The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
March 21, 2017
Dear Prime Minister:
The Russian Congress of Canada would like to register its utmost concern with the appointment of Ms. Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Apart from distinguishing herself as a prominent critic of Russia, Ms. Freeland has few qualifications for the job. Diplomacy presupposes an ability to build bridges and sway friends and opponents alike. Ms. Freeland’s record of inimical criticism of the Russian government borders on insults levied against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin personally. Her anti-Russian bias is well known and portends the period of continued deep freeze in the Canadian-Russian relations.
Ms. Freeland’s championing of the Ukrainian cause is equally not free from bias. Having been born into a Ukrainian-Canadian family with ties to the anti-Soviet, anti-Russian and verifiably pro-fascist groups, such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, she had on a number of occasions expressed her admiration of that generation of Ukrainian exiles and their Ukrainian radical nationalism.
It is now a well-documented fact that Minister’s Freeland maternal grandfather Mykhailo Khomiak (known as Michael Chomiak in Canada) was a prominent Nazi collaborator, the editor-in-chief of the Nazi newspaper Krakivski Visti and the direct subordinate of Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Nazi Generalgouvernment led by the convicted war criminal Hans Frank. The newspaper edited by Mr. Khomiak was a vital part of the Nazi mass murder machine. It distinguished itself by glorifying Adolf Hitler, celebrating Nazi policies and fomenting anti-Semitism. Yet in Ms. Freeland’s presentation, Mr. Khomiak’s efforts were “to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine.”
Ms. Freeland never hid the fact of a formative influence her maternal grandparents exerted on her political and personal development. She admitted that their experience “had a very big effect” on her shortly after being appointed to cabinet in 2015. She praised the Ukrainian diaspora’s commitment to the idea that it had a special “responsibility to the country they had been forced to flee.” She apparently shares the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s opinion of Russia as “historical enemy because it had been the prime oppressor of Ukraine’s freedom.” While the non-governmental right-wing diaspora group may be free to choose its historical enemies as it pleases, when such an opinion motivates actions of the head of one of the key departments of Canada’s federal government, it portends not only serious harm to Canada’s relations with a designated “historical enemy,” but a clear challenge to the Canadian national interests as such.
When asked at the March 6 press conference about her grandfather’s ties to the Nazis, Minister Freeland denounced the story as part of a Russian “disinformation” campaign aimed at destabilizing Canadian democracy. The fact that Minister Freeland has known the details of her grandfather’s biography for more than two decades is now public knowledge. Yet Ms. Freeland went much further than simply keeping silence about this ignominious page in the family history. Knowing full that her grandfather was an enthusiastic Nazi collaborator whose newspaper justified the slaughter of Jews, Poles, Russians and anti-Nazi Ukrainians throughout the territories controlled by the Third Reich, she had helped to edit his biography to make him appear a bona fide Ukrainian patriot opposed to both Stalin and Hitler.
Freeland is well aware of the checkered history of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Now that her grandfather’s past has been exposed, she should stop being evasive and address the issue directly, openly and honestly by recognizing and acknowledging the truth. At the very least, she owes this to her constituents in Toronto and to all Canadian survivors of the Nazi regime of terror who pass the traumatic memories of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide to their children and grandchildren.
What truly strikes us is that Minister Freeland’s best defence was a slanderous counter-attack on Russia and the Russian officials accused of disinformation. Through that action she, in essence, exploited her position of Foreign Minister to serve as a purveyor of the disingenuous Russia smear campaign. It is our firm belief that the principal role of the Foreign Minister of Canada should be quite the opposite: to build relations based on good will and mutual trust, and to speak truth from one’s heart, without ever giving credence to potential accusations of dishonesty.
Canada should not become a hostage to a personal agenda of its political leaders. Canada’s foreign policy should not be driven by an ethnic diaspora’s ancient hatreds, much less so by the Minister’s family heritage. While a private citizen Freeland is perfectly within her right to “own a duty to Ukraine,” as she herself admitted, Minister’s Freeland first duty should be to this country. The Canadian public must be assured that Minister Freeland is, first and foremost, a champion of Canada, and not a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist using her ministerial post to push financial and military support to the Kiev government that wages an undeclared war on its own citizens. We want to be assured that, in Canada’s pursuit of productive, respectful and mutually beneficial relations with Russia, our national interests will not get sacrificed to policies that are primarily reflective of personal biases and ethnic animosities of the country’s top diplomat.
It is truly unacceptable for hundreds of thousands of Russian Canadians to see as Minister of Foreign Affairs someone with openly biased Russophobic views. We find it shameful that Minister Freeland attempted to whitewash her grandfather’s Nazi past by representing the uncovered facts of his true biography as part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.
We consider Minister Freeland’s radical views and the energy, with which she draws Canada into a fully avoidable confrontation with Russia, unfit for the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We petition the party leaders to state their disappointment with Ms. Freeland’s lack of candor in coming to terms with her family’s past. We urge your government to question the lack of personal integrity that Ms. Freeland showed in deliberate misrepresentations of her grandfather’s biography, inclusive with glorification of those very pages of her family history that should have been unequivocally condemned and disowned. We denounce Minister Freeland’s disingenuous and provocative statement to the media on March 6, 2017.
We appeal to the sanity and pragmatism of your government in a hope that the ideal and practices of mutually beneficial cooperation can be restored to Canada’s relations with the Russian Federation. Please consider re-evaluating Ms. Freeland’s suitability for the position in charge of Canada’s foreign affairs portfolio. Both Canada’s national security and Canada’s business interests are jeopardized for as long as this position is entrusted to someone who seem incapable of an impartial view of one of the world’s most influential powers that also happens to be our largest neighbour.
On behalf of the Russian Congress of Canada,
Russian Congress of Canada