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Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day

Honourable senators, I rise to recall the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide of 1932-33.

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the man-made famine in which millions lost their lives in Ukraine, and also in parts of the North Caucasus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

American scholar and historian Robert Conquest described the staggering human toll in his book, The Harvest of Sorrow.

At the height of the famine/genocide of 1932-33, Ukrainian peasants were dying of hunger at the rate of 17 persons per minute, 1,000 persons per hour, and 25,000 persons per day, while the Soviet regime was dumping 1.7 million tons of grain on Western markets.

It is relatively recently that many of the facts surrounding the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. We know, for example, that this fertile region had experienced better-than-usual yields, but Joseph Stalin was determined to destroy Ukrainians' aspirations for a free and independent Ukraine, and to finance rapid industrialization under his Five Year Plan.

His method was to collectivize the farms of the productive Kulak peasant landowners, to confiscate their produce for export, and to leave nothing for them to survive on themselves.

As Stalin is quoted as saying at the time: "Death solves all problems. No man, no problem."

I remind honourable senators that in 2003 the Senate of Canada unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to recognize the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 as genocide.

Following the motion in this chamber, in 2008 we and our colleagues in the other place passed the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day Act. This act designated the fourth Saturday in November every year as Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day.

Holodomor Memorial Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the millions of lives sacrificed to meet political ends and to reaffirm our resolve never to allow food to be used as a weapon again, and never to place politics ahead of human rights.