Open Letter to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in reply to the publication of Marcus Kolga’s report “Stemming the Virus”

By this letter the Russian Congress of Canada (RCC) expresses its deepest regret that the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which claims to be Canada’s only truly public, rigorously independent and non-partisan policy think tank, has published the report “Stemming the Virus” by Marcus Kolga. This report makes unsupported and inappropriate accusations against the RCC and others whose opinions differ from the author’s. We ask that this report be withdrawn and an official apology issued to the RCC and to people mentioned in the report as affiliated with the RCC.

While expressing our concern about the generally derogatory nature of this report and its dehumanizing title “Stemming the Virus”, in this letter the RCC responds only to that part of the report which involves the RCC directly.

As a Canadian organization, the RCC strives to represent our community’s interests before the Government of Canada, as is our democratic right. We also seek respect for Russian history, culture and traditions, in accordance with the fundamental principles of Canadian society. Canada is a free and multicultural country where the freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Members of the RCC are independent thinking persons, capable of forming our own opinions, based on our own analysis of information, our lived experience, and a real understanding of Russia. We neither “actively promote the Kremlin’s perspective on foreign affairs”, nor coordinate our “political influence campaigns” with the Kremlin, as Mr Kolga suggests. The listing of our organization on page 13 of the report under the heading “White propaganda” is completely unjustified.

As Mr Kolga noticed, we have sent open letters to Canadian politicians, including the former and the current Prime-Minister, to express our concerns about the situation in Ukraine. We have addressed elected officials to object to Canada’s support of Ukraine’s government decision to wage an undeclared civil war on its own citizens in Donbass. We did so because we are Russian and Ukrainian Canadians who want better for our homeland countries and people. This does not make us “proxies” or “agents of influence”.

It should be noted that it is a widespread and perfectly democratic practice by various ethnic communities in Canada to communicate their concerns to the government. We do not understand why the RCC is singled out and accused of wrongdoing when other ethnic organizations do it openly. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, for instance, maintains far more active and frequent contacts with Canadian government officials and MPs, holding regular consultations and meetings with them. Representatives of the UCC participate in Canada’s official delegations to Ukraine. Mr Kolga himself is president of the Central and East European Council in Canada and also of the Estonian Central Council in Canada. We would not consider calling these organizations “proxies” or “surrogates” of foreign powers. Why then does Mr Kolga defame the RCC by including it under such a heading?

One of the main examples of how “the Kremlin targets Canadian democracy for subversion”, as stated by Mr Kolga, is “manipulation of historic celebrations”. This refers to events marking the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. For most people of the former USSR, Victory Day, traditionally celebrated on May 9th, is much more than a calendar date to commemorate the long-gone war. Who would have thought that laying flowers at a Holocaust memorial, or expressing our gratitude to soldiers of all Allied Nations, or carrying portraits of those who perished in the war, is a threat to Canadian national security?

In his report, Mr. Kolga also condemns the RCC for promoting the citizen-driven movement to repeal the 2015 version of the sex-ed curriculum for Ontario schools, introduced and adopted by the former Kathleen Wynne government. The new sex-ed program was opposed by many concerned Ontarians such as the group PAFE (Parents As First Educators), and the decision to repeal the new curriculum was taken by the democratically elected Premier of the province and his Education Minister. Mr Kolga is entitled to disagree with the Premier’s opinion, but the insinuation that critics of the program acted on orders from Moscow is entirely false.

RCC members, like millions of other Canadians, are committed to traditional values, including the moral values contained in the Orthodox Christian faith. However, nowhere in our statements do we focus on “same-sex marriage as a domestic issue” or on “repeal of Ontario’s same-sex marriage” And more importantly, even if Mr Kolga does not share our traditional values, it is in no way a crime or prohibited for us to hold them.

It is also rather peculiar to find out that Kolga links the RCC to “many Facebook groups”. RCC administers an official page of the Russian Congress of Canada, and moderates one more – the Russian Community of Canada. Is it Mr Kolga’s inflamed imagination that has blown out of proportion the connection between the numerous Russian-Canadian interest groups?

It is also truly puzzling that in his report Mr. Kolga tries, using an archived web page, to link RCC, through one of its members, to a marginal group in Russia, namely the NOD. This accusation is ridiculous.

We consider Mr Kolga’s report to be a deliberate attempt to discredit our organization, in the best traditions of Stalinism or McCarthyism. By falsely labeling citizens of Canada with whose opinions he disagrees as Kremlin proxies, his report promotes mistrust and misunderstanding, undermines Canadian liberal-democratic values, and does nothing to assist policy making or safeguard the national values of Canada.

We demand that this report be withdrawn and that an official apology be issued to the RCC and to all people connected with the RCC who are mentioned in the report.

Board of Directors of the Russian Congress of Canada.