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Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day

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

On the fourth Saturday of November, we commemorate those who lost their lives in this man-made famine across Ukraine and parts of Kazakhstan, North Caucasus and Russia.

Determined to silence growing nationalist sentiment while financing an ambitious industrialization program, Joseph Stalin's Soviet government adopted a policy of forced collectivization in 1932. Food stocks were confiscated to fill strict quotas and sold in Western markets. Millions died of starvation. Those who resisted were shot.

As I have told this chamber before, American historian Robert Conquest captured the devastation of the famine 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.

Fedir Krikun, a famine survivor, recounted his experience as follows:

They came and they took everything from us. They came with special rods and searched [the ground] to make sure we hadn't buried anything. I went with my sister to collect grain stalks in the nearby field, and the guard who rode around the field shot at us.

Mr. Krikun was eight years old at the time.

Senators may recall that this chamber unanimously took the first action toward recognizing the Ukrainian famine as genocide in 2003.

Senators may also recall that in 2008 Canada adopted the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day Act.

This evening, I encourage all colleagues to attend a Holodomor commemoration at eight o'clock in Room 256-S, Centre Block.

The Holodomor Mobile Classroom, which is travelling across Canada to raise awareness through an interactive lesson highlighting survivor accounts, may also be visited today outside of East Block.

Honourable senators, as we celebrate the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, let us pay tribute to the victims of Holodomor. Let us acknowledge the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people, and let us continue to strengthen our resolve in preventing the recurrence of similar tragedies.