Saskatchewan premier on diversity, tolerance and nation-building

Saskatchewan premier on diversity, tolerance and nation-building

Premiere Roy Romanow addresses the Professional and Business Club in Regina at its Premier's Dinner, November 24, 1997.

Mr. Chair, members of the Regina Ukrainian Canadian Profesand Business Club, members of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Federation, honoured guests, good evening,everyone.

I am pleased to be with you tonight, having myself served as President of the Saskatoon Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Club, as did my friend Morris Cherneskey. Thank you, Donna (Korchinski, national president) for this great honour.

When I think of the many people in our history and the world's history who have been called "Nation Builders," I am deeply honoured -- and, quite frankly, more than a little bit humbled. However, I pledge to you that I will always do my best to continue to merit inclusion in such illustrious company.

Since tonight I have been honoured as a "Nation Builder", perhaps I should take some time to briefly give you an idea of my vision for the nation we are building.

When I think of this great country, blessed as it is with almost unparalleled natural bounty, I still think that our greatest resource isn't to be found in the earth beneath our feet, nor in our great rivers and lakes, nor ih the great oceans off our coasts. Canada's greatest resource is our people -- Canadians.

As premier of a great trading province, with partnerships all over the world, I have had the opportunity to look outwards at how nations everywhere work -- or sometimes don't work. When I look at our great Canada in the reflection of those others, I realize that we are not joined in nationhood by common culture, or common backgrounds, or common language, or common religion, or even common geography, as so many nations are. What joins us together is our diversity of cultures and backgrounds, united as Canadians in a common idea, a set of common values: the values of hard work, decency, tolerance, compassion and co-operation, and community. It is that shared set of values and that cultural diversity that weaves together the "rich quilt" of peoples that makes up our nation -- and makes it a model of tolerance and dignity for the world.

The Ukrainian Experience

The Ukrainian experience in Canada is a particularly excellent example of the strength that diversity offers this country.

As a people, we have come from serfdom to freedom in less than a century, from humble beginnings as small farmers and labourers to positions of influence and renown -- sometimes in only one generation.

My own father came here in 1928 from a homestead near Lviv. He was a farmer's son, and he wanted to be a farmer himself. He got here just as the Dirty '30s were starting (Dad's timing wasn't the best, I guess!) so, like many others, he got a labourer's job, like so many others, working for the CN railway.

It was hard, hard work, but he did it, because he was determined to make a better life for his son and his daughter -- the life we enjoy today. To put it another way, we succeeded because he succeeded.

I think that if there's a common thread to the expience of Canada's immigrants -- not just Ukrainians but all immigrants, it is this:

Our success as second- or third- or fourth-generation Canadians is an enduring testimony to the courage and determination of those hardy men and women who ventured far from their home to search for something better. Our eloquence is tribute to people who practised their few words of English on slow boats and slower trains. Our material rewards and comforts are the dividends paid on the investment of time, work, and optimism by people who stepped off those trains to find an untamed wilderness, a land that our Saskatchewan singer Connie Kaldor calls "harsh and unforgiving." Our rewards are paid on the investment those people made by working hard to build their communities, their families, their churches, and their newfound homeland. Our success is their success.

Sure, the country has been good to us, but we have been good to our country! Think of all the many Ukrainian immigrants and Ukrainian-Canadians who have contributed so much to building this great land.

As a lawyer and former Attorney-General, my thoughts today, especially, turn first to Mr. Justice John Sopinka of the Supreme Court of Canada, who sadly passed away just yesterday. John Sopinka -- who was born in Broderick, Saskatchewan, just east of Outlook -- was a renowned scholar and a most distinguished jurist, a member of the Supreme Court of Canada since 1988. Unlike most Justices, he did not work his way up through the courts, but was appointed directly from the Bar, which is a most eloquent expression of his remarkable abilities. Besides his learned writings on matters of freedom of speech and many other important legal issues, he also lent his name and reputation to an Award for Excellence, established by the Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation of Toronto. That award this year was given for the first time to a student from a Ukrainian university.

As a former Attorney-General of Saskatchewan, I also remember two Lysyks: Ken and Ed [uncle and father of Regina UCPBC president Ed Lysyk]. Ed, who is Ed Jr.'s father, enjoyed a long career with the RCMP, including time here in Saskatchewan as head of Criminal Investigations. He was a fine officer in the service of the law. His brother Ken was my Deputy Attorney-General for five years. He argued the key reference case in 1981 and now serves as a Court of Queen's Bench justice in British Columbia.

Having been involved in politics and government for many years, I also think of such Ukrainian-Canadian figures as Ray Hnatyshyn. who served as Canada's first Governor-General of Ukrainian descent. I think of his father, the Senator John Hnatyshyn. I also think of Sylvia Fedoruk and Stephen Worobetz, who served as Lieutenant-Governors of Saskatchewan. I think of pioneers like William Berezowsky, and Mary Batten, who was the first woman to sit as a District Court Judge in Saskatchewan, and the second woman to sit on the Federal Court of Canada. She was also a Liberal MIA in our legislature, but we won't hold that against her!

I think of all the MIA's with whom it has been my pleasure and privilege to serve. John Kowalchuk, Myron Kowalsky, Norm Lusney, Clay Serby, John Solomon, Vi Stanger, Joanne Crofford, Doreen Hamilton -- I'm sure there are more, but all of these people have Ukrainian backgrounds. At many local levels of government, people like Morris Cherneskey of Saskatoon, who served for over 20 years to help get the University "twinning" agreement with Chernivtsi University, played significant roles, too.

Yes, Canada has been good to us. And we, including all of you and your organization, have been good to Canada.

Our Common Duty

That brings me to our duty today, to do everything we can to promote the inclusion of all Canadians in the fabric of our nation.

We have in common a shared experience, not just with other Ukrainian-Canadians but with all the others who were on those boats and trains many years ago, the many immigrants of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds in Canada's broad history. I suggest to you that we also share that experience with today's new immigrants who arrive here by airplane, who possess the yearning to live their dream as free Canadians.

We have to practise the philosophy of inclusion, or we will surely lose the contributions that will be made by our newest immigrants. That's why it is incumbent upon all of us to do everything in our power to build a Canada where inclusion, not exclusion, is our creed.

I quote for you the Charter of the United Nations:

"We are determined... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person... (We pledge) to practise tolerance, and to live in peace together as good neighbours."

To many citizens of the world, those words must sound like an impossible dream. To those of us in Canada, they are words to live by. We are a model for the world, a shining light to guide human destiny. Let us work, together, to keep that light of tolerance and inclusion burning brightly!

National Unity

But as we know, there are those who would extinguish that light. As Canadians, we must battle those forces in Quebec that seek to destroy our nation, our national dream.

I have already given you the "reasons of the heart" to keep working for a strong and united Canada -- the vision we share as a legacy from our parents and grandparents, who grew this country out of dirt and rocks.

There are also economic reasons for us to work to keep that dream alive -- hard-headed reasons. If Quebec leaves, there will be years or decades of chaotic uncertainty. We will have to deal with tumultuous problems: our dollar; the national debt; trade relations; military and defence questions; passports. I could go on... So let me just say that there are powerful, important economic reasons for us to work for Canada.

To speak to this threat, the other premiers and I have come up with a framework for discussion we call "The Calgary Declaration," and I'd like to mention its key points, which I call 'The 80-20 solution":

Eighty per cent of what needs to be done to build unity is making sure that Canadians get effective government that meets their real day-to-day needs and concerns. It's about getting governments to act together, to make existing programs work better, and to create new national initiatives like the Child Benefit, or infrastructure, or fair taxation. Eighty per cent of what needs to be done for unity does not involve the Constitution, not one comma, word, phrase or Section. We shall remain focused on as the main part of our job.

However, 20 per cent of the solution does involve the Constitution. We have to show the people of Quebec, especially the majority that still does believe in Canada, that they can protect the unique character of their culture in a tolerant Canada where all provinces and all people are equal. That's what Calgary says.

So we are consulting you. What do you think? Take time to fill out the questionnaires, attend the public consultation meetings. We have had heartening support thus far, and I hope we can count on all of you to step up and be counted on this vitally important issue, by speaking to Parliamentarians tour photo your MLA before the consultation process wraps up this Saturday.


Finally, I urge all of you to keep building bridges -- not just to the other people of Canada but to our ancestral home and all around the world.

We in Saskatchewan have been working to maintain healthy relationships with our counterparts in Ukraine. In 1977, the University of Saskatchewan began its exchange program with the State University of Chernivtsi. In 1990, we signed a formal agreement between our Education Departments. In 1995, I was privileged to be part of a trade mission that led to a comprehensive Saskatchewan-Ukraine co-operation agreement that encompassed: public administration; health; development of oil and gas and power resources; cultural industries; agriculture; and, entrepreneurial development. I know we will build more such bridges, not only to export our goods and services, but to export the democratic values which not only Ukrainians but all the people of the world cherish, and to which all the people of the world aspire.

So, friends, we are builders. It is our nature to build and to grow. There is no greater expression of optimism and faith than to build and to raise families. We are doing both here in Canada, and in that I see a great faith in our future as Canadians. I thank you for that faith, and I ask to you keep that faith alive.

Thank you and God bless you all.

from, Premier's Notes for Remarks
provided by Premier's Office

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Originally Composed: Sunday March 29th, 1998.
Date last modified: Sunday March 29th, 1998.