THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY
by Michael B. Bociurkiw
Sunday, July 13, 1986
JERSEY CITY. N.J. Sen. Paul Yuzyk, a 23-year veteran of the Senate of Canada and the Ukrainian National Association’s supreme director for Canada, died in an Ottawa hospital July 9 at the age of 73 after a brief battle with cancer.
Regarded by his many friends and political associates as the chief architect of Canada’s 15-year-old multiculturalism policy. Sen. Yuzyk was appointed to the Senate in February 1963 by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
Paul Yuzyk was born on June 24, 1913, in Pinto, Sask., a sleepy town on the Canadian prairies with which he became so familiar as he traversed the land working on behalf of Ukrainian causes and helping Canadians develop a national consciousness.
Sen. Yuzyk’s father, a coal miner who came to Canada in 1913 during the first of the three waves of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, eventually moved the family to Saskatoon where young Paul completed public school and graduated with top marks in 1932.
After receiving a teaching certificate from a Saskatoon teacher’s training college, Sen. Yuzyk had his first jarring encounter with anti-East European policies that would later lead him on a crusade for ethnic minority rights in Canada.
His first face-to-face encounter with discrimination occurred when the neophyte teacher joined the ranks of college-educated Canadians searching for employment. Considered a “foreigner” by local school officials, the majority of which were British, Mr. Yuzyk was told that they did not want him to “contaminate” their children. The job, he was told, was the exclusive privilege of the English.
But 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.
Sen. 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: “1 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 colour, race, or creed of any kind. And so multiculturalism really made Canadians conscious that there are cultural values that should be recognized.”
Multiculturatism 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 multiculuralism 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 endeavours, 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).
In 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 office 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 as one 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 daughters. Evangenline, of Toronto, Victoria, of 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.