA members will remember Sen. Yuzyk for his "fraternal devotion" to the organization.

After months of pounding the pavement searching for a school that would accept him, and 77 job applications later, Mr. Yuzyk was finally offered a teaching position in a Ukrainian community near Hafford, Sask.

After several run-ins with discrimination, Mr. Yuzyk formed close alliances with other Canadians who felt that something had to be done about the alarming lack of accommodation for non-British, non-French Canadian citizens.

Said Sen. Yuzyk about his experiences as an unwelcome job-seeker: "They really did things like that, We are all being called bohunks and foreigners. The result was to strengthen my Ukrainianism. I said to myself that if they called me a foreigner when I had been born in Canada, it meant Canada needed some changing."

Indeed, the senator's tireless efforts in fighting for ethnic minority rights in Canada brought him national recognition and earned him plaudits from ethnocultural leaders throughout the country.

Sen. Yuzyk's crusade for multiculturalism caught the attention of then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker - himself a western Canadian and of European origin - who decided to reward the young Ukrainian's efforts with a seat in the Canadian Senate.

Sefi. Yuzyk became the first Ukrainian ever to be appointed to the Canadian Parliament's upper chamber.

On March 3, 1964, he presented his maiden speech in the ornate Senate chamber; it was titled: "Canada:: A Multicultural Nation." The address, which was warmly received by his colleagues, voiced the concerns of several ethnic groups that Canadians must accept the fact that they live in a "multicultural nation" - not a country of two solitudes comprised of the British and French.

Said Sen, Yuzyk in a 1983 interview with The Ukrainian Weekly: "I came out with the idea that Canada is a bilingual, multicultural nation, and that all are equals, and,that there should be no discrimination, of any kind against anyone - regardless of his background, whether for religious purposes, no discrimination based on color, rice, or creed of any kind. And so multiculturalism really made Canadians conscious that there are cultural values that should be recognized."

Multiculturalism was the subject of rancorous debate in the Canadian media when the idea was first brought up by Sen.Yuzyk. Now, after more than a decade of acceptance, the concept unobtrusively manifests itself on Parliament Hill during Canada Day when ethnocultural performing groups delight crowds; in the precincts of Parliament when former Governor General Edward Schreyer delivered a segment of his installation speech in Ukrainian; and in dozens of schools in western Canada where children take courses in English and Ukrainian.

Sen. Yuzyk's campaign for multiculturalism was capped in 1971 when Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau told the nation that the government, after extensive deliberation, would introduce an official policy of multiculturalism. The policy, which committed the government to support ethnocultural endeavors, was endorsed by all parties.

During the past two decades, Sen. Yuzyk had served on a variety of national and international bodies. Since 1972, he had been active in the North Atlantic Assembly (NATO), particularly in the Committee on Education, Cultural Affairs and Information. In 1977, he was elected the rapporteur of the Subcommittee on the Free Flow of Information and People.

Multiculturalism was just one of the many challenges that attracted the senator. At times, his involvement in the fight for human rights at home and abroad consumed a great deal of time and resources. He was a regular speaker at demonstrations against the abuse of human rights in the Soviet Union. Additionally, the senator served as chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, and as vice-chairman of the Canadian Parliamentary Helsinki Group.

Sen. Yuzyk was a member of the Canadian delegation at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe review conference in Madrid in 1980, and a Canadian observer at the 1985 CSCE Human Rights Experts Meeting in Ottawa.

A large number of Ukrainian Canadians revere Sen.Yuzyk for his efforts at stimulating the growth of the organized Ukrainian community. He is credited with helping to establish the

Ukrainian National Youth Federation, the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, and the Ukrainian Canadian Committee. The senator is also a founder of the Ukrainian Canadian Students' Union (SUSK) - an organization which strongly supported his calls for a federal multiculturalism policy.

A true scholar who believed that serious study is a prerequisite to career advancement, Sen. Yuzyk seemed as at home in the classroom as he did reading a speech on the floor of the Senate. He was appointed assistant professor of Slavic studies and history at the University of Manitoba in 1951, and stepped up to associate professor in 1958. From 1966 to 1978 he was a full professor at the University of Ottawa - where he taught part-time courses on Central and Eastern Europe, Russian and Soviet history, and Canadian-Soviet relations.

Among his academic achievements: a B.A. in mathematics and physics(1945); an honors B.A. in history (1947); an M.A. in history (1948); and a doctor of philosophy degree in history from the University of Minnesota (1958).

ln the months leading up to his illness, Sen. Yuzyk devoted most of his energies to the special Senate committee on youth - of which he was vice-chairman. The committee's report was released in February after interviews with 335 witnesses across the country.

The senator was one of the few Ukrainian community leaders who managed to maintain a constructive dialogue with the Jewish community since the formation of the government's war crimes probe in February 1985. A rift between the two communities formed after the commission decided to accept evidence and testimony behind the Iron Curtain. The senator's staff kept a close watch over the commission, and worked closely with the Ukrainian Canadian Committee.

Sen. Yuzyk wrote more than half a dozen books, and contributed several opinion pieces of Ukrainian and mainstream newspapers. His "Ukrainian Canadians: Their Place and Role in Canadian Life" was considered one of the best works on Ukrainians in Canada. His other published works include: "The Ukrainians in Manitoba: A Social History," written with a fellowship from the Manitoba Historical Society, "For a Better Canada," and "The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada,' an edited version of his doctoral thesis

In 1980, the University of Ottawa Press published a widely discussed work, "A Statistical Compendium on the Ukrainians in Canada - 1891-1976," which Sen. Yuzyk co-edited with William Darcovich.

It was a rare day when Sen. Yuzyk, who lived with his wife in an Ottawa suburb, would not spend at least part of his waking hours engaged in one community cause or another. Perhaps his most notable community role was as the UNA's top executive officer in Canada. He was first elected to the position in 1970, when the title was vice-president. Later the title was revised to supreme director for Canada to better reflect the UNA's role in Canada. Sen, Yuzyk was re-elected to the position for the fourth time at the 31st UNA Convention, held in May in Dearborn, Mich.

Sen. Yuzyk's last official trip was in May when he traveled to Europe for a meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly.

Sen. Yuzyk's close friends and colleagues said he will be missed in the Senate. Said Martha Bielish, a senator from Alberta who had Sen. Yuzyk from Alberta who had Sen. Yuzyk as one of her sponsors when she was appointed to the Senate. "He was the kind of person who could make a speech on the spur of the moment on many topics. The ethnic communities in general and the Ukrainian community in particular have lost a champion for their respective causes."

Sen. Yuzyk is survived by his wife, Mary, a native of Saskatchewan whom he married in 1941. He also leaves behind one son, Theodore, of Ottawa, three daughter, Evangeline, of Toronto, Victoria, or Kitchener, Ont., and Vera, of Ottawa, and five grandchildren.

Funeral services for Sen. Yuzyk were to be held at Notre Dame Basilica in Ottawa on July 14. The service, which is expected to bring several senior government officials and community leaders to Ottawa,. will be led by Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk of Winnipeg, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.